By Greg Ritchie
GRAPELAND – It was about a month ago when this reporter was stopped in the street by Rita Daniels Moore from the downtown Crockett barber shop.
“I have a good story for you!” she said.
Mrs. Moore did indeed have a story and such a fun and inspiring one! In 1968, a chocolate bar cost about five cents. You could buy a Mustang for under $3,000.
And in Grapeland, the Sandiette basketball team was going to state – the first time a girls’ squad had accomplished that.
Moore said she and some of her teammates who still lived in the area had wanted to have a reunion and asked if The Messenger would help. We would not have missed such a story for all the watermelons in Grapeland.
The Messenger contacted Grapeland ISD Superintendent Don Jackson who was more than happy to help. From there, Moore contacted the school and worked to get as many of the team together as she could find.
GISD Secondary Counselor Felicia Meador was only too happy to help organize a get together at the school – after all, it was her father Coach Louis Bates who led the girls to the fourth in state level all those years ago.
On Wednesday, March 1, only 55 years after the girls gained that distinction of going to state, here they were, gathered in the Junior High Library. The school decorated in a style that would make many soon-to-be-brides jealous. A wall for pictures with Sandies colors, a cake ready to be cut, balloons and special tablecloths with decorations, too. At the entrance was the picture of the team from 1968 which normally adorns the high school gym.
Under that were the old yearbooks, with the girls in their 1960’s uniforms looking ready to take on the NBA. Those 55 years fell away immediately when all six of the ladies were back together again. This was the first time they had all been together since the good old days and one could tell they were, well, giddy as schoolgirls.
“The school has changed a lot,” one noted. “I had to show my driver’s license just to get in,” another said.
They hugged and laughed and gave each other knowing looks. They mentioned a name or an “incident” which broke them all into joyous laughter. Those looking on smiled with them, happy to see them happy – but with no idea what the joke was about. You just had to have been there.
The six former and still-at-heart Sandiettes were Rita Daniels Moore (#40), Ann Lively Rich (#44), Kay Lively Daniels, Beth Kennedy (#22), Jackie Selman Morgan (#44), and Freida Scarborough (#54).
They had to check old photos to remember which number they used, with some not remembering and two listing #44 – but no matter – you would have thought you were watching a group of 18-year-olds giggle and carry on as they munched on the cake provided by the school.
Back then, the girls played six-on-six and guards just played defense and forwards just played forward because, as the ladies laughed, “Girls weren’t supposed to be able to do all that running!”
The ladies reminisced about their journey that year and the big wins, and how advancing to state was their goal and the tremendous welcome they got when they got home.
“We were so excited walking into that gym…we had arrived,” they said.
Asked if they were well-behaved or some kind of rebels without a cause, they laughed saying, “Grapeland was such a small town then. We knew everybody, we all grew up together. We were all good.”
The girls had fond memories of Coach Bates who really focused on their success, laughing about how red his face used to get when he got mad.
When the girls started their high school run, they knew they had their work cut out for them from rival Central. “No one ever got past Central High School,” they explained.
“We were the first team to beat Central,” the ladies noted. “The first year we beat Central for district, the next year we won bi-district, the next year we got to regional and then our last year we got to Austin.”
Pictures were taken with GISD Superintendent Don Jackson, Board President Brad Spisak, many other members of Grapeland schools who wanted to see the reunion and helped organize it and even incoming Superintendent Dr. David Maass stopped in for a surprise visit.
The ladies next headed out to the high school gym where they met some of the current Sandiette squad and threw hoops for a while just to show they could still hit that net.
Doubtless, none of the current high school seniors could imagine returning here in another 55 years, but the cycle of history rolls on. The ladies themselves couldn’t believe it had been so many years, even as those same years rolled off them as they sat and laughed, together again just like the team they still are.
Grapeland ISD pulled out the red carpet for these Sandiette legends and The Messenger was proud to have been there to witness it.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]