Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Basketball and the Great Girls' Strike

In honor of March Madness, here is a little more of Gramma Lu's memoirs, where she talks about her daughters and basketball, including an incident where six of the high school girls went on strike. (Actually, both incidents are sort of about the girls going on strike)

The family was living in Sutton's Bay at the time. She doesn't say exactly when this story takes place, but it seems to be in line with events of 1920 or so, when they were living in a place in town, near the hotel and the convent.

Basketball and the Great Girls' Strike

from the memoirs of Lula Janet Wanamaker LaGuire

There was once that I was in the wrong and Fred was right, I must confess.

We all know how basketball teams go to other towns in persuance of their interests and up there it was a real hazzard and sometimes as they might start out with a lovely even in prospect, a storm came up and they would have a serious time getting home, with all getting out to shovel snow.  And one time they couldn't make it and had to stay at farm houses by the way.

It worked out alright and was a great experience to the youngsters, but I worried a great deal if my girls were in the crowd, as naturally they were sometimes. So one night when I wanted them to brave the snowstorm and go about two blocks after our milk, they balked and said they couldn't in such a storm, etc. 

I said, "You go right along girls. This is no worse than the blizzards you go to basketball games in."

"We can't, Ma, we're afraid," said they.

"I can't help it," said I. "You go get the milk," and made as if to push them out into the storm.

They said, "Ma, we won't go," and their father said, "You don't have to go, girls, if you don't want to."

So they came back into the house, and I was glad that was settled for the once. They could get my point alright and didn't go many times to basketball games in other towns.  I often think if girls who wear themselves out going to parties, dances and all kinds of sports were asked to work half as hard to help their parents, how they'd think they were misused and abused no doubt.

My girls were good workers.  There is no cause for complaint there.

However, I always get a chuckle out of the time the high school girls "struck."  There were Grace, Berna, two of LeRoy's sisters, Ella and Helen,  "Honey" Mideline, and Dorothy Nelson.  It all came about on acct of basketball too. This all happened before Grace graduated, of course.  It seems the girls had plenty of cause for complaint as I don't know all the ins and outs of the game, I can't explain, but this had been festering for some time, and at last had come to a head.

(Note several of these girls -- Grace, Honey and maybe Dorothy -- appear in a photo in the archives of the Leelanau Historical Society - 8th Grade Girls, Suttons Bay.)

I looked out the window one sunny afternoon and what to my wondering eyes should appear but six high school girls during school hours, tramping over the rutted road that lead to our house, past the hotel.

"What now?" I thought. "I can't imagine."

The girls looked grim as they stalked into our middle room, when I asked what the matter was, they all talked at once. It was this and that and the other thing going wrong at school. 

One complaint I remember was that the girls had all the work to do when a visiting team came. They must make all plans, prepare the refreshments, and serve them and when it came to the dance, after all this and playing basketball too, these poor girls were just too exhausted to enjoy anything. That was complaint enough, but there were others and they surely blew off steam, with me a willing listener. They were a little scared at their brave move, but were quite determined to see it through. They really didn't know what the professor  might do or say.

Well, they had quieted down and were just sitting there wondering whether to go back to school or not, I guess, when we saw Prof Chapin coming. Now he was a little man, not much taller than my girls. The girls all liked him, I believe, and he was not formidable.  He'd been sick and was very pale. When the girls saw him approaching, some of the more timid ones got up and were headed for the parlor.

I said, "Now, girls, stand your ground. I'll back you up. Come on out, face him."

I don't think Grace had left her seat at all.  She always did love a good battle!

When I opened the door to the Prof, he looked red white and blue, as I told an interested friend later. His illness had left him white, his face was blue where his beard was trying to put in an appearance, and his cheeks were quite red from exertion and determination.

"Did the girls come here?" he asked. He knew well enough where they would head for.

They chorused, "Yes, we are here, Mr. Chapin. Come in."

I offered him a chair and let the girls state their cases, which they did very well and he discussed not only basketball, but many other things about school. He could see the girls had a real grievance. 

I remember he asked Grace as they discussed the subject of cheating "What percent of the students would you say off hand, Grace, cheat in the exams."

And she answered without hesitation "One hundred percent."

He was flabberghasted. She had included herself -- though I don't belive it was necessary for her to snitch answers hardly ever.  She was the oldest of the girls, having missed a lot of school earlier, and was usually at the head of class. She acted as spokeswoman mostly, the others backing up all she said.

After an hour or so Prof. C. arose and said he must get back to his classes. I could see he was feeling much better than when he came and I know the girls had gotten a load off their chests.  As he was leaving he said, "I can't make you girls come back to school, of course, unless you want to, but I'd like to see you all there in the a.m.  We will straighten out these snarls and see that the boys do their share hereafter."

Well, that was that. They were all in school the next day and the school mechanism ran more smoothly thereafter.

But the six girls had a time living down the fact that they had "run away from school."  It was a standing joke in town. They accomplished what they intended just the same. I have never thought of that time without laughing to myself since.

"School days! Dear old golden school days!"