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Don Locke: Looking Through Bifocals

I don't know about now, but back when I was a kid every boy dreamed of coming out on the basketball floor in a uniform, before a cheering crowd.

Mine came true to an extent . . . but the crowd wasn't large. Just the kids that didn't ride the bus; we played after school.

When I was about eight an older friend of our family played for and managed an independent basketball team. When World War Two came, the team disbanded. My friend brought me an almost-like-new basketball uniform. It was solid white, trimmed in orange . . . with an orange number seven on the jersey. Naturally it was too large, but with some cutting and sewing here and there, it fit pretty well.

After the alterations I was so excited when I got it I put it on over my overalls. When I walked into my daddy's store in that get-up, there sat a bunch of older men just waiting for some entertainment, they all fell over laughing. Among them was my daddy's cousin, Shug Vick. Back then older folks kidded youngsters pretty hard. Shug was among the worst. "Don," he said, "if you come out in that outfit, you'll never be anything but a substitute." they all fell over in another fit of mirth.

Well, Shug was wrong. The first time I ever wore that suit in a real game, I was a high-point man . . . which was somewhat later. The reason being I really had no need of my suit, shooting at a goal nailed to the side of our barn. One I did put it on to have my picture made . . . in tennis shoes and my hair slicked-back, holding my basketball up in the air with one hand.

But my big moment came a couple of years later, when my daddy bought a business in town and we moved five miles into Greenville. There I started my new school year in the fifth-grade.

The sixth-grade challenged our fifth-grade to a basketball game. I came out on the floor, resplendent in my orange and white uniform, although our school colors were black and gold, it didn't bother me any. I was the only player on our team with any kind of uniform. Playing on hardwood was a brand-new experience; I had never played on anything but dirt.

Now, unless you've thought about it, there is a considerable difference in the size of a fifth-grader and a sixth-grader. Fact is, they had one tall boy on that sixth-grade team that later played college ball. The rest were big too. We sort looked like midgets playing the first-five on the high school varsity.

The drop-dead-gorgeous, Miss Pitman, our fifth-grade spelling teacher, was our coach (I would have asked her to marry me if there hadn't been such an age difference.). Just before we took the floor, I promised her I was going to be the high-point man. I was! The sixth-grade beat us 30-3. I made all three shots. I was FOULED THREE TIMES.

First wife Bett and I were watching an old Alan Ladd movie recently when she turned to me and said, "Alan Ladd's wife's name was Sue. She was plump."

So much for the passing parade.

Kindest regards . . .

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