Saturday, March 31, 2007

Last Shot

To me, the gym had always been there. Actually, the gymnasium for St. Martin Consolidated School was completed the same year I entered first grade: 1953.

First impressions remain forever. The gym was huge -- almost cavernous in size and appearance. We could walk through big double doors right onto the gym floor. (Of course, we never walked on the gym floor without removing our shoes!) Wide, wooden bleachers, seemingly stairs for giants, were a challenge to climb to the very top. We didn’t get into the gym regularly so each visit was a special occasion.

As elementary students, the gym was a place for class activities and not for sports. The Spring Festival was a major annual gym event for which we practiced right on the gym floor (no shoes allowed). A stage was added to one end of the gym In the future, there would be sock hops (no shoes allowed on the gym floor) and basketball games with many, many basketball practice sessions (basketball shoes only on the floor).

I learned to play basketball in that gym. My dad always said that the first basketball game he ever saw was also the first one I played. With only one basketball floor for the entire school, practice time was at a premium.

Eventually the older boys taught us how to break into the gym through the boy’s locker-room window so we always had a place to play basketball. It didn’t seem odd that the locker-room window was so easily jimmied and that there was always a basketball or two lying around.

Years later, not being a regular visitor, I was again struck by the size and appearance of the gym. Somehow it had become old and shrunken -- an outdated shadow of its old self. That natural aging process was nothing in comparison to Hurricane Katrina.

After taking this photo, I picked up the basketball and dribbled in for a layup – just the way I was taught, except, of course, quite a bit slower and not jumping nearly as high. I made that last shot and then walked out.

A few months later, the old gym was bulldozed.

1 comment:

Marlo Hymel said...

Aww... What a great, but sad story. Brought back some old memories of my school days when I played basketball.