This history is a work in process. We encourage readers to send suggestions, additions and corrections.
Nunda’s basketball story began only a few years after James Naismith invented the game in 1891. It began when the “Young Men of the Academic Department” formed two basketball teams at the Nunda Union Free School on Mill Street in 1898.
Nunda’s first documented inter-town basketball game was played on December 5,1903, Held in the “gymnasium” over Osgoodby’s Hardware (now Kathy’s Country Florist), Mt. Morris played a Nunda team consisting of students Arthur Ostrander, Mark Gilbert, Robert Wagor, Lee Fox and Ralph Stewart. The Nunda News reported that a “fair size audience” was in attendance to see the exciting game that ended in an 8 to 5 victory over Mt. Morris. “It is expected other games will be played here during the winter months “ the News continued, “and if enough enthusiasm can be around, larger quarters will be secured…which would afford players and spectators more convenient quarters.” By the end of 1903 games were being played to large crowds at the Academy of Music on East Street (known to later generations as the Nunda Theatre.) Nunda’s love of basketball had begun.
Over the next decade a number of teams organized in the town. The Nunda Independents, the Keshequas in their red and black uniforms, the Hope Hose firemen’s team, and the Nunda Athletic Club were all playing games by 1910 with the most talented players sometimes playing on multiple teams. At the High School, in addition to the regular high school squad, students also formed the “Eagles” and “Juniors” teams.
These early teams or “quints” as they were sometimes called, usually consisted of five players and a couple of substitutes. The player elected captain ran the team, for there were no coaches. Perhaps the most important member was the manager who arranged the games, handled the team’s finances, purchased uniforms and paid travel expenses. Games were arranged with neighboring towns and schools as well as places such as Cuba, Hornell, Belmont, Belfast, Olean, and teams from Rochester and Buffalo. The opposing team might be a school, town or even a college team from Alfred, Geneseo Normal, or Caton College in Buffalo. In February 1910 the manager of Nunda’s Hope Hose team arranged to bring the Buffalo Germans, billed the “champions of the world,” to play in Nunda. Although the local team lost 69 to 18, the full house and the dance that followed brought in $95.00. The Nunda News commented that “if people would turn out as they did Monday evening, basketball would be a paying proposition in Nunda.”
Home games for each of the Nunda teams followed the same formula. Admission would be charged at the door, with a preliminary game between the younger school teams or a scratch team as a warm up before the main game. After the game a dance would often be held that cost an additional admission fee. On one occasion a special meal followed the dance, with the evening ending at 3 AM.
By 1910 the games had moved from the Academy of Music to the second floor of the Village Hall (present day Police Station.) It was a good thing, for in November 1912 the high school players, practicing upstairs were called by Judge Graves to help subdue an unruly counterfeiter being arraigned on the first floor. The boys tackled and sat on him while the judge searched his pockets.
Girls basketball in Nunda might have started in October of 1913 when the Boston College girls played the Nunda High School boys at the Village Hall. The boys won before what the Nunda News reported to be “one of the largest crowds that ever saw the game played here.” and that “as a drawing card the girls proved to be a success.” It wasn’t long before the local girls were organizing their own high school basketball team. By 1920 they had earned the first pennant to be offered by the Livingston County Basketball League. The Nunda News of June 12th, 1920 went on to state,“Without previous training, and without any of the gymnasium advantages enjoyed by many of the other teams, the Nunda girls played through the season without losing a single game….”
The lack of “gymnasium advantages” was due to the fact that the High School lacked a gym, despite a major building project in 1905. That was remedied in January 1925 when a new $110,000 gymnasium was added to the rear of the school. This state of the art facility had a 60 X 40 ft playing area, stages on both ends, a balcony and boys and girls shower rooms. It became the main venue for what was becoming one of Nunda’s favorite sports.
By the mid-1920’s the early town teams, the Keshequas and the Independents, were gone. The Hope Hose #2 firemen’s team and a new American Legion team filled the void. The latter, organized shortly after the end of WWI, played a 20 game schedule in 1924.
Students at Dalton High School went door to door in 1922 to sell subscriptions for a student athletic fund. Soon the school had both boys and girls teams. The teams did well, especially since they had no place to play regulation basketball games. The Dalton section of the Nunda News lamented in 1924 that it was “too bad that our Dalton team has no place to practice except the school lawn.” It wasn’t until the new Dalton Central School was opened in 1939 that the community had a school gym.
Basketball remained popular in Nunda during the Depression years of the 1930s and through World War II. Physical education had become part of the school curriculum in both the Nunda and Dalton schools and the game was played both in gym class and in expanding intramural programs. The “Collegians” and the “Nunda Centrals” competed against other town teams and the Centrals did well in a multi-county league in 1939-40 season. At the same time the first of several FFA (Future Farmers of America) teams formed at the school. The first donkey basketball game, a popular fundraiser, was played between local businessmen and the Nunda school faculty in December 1940.
A Nunda town team led the Genesee Valley League in 1951 and “Old Timers” games were often played to the delight of local fans. By this time, however, the main basketball focus was on the schools. Through the 1950s and 60s there would be several school teams both in Nunda and Dalton that included varsity, junior varsity, F.F.A, and in some years freshmen and junior high teams. What was missing, until the 1970s, was interscholastic girls basketball. Despite its popularity and success in the early years, girls basketball had ended after the 1934 season and was not revived until Title IX was passed in 1972. The 1976 yearbook was the first in the modern era to show a girls team.
For the last forty years both boys and girls teams have continued to bring the excitement of basketball to our town. The more than twenty divisional and sectional basketball titles proudly listed on the school’s gymnasium wall proves that Nunda maintains the basketball tradition established over a century ago.
Share your memories related to the sport. These can be just sentences or paragraphs. Your initials will be listed with the memory and your name listed in the contributors.
Memories of the Last Basketball Game in the 1939 Gym
submitted by Joe DiPasquale (December 2017)
(Editors note: This was submitted as part of a Facebook discussion on “School Friends, Nunda- Dalton area” group. The game took place in February 1971, according to the summary from the Democrat & Chronicle found in the Misc. section of this page.)
“The last basketball game in the old gym turned into a great memory for several reasons. First, the place was packed. Seating consisted of two sets of small bleachers on the wall where you enter the auditorium now, chairs were set up behind the team benches in front of the stage, and risers on the stage had rows of chairs. Even in those days, the teams from Nunda struggled in basketball. Many games were close but others were blow outs. There was one opposing team back then that could be counted on for a win against, Letchworth. But, that wasn't the team playing that night. Some other teams that would dominate Nunda back then, were Geneseo and arch rival Mt. Morris. Both of those teams were recent Section V champions. The last game in the "old" gym was against the hated Blue Devils of Mt. Morris. Those of us old enough to remember the court in that gym was a cramped playing surface, the out of bounds under the nets were the walls. There was no space between the spectators on the side lines and out of bounds. The backboards were metal, not the fancy fiberglass of today and the padding on the walls hung from ropes on a rod and really didn't provide any padding at all. The score board was a relic from the 1930's. It consisted of the home and visitor scores with a dial in the middle that counted down the time. No fancy buzzers or foul counts or anything else. I must mention, even in those days, the scoreboard was run by Mr. Rymer. The game that night found a fired up Indian team. I am not sure if it was because of the curtain call for the gym, or if it was because Mt. Morris was in town. The game was close through out with the lead changing back and forth, and in the final minute Keshequa pulled the upset. There was a roar from the crowd not heard in long time in that gym. I bet Coach Thompson could give you more insight to the game, he might even have the score book from that year giving you all the players. It really did create a great memory for many.”