1920s basketball tournament offers peek into Bonner’s past
Recently Willard Reimer shared a “program and souvenir” from the second annual "Bonner Springs Basketball Tournament,” which was held on March 3-4, 1922. He received the program from the late Archie Ruby who was a member of one of the Bonner Springs’ teams. It was interesting to note that there was both a boys and girls tournament.
Obviously the tournament was a big event. The Chieftain pointed out how many people would come to the city for the meet and also how valuable the electric railroad was in transporting sports fans. Even though The Chieftain spent considerable space promoting the event they did not list the admission price, pointing out that regular fees would apply.
In January, Coach Frederick issued invitations to eight schools and received one rejection. To fill out the bracket, the school entered two Bonner Springs boys’ and girls’ teams. The brackets were written by hand, since opponents weren’t drawn for the first round until the day the tournament opened.
There were some noticeable differences from today. First, the sport was spelled “basket ball.” Games were much shorter since only 45 minutes were allotted for game time. The tournament started on Friday at 4 p.m. and continued that evening. After the first round was done on Saturday morning they moved to the semi-finals in the afternoon and one hour was set aside for games. The championship was in the evening with games at 8 and 9 p.m.
There was absolutely no mention of coaches in the program. However each squad had a captain. Harold Zimmer and Louis Wolff headed the two boys teams while Bess Kennedy and Virginia Lee were captains of the girls teams.
Kennedy must have been an outstanding player. One of the officials, “a KU man,” said she was the best girls player he had ever seen. Her team, the Bonner Springs’ first team, won the girls’ title. There were no game write-ups in The Chieftain, but the team defeated Piper 14-8, Kansas City, Kan. 13-7 and took the title with an 18-15 victory over Merriam. The Bonner second team lost to Edwardsville 18-5. The Edwardsville girls fell to Merriam 28-12 in a “high scoring” game. Charles Barger was manager of the Edwardsville boys, and Chester Kern was captain. Vera Kearns was the captain of the girls’ team.
Both Bonner Springs boys teams lost in the first round. The Chieftain pointed out that the first team suffered from overconfidence. KCK won the meet with a resounding 56-11 victory over Merriam.
The tournament received tremendous support from local merchants. W. H. Frederick & Sons donated the cup given to the boys’ winner and Dr. Fred Candler gave the banner for second place. In his ad, Dr. Candler said he was “a real basketball fan.” The girls’ awards were given by the high school faculty and Athletic Association. Joy Woodman was president of the association.
In all there were 31 advertisements in the program. None of the businesses remain in operation now. Probably the last to disappear was the Commercial State Bank, with Frank Alden president. The Owl Hardware was part of the Oak Street business community until the late 1980s.
My favorite ad was from the Canditorium. They offered candy kisses for five cents per pound with a purchase of a pound for 50 cents. There was one full page advertisement run by the Bauer Garage and they featured the new Dodge Brothers car and its low operating costs.
I would imagine from the stories in the paper that the tournament was a success and that residents 90-plus years ago supported local athletics just as they do now. Thanks to Willard Reimer for sharing this slice of the history of Bonner Springs.