They Came To Play – Sometimes In A Hearse


An article from the series celebrating Hallowell’s 250th Anniversary, as published in the Capital Weekly on March 2, 2012

HALLOWELL HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL 1934-1938
or They Came To Play – Sometimes In A Hearse

by Gerry Mahoney

There weren’t a lot of feel-good stories in the newspapers during the Depression years but the athletic teams from Hallowell High School did their part to create news that lifted community spirits. Hallowell was the little school that played hard, not only holding its own but frequently dominating squads from much larger schools. Among the many fine teams that came out of Hallowell during those years the 1934-1938 girls basketball teams may have set the “gold” standard. They compiled a record of 55-15 and won the Fairfield Festival Small School Invitational Tournament four years in a row. Home games were played in the confines of the Hallowell High School basement gym long remembered for its low ceiling, padded walls and pipes and absolutely no space under the backboards, but it suited them. The rules for girls basketball seemed to change every year–sometimes the court was divided into thirds, sometimes halves, and positions included left and right forwards, centers and side-centers, and guards. Coaches Larry Soule and Ralph Hanna found just the right players for each position and produced teams distinguished for their solid offense and tenacious defense.

The 1937-1938 team was one of the best of that era. During the regular season they held a Boothbay Harbor squad without a field goal, and during the Tournament limited a team from Clinton to just one field goal, winning 52-5, setting a record for the highest number of points recorded in the Small School Tournament to that point. Tournament time seemed to bring out the best in the Hallowell teams. Bertha Gipson, Helen Scott, Ellen Burns and Dorothy Butler were selected to the All-Tournament team once, Mary Fuller and Agnes Gray twice, and Mary LeClair was recognized three years in a row.

It was not easy to put schedules together for teams in those years – money and gasoline were in tight supply. What to do if the boys and girls games couldn’t be scheduled on the same night? What if there wasn’t money in the school budget for separate trips? The solution to this problem was provided by Frank Hewins, Jr., known as “Binks”. “Binks” was the manager of the newly opened Knowlton and Hewins Funeral Home in Hallowell and he decided, either as a matter of good business, community spirit, love of basketball, or all of them, that if the girls couldn’t get to an away game he would transport them in the Knowlton and Hewins hearse. The coach could ride up front with “Binks” and six girls could ride in the pallbearer’s seats in the back. If opposing teams ever wondered how serious the Hallowell girls were about a game they may have thought twice when they saw them arrive in a hearse!

Two players from those teams, Mary Shepherd (nee Fuller) and Marge Quinn (nee Rich) reside locally, and a third, Dorothy Butler, is a resident of Surfside, S.C. Congratulations remain in order.

Hallowell High School 1936 – 37 Girls basketball team
First Row left to right: Catherine Robinson, Agnes Gray, Dorothy Butler, Leona Lord, Mary LeClair, Mary Fuller, Marge Rich Second Row left to right: Manager Shirley Foster, Lorraine Sheperd, Muriel Duplisea, Brenda Fuller, Arlene Shea, June Blake, Coach Ralph Hanna. Courtesy of Margery Quinn