Things I Don’t Understand – Part I

A column that’s labeled “Part I” implies there is more that will follow.  I haven’t yet written a “Part II” and I don’t know that I ever will.  I realize, however, that even with a framed diploma from Unadilla High School, I may not be able to cover everything I don’t understand with a single effort.

Kenny Calhoun is one of the few people I know who could cover this subject in a brief manner.  He is reported to have intensely studied the World Book Encyclopedias from letters A through S and to have a general knowledge of letters T through Z.

Man buns are something I don’t understand.  I can appreciate that a pony tail keeps long hair out of your face, and pigtails don’t seem odd on Willie Nelson.  But man buns are beyond me.  I think it’s because they remind me of my paternal grandmother, Mama Joiner, who always wore her hair in a bun.

I may have seen her a few times with her hair down, but I only have one vivid recollection.  I was young, maybe five or six, and I think I was spending the night with her.  She was brushing her hair before going to bed.  It had never occurred to me that her hair was long.  I was intrigued and gave it a few tentative strokes.  It was hard to believe all that flowing gray hair fit into such a neat little bun on the back of her head, a look that seemed perfectly suited for a saintly matron.

The first time I saw a man bun I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I wanted to clasp the fellow’s hand and tell him how much he reminded me of my dear grandmother.  Jane, however, said he might not take it as a compliment.  I’ve learned to listen to her on things like that over the years.

I figured the man had probably answered the challenge of a double-dog dare.  In the late 1950’s at Pinehurst Elementary it was acceptable to ignore a dare or even a double dare.  But no respectable third grade boy walked away from a double-dog dare.  That may not be why the fellow was wearing his hair in a bun, but it’s the only explanation that makes any sense to me.

Lately I’ve been seeing professional athletes on television with man buns.  I discounted a European soccer player but had to take note of a born-in-America wrestler wearing a championship belt.  I discreetly smothered a snicker.  We had just bought a new TV and I don’t know if it’s interactive or not.  It wasn’t worth taking a chance.

Sumo wrestling is another thing I don’t understand.  My theory is that somebody lost a bet.  Why else would two big guys dress in diapers and run into one another on purpose?  I believe someone lost a wager but was then surprised to find that people would pay to see them.  I guess it’s an honest way to make a living, but it seems like they should at least wear suspenders.  One of these days the tabs on somebody’s diaper are going to come loose.  I’m predicting there will be people who will repeatedly grimace about how awful it was as they keep hitting the replay button.

Silent letters are something else I don’t understand.  A man named Herb is pronounced like it’s spelled, but an herb in the garden is pronounced erb, which is further complicated grammatically as it’s preceded by “an” instead of “a.”  That doesn’t make sense to me, but I’ll admit that I’ve always thought “Herb’s Herbs” would be a good name for a plant store.

And it’s time we dropped the “o” in opossum or either started using it.  Why was it ever put there?  My guess is that years ago a man came in from the field for supper.  He recognized the smell from the iron pot simmering on the wood stove and said without enthusiasm, “Oh. Possum.”

I should have talked to Kenny before I wrote this column.  He probably understands silent letters and Sumo wrestling.  I don’t think man buns were in the encyclopedia back when he read them.  Somehow the women of my grandmother’s generation unwittingly became trendsetters for the men’s hairstyles of today.

I’m sure that Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies had no expectation of the granny to man bun transition.  If Jethro had come home with one, she would have “laid a whuppin’ on him.”  She’s probably shaking her head now and saying, “Jed, I just don’t understand it.”  That goes for me too, Granny.  I don’t think even Kenny Calhoun can explain this one.

Posted in 2018 | 4 Comments

Mayberry Moments

I was driving from Center Hill Lake in Tennessee, headed back home to Georgia, late in the summer of 2017.  Our oldest grandchild, Abby, was riding with me.  My wife, Jane, daughter Carrie, and Abby’s siblings, Melanie and Walt, were in another vehicle behind us.

I don’t know exactly where we were when I noticed a sheriff’s car parked on the side of the road.  There was a fleeting moment of trepidation as I checked my speedometer.  But that tinge of fear quickly turned to joy as I read the caption on the trunk.  Printed In bold letters was “In God We Trust.”

It reminded me of The Andy Griffith Show from the 1960’s.  They only had one patrol car in Mayberry.  It didn’t have that caption on it, but that message was conveyed in many episodes.

I miss Sheriff Andy Taylor.  He did an exceptional job in Mayberry of keeping the peace.  Their county had the lowest crime rate in North Carolina.  Andy did that mostly on his own, without much help from his close friend Deputy Barney Fife.  Barney’s enthusiasm for following the letter of the law was an ongoing problem.  He rarely let common sense interfere with enforcing the many codes he knew so well.

There were numerous episodes where Barney’s good intentions became recipes for disaster.  Andy would usually solve the problems in such a way that Barney seemed more like a hero than a goat.  Andy had a knack for that sort of thing.  He didn’t worry about getting credit for what he did.  He was happy letting Barney bask in the glory of unmerited praise.  Barney would straighten his tie and puff out his chest as Andy returned the single bullet his deputy was allowed to keep in his shirt pocket.

Andy was a wonderful father as well.  Opie was a good kid but was occasionally distracted by his peers.  Andy would have a chat with him and always knew the right thing to say.  Opie would quickly embrace a deeper appreciation for good character.  Andy taught him honesty and kindness.  He also taught him responsibility by giving Opie some light chores to earn his own spending money.

All the main characters and most of their friends were in church on Sundays.   Andy, Opie, Barney, and Aunt Bee were among the faithful congregants.  In a practically crime-free county Andy could close the sheriff’s office almost every Sunday.

Otis had a bad drinking problem, but he faithfully booked himself into the county jail to sober up.  He didn’t drive or cause any noticeable trouble except some heartache for his wife.  She looked tired when they showed her, and I expect she was.  Andy seemed to have Otis on the road to sobriety a few times, but it didn’t last long.  Otis’ drinking was somewhat like a fellow told me years ago about his smoking habit.  He said, “It’s easy for me to quit smoking.  I’ve probably quit 50 times.”

When The Andy Griffith Show started its eight-year run in 1960 I was eight years old.  I knew that Mayberry wasn’t real, but it didn’t seem completely impossible that it could be.  Jane and I have been watching reruns of that show lately.  So, when I say that I miss Sheriff Andy Taylor, it’s not that I miss seeing him on television.  What I miss is the feeling that it might still be possible to have a Mayberry kind of town.

I know that’s unlikely to happen, but the caption on that sheriff’s car in Tennessee gave me a small ray of hope.  It was a Mayberry moment, a reminder of a time when there were places you didn’t need to lock your doors at night, places where kindness was common and even disagreements were respectfully civil.

It troubles me that Mayberry moments don’t come along very often anymore.  Maybe instead of wistfully longing for a mythical panacea, I need to focus more on that caption “In God We Trust.”  Those four words point toward a place that’s much better than Mayberry.  It’s a perfect place that’s open to all who follow the path of grace that leads to the gates of pearl.

We can’t go back to Mayberry, but we can go forward to a home where Mayberry moments happen all the time.  It’s a matter of where we put our trust.  John 3:16.

 

Posted in 2018 | 6 Comments

The Occasional Report

I’ve read the work of a variety of columnists over the years.  Some of them give an occasional update of selected topics they’ve previously covered.  I used to think those were columns of last resort, a result of having nothing else to write about.  So, if you’re suspicious of this week’s offering then I won’t blame you.

March 4, 2019, marks the second anniversary of Joiner’s Corner.  It seems appropriate to comment on a few of the people who have been mentioned.  Here are four of them in the order the stories were published.

“Sweet Martha Brown” (March 25, 2017) – Miss Martha was only 103 when I posted that story.  On Saturday, February 23, 2019, she turned 105.  She celebrated in grand fashion at Lilly Baptist Church, laughing with family and friends and singing along on some hymns and old songs.  Instead of taking a nap after the party she was going to a rodeo in Perry.  You can find her on Fridays at Janis’ Salon getting her hair done and delightfully enjoying her weekly visit.  She’s still living at home thanks to her son Marcus.  I’ve seen a lot of good examples of children assisting their aging parents, but Marcus Brown has set a standard for long-term loving care that’s second to none.

“The Avon Lady” (February 10, 2018) – Mrs. Ernestine Furlow died January 16, 2019, exactly one week shy of her 101st birthday.  Her hospital stay was brief, and she had lived independently at home until then.  When I visited her in 2018 to work on a column, she asked me about playing the piano at her funeral.  It wasn’t a somber moment like one might expect.  She made it clear that she was prepared for one final move.  She didn’t know when she was leaving, but she knew where she was going.

“A Greatly Blessed Life” (March 23, 2018) – World War II fighter pilot Charles Speight is still teaching Sunday School at Unadilla First Baptist as he approaches his 97th birthday.  In April of 2018 he and his family made a trip to Charleston, South Carolina for the 75th anniversary of the commissioning of the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.  Later in the year Witness to War came to Unadilla to interview him.  His compelling first-hand account of wartime experiences can be viewed on the witnesstowar.org website.  Mr. Charles continues to be a blessing and inspiration to others as he remains actively engaged in his community.  I don’t know if he’s much of a cook, but he sure has an exceptional recipe for living.

“Keep Pedaling” (September 28, 2018) – Alyssa Wehunt’s courageous battle against brain tumors didn’t turn out as we had hoped.  She passed away January 20, 2019, after three years of severe health issues.

Reverend Graylen Hall made some comments that will long be remembered by those gathered inside an overflowing church.  He spoke of how Alyssa’s challenges had united our community through countless prayers, numerous acts of kindness, and loving expressions of compassion.  She touched more hearts in six years than most of us can ever hope for.

I don’t understand the suffering of innocent children, but I know that God used Alyssa to help me be more appreciative of every day that I’ve been given.  She helped remind me to be more thankful for blessings that I sometimes take for granted.  Her family asked me to play “Jesus Loves Me” on the piano at her funeral.  Despite her ongoing trials that became too routine, Alyssa knew that Jesus loved her.  It seems like that ought to be easy for the rest of us to accept.

I appreciate the encouragement that many of you have given me over the past two years.  Writing has been a rewarding hobby, plus has provided a side benefit of helping me avoid more yard work than I believe my body was designed for.  Jane, however, has become suspicious of my oft repeated line, “I can’t help right now Honey.  I’m working on a story.”  I’ve recently promoted her to Vice-President of Joiner’s Corner, hoping such a prestigious title will buy me a little more time.

That’s all I’m going to write today.  I can see Jane through the window by my desk.  The wheel barrow I gave her for Christmas is way too full.  I can’t just close the shutters and ignore what I know needs to be done.  I’m going to take her a glass of water.

Posted in 2018 | 4 Comments

The Beach Boys

I went several decades without attending a concert of any well-known singer or group.  I broke that streak in November of 2018 to go see Willie Nelson in Macon.  In January of 2019 I added another name to the list when Jane and I saw The Beach Boys in Tifton.  At this rate I’ll soon run out of bands I’m interested in hearing.  Neil Diamond quit touring and there haven’t been any authenticated sightings of Elvis lately.

We were in Tifton with two other couples, Mike and Kris Chason, and Don and Ramona Giles.  Mike and I have been friends since the fall of 1970 when we began college at Valdosta State.  Don and I go all the way back to fourth grade in Unadilla.

I was seated on one end of our delegation.  Next to me was a nice lady from Turner County who was there with her jovial husband.  It’s easy getting to know folks at a Beach Boys concert.  Everybody I saw that night was friendly.  The people in the audience were laughing and having a good time as they visited with those seated around them.

I have a theory that grouchy people don’t attend Beach Boys concerts.  Grouchy people don’t like songs with lines like, “Fun, fun, fun, ‘til her daddy takes the T-bird away.”  They don’t like to sing along or clap in time with the music, nor be surrounded with people that seem suspiciously happy.

The Conference Center has 2000 cushioned seats and somebody was in every one of them.  Most of the crowd had Medicare cards.  Before the show began I thought about asking everyone who had a stent to raise their hand.  The microphone, however, was just out of reach on the elevated stage.  Jane shook her head with a non-negotiable look I have seen before.

There was a giddy-in-love young couple seated just ahead of us.  I turned to the lady from Turner County and said, “It’s great to see these kids here, isn’t it?”  She and her husband smiled and nodded as the duo turned around.  “I’m 53,” he said with a big grin, “and she’s 52.”

“Wow!” I said.  “It’s amazing what clean living will do for you.”

The Beach Boys are all grown up now.  Mike Love, their lead singer, is 78 and wears a cap.  It may be his way of hiding a tangled mass of unruly hair, but I don’t think so.  I began wishing I had worn a cap myself, wondering if those bright lights were bouncing off the shiny streak on the top of my head.  Sometimes when I get out of the shower it looks like Moses parted my hair.

Mike Love did a 360-degree spin while balancing on one foot.  It wasn’t fast but I was impressed he made it all the way around with a single push.  I tried it later at home without success.  He must have a trick shoe with a secret spinner in the sole.  I said to the lady from Turner County, “If he keeps showing off, he’s going to break something.”  I guess Mike overheard me because he didn’t spin again.

The Beach Boys paused briefly after a rapid-fire high-energy song set.  The quality of their music was good but was more than a tad too loud for me.  I’m a proponent of ample volume.  Our neighbors always know what we’re watching on TV.  But I turned again to the lady from Turner County.  “Somebody must have told them I’m hard of hearing.” I said, speaking more loudly than I intended.

“I’m sorry you can’t hear them,” she shouted back.  She pointed to her husband.  “He doesn’t hear very well either.  Maybe we can motion for them to turn it up a notch.”

The concert was excellent and I’m glad that we went.  But it was the pre-concert activities that I enjoyed the most.  Six friends and a chihuahua named Posey sat around a kitchen table having key lime cake and coffee.  We told ancient tales where humor has largely displaced the facts.  Even Posey, though skeptical of some details, laughed a few times.

I don’t know if I’ll go to any more concerts or not.  I wouldn’t mind hearing Alan Jackson sing those hymns that he recorded for his mother a few years back.  But the thing I would want to make sure of is that we allow for plenty of table time.  There are few things in life that are as pleasant as sharing old stories with good friends.  The walks down memory lane grow sweeter by the day.

I hope I don’t throw my back out but there’s something I feel I must do.  I’m going to try that 360 full circle spin move again.  This time I think it will happen.  I’m feeling some good vibrations.

Posted in 2018 | 5 Comments

A Caved In Church

In the Oakfield Community on Highway 300 there’s an old church building that’s almost completely caved in.  Mt. Zion Baptist Church has been vacant for a long time but had stayed mostly intact until recently.  It was probably Hurricane Michael in October of 2018 that speeded up its slow demise.

I’ve ridden by the place numerous times over multiple decades.  It’s been somewhat of a landmark on those trips, not the kind of place you stop to visit, but somewhere you wish you knew a little more about.  I don’t know when the doors first opened, when they last closed, or anything that may have happened in between.  It’s possible the congregation was so vibrant they moved to a bigger place.  It’s more likely that shrinking numbers led to its closure.

Jane and I passed by the church on January 3, 2019, heading to her hometown of Thomasville.  We were surprised to see it had collapsed in the middle, caved in beyond any semblance of a place with a purpose.  There was a time when it could have been restored, but the demand for old church buildings is rather weak.

In our quick views from the road the church didn’t seem to change much over the years.  It was obviously abandoned, but the flaking white paint kept stubbornly clinging to the old wooden boards.  We didn’t see the leaks in the roof, or the decaying rafters hidden beneath.  It’s apparent now that the long-neglected building has no structural integrity.  That’s been the case for a while, but it happened so slowly it was almost undetectable.

I expect there are plenty of places to worship in the Oakfield area.  I doubt the collapse of an old church building will impact the spiritual welfare of anyone.  But as I looked at those crumbling walls it reminded me of a bigger problem that affects every community.  It’s the issue of the church that is caving in spiritually, the church that has lost much of its spiritual integrity.

I’m not talking about any one congregation or denomination.  We can all point fingers in almost any direction including toward ourselves.  I’m talking about the church as a whole, the church as the body of Christ, the church as a group of born-again believers, the church that seems to have caved in to the pressures and alluring temptations of society.

Today’s church often seems more intent on offering a smooth ride rather than following the straight and narrow path.  Our mantra could be “Ruffle No Feathers.”  We avoid those issues where taking a stand is awkward or costly.  We’ve almost quit talking about sin because that can easily become offensive.  We’ve grown accustomed to the murders of unborn babies under the guise of women’s rights.  We accept the glamorization of immorality through our remote controls.  We let our children spend their allowances to elevate indecent behavior to rock star status.  We choose to get along rather than stand alone.  The Apostle Paul would not be welcome in many of our pulpits.

I’m not saying we’re all guilty of all those things.  I’m saying too many of us are guilty of some of those things.  I don’t have the answers to a myriad of problems, but I know what God told Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV).  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  God gave Solomon a four-tiered plan that can still work today.  The prayer part is easy to embrace, but the rest of that scripture is problematic.  It requires an inconvenient level of commitment.

The collapse of an old building in Oakfield is not very important, but it reminded me of something that is.  A caved in church is just an accumulation of caved in individuals.  God won’t hold me solely responsible for a caved in church, but He won’t excuse me for a half-hearted effort to shore up some sagging rafters.  I’m going to try to do better on that.  If you feel there’s a need, then maybe we can be partners in the effort.

Posted in 2018 | 6 Comments

INCIDENTS

My column last week was about The Wonder Five basketball team from Vienna High School, a group of boys who gained national attention in the 1925 to 1930 era.  The team’s success has been largely credited to their coach, J. H. Jenkins.  In doing some research for that column, I borrowed a book from Charlotte Hardegree Mixon, a long-time friend and former coworker of mine.  “INCIDENTS” is a collection of short stories that were written by Mr. Jenkins and which Charlotte typed for him.

Charlotte had loaned me the book before, knowing that I would enjoy it.  That fading memory from years ago had thankfully survived a long passing of time.  Reading it again was somewhat like the unexpected joy of finding an old friend after a long separation.

“INCIDENTS” was sponsored by The Vienna Kiwanis Club and published in 1972.  In the preface Mr. Jenkins says it was, “written at the request of several friends and with the hope that perchance some youth might read it and be inspired to adopt a more wholesome philosophy of life and that others may enjoy two hours or more of pleasant reading.”  I’ve long passed the stage of youthfulness, but we’re never too old to embrace a more wholesome philosophy of life.  And the two hours of reading were far more than just pleasant.  I expect Mr. Jenkins knew they would be.

Over many decades I’ve heard J. H. Jenkins referred to as Colonel Jenkins.  I think that was because of his role as President of Georgia Military College.  He has always been mentioned with respect and admiration, as a man with an exemplary lifestyle and extraordinary leadership ability.  I’ll call him Colonel for the rest of this column.  The title seems to fit him well.

I only have room to share a few things from “INCIDENTS.”  My hope is that someone will read this column and be inspired to publish a second edition.

Col. Jenkins shared some things that were quite serious.  He wrote about a revival meeting at North Georgia Baptist Convention in Morganton where the church was filled for every service.  Every student except one made a public profession of faith.  The revival preacher asked Col. Jenkins to go to that student’s room and encourage him to make a decision.

The young man referred Col. Jenkins to the 18th chapter of I Kings.  He asked him if he believed the story of Elijah calling down fire that consumed a bull that had been sacrificed and drenched with water.  Col. Jenkins confirmed his belief.  The young man then told Col. Jenkins, “If you will pile up a pile of wood and set it on fire that way, I will join the church.”  Col. Jenkins somberly noted, “I didn’t have enough faith to try.”   It’s an honest admission that all of us can appreciate.  His story reminds me that God doesn’t expect us to perform miracles.  He does, however, expect us to be witnesses.

Col. Jenkins wrote tenderly of the Sunday morning his wife died. “It was the darkest day of my life.”  He mentions a few other specific times of grief, including the loss of a young daughter.  Then he ends the segment without fanfare.  “There were other rainy days that are common.”

The Colonel also had a flare for capturing lighthearted moments, like the time a lizard ran up a lady’s dress in church.  “She screamed and jumped straight up.  Her dress ballooned, revealing pink pantalets.  Reverend Smith never regained the attention of the congregation.”

His subtle approach to humor is evident in stories like the one about two young women.  They lived with their parents when Colonel Jenkins boarded there as a young man.  “I guess by the way they acted that each of them would have liked to get married and that they would not be too choosey.”

I can’t do Col. Jenkins’ charming little book justice in a short column.  My hope is that I’ve written well enough to spark some interest in making it available once more.  Charlotte will let me borrow her first edition again, but a second printing would allow it to be enjoyed by many others.

“INCIDENTS” is a book worth reading by a man worth remembering.  Time, however, has a way of quietly erasing memories as well as opportunity.  That may eventually be the fate of Col. Jenkins and his delightful musings, but I hope it doesn’t happen now.  Now is not the time.  Now is far too soon.

Posted in 2019 | 3 Comments

Vienna’s “Wonder Five” Basketball Team

Author:  John Bonner, 1915-2004

“Basketball Mania” came to Vienna in 1925 and lasted until 1930.  It was brought about largely by the efforts of one very talented man, Joseph H. Jenkins, who was superintendent of the city schools and coach of the boys’ basketball team.  To grasp the picture of the “Wonder Five” one would have to come to know a great deal about “Professor Jenkins,” yet he is hard to describe in mere words.

Mr. Jenkins was an ordained Baptist minister and a man of the highest morals and ethics.  He was a graduate of Mercer University and a great lover of athletics.  He had played football at Mercer in the early days of that sport and was a very powerful man physically.  Stories of his great strength were legendary.  He was a great baseball player, usually playing catcher.  He was a strong hitter and in great demand to play on local teams.

One of the most remarkable things about Mr. Jenkins was that he had “charisma.”  Wherever he was he attracted attention.  When he walked about the school campus, a crowd of children of all ages followed him just to see what he would do and hear what he would say.  He was a strict disciplinarian, but he had a great sense of humor and the children loved him, even those who were chastised with his ever-present wide, heavy belt.  Mr. Jenkins seemed to have an especial liking for big, good-natured, mischievous, country boys and he developed many good athletes out of these.

It is not surprising that Supt. Jenkins was able in 1925 to arouse enough interest among Vienna citizens to build a gymnasium, really only an indoor basketball court, the only one of its kind over a large area.  The older and larger boys of the school helped in its building.  This was the beginning of basketball fever in Vienna.

The gym was finished in time for Vienna High School to host the Third District basketball tournament in 1925.  VHS entered a good team in the tourney but did not win it.  The final game was between Montezuma and Fort Valley, with Montezuma the winner by only one point.  The game was so exciting that a large part of Vienna was “hooked” on basketball.

The next year “Coach” Jenkins put together a team that was soon to become the famous “Wonder Five.”  It was made up of forward, James “Peggy” Campbell, guards Thomas Witcher and “Gus” Walters.  The other forward was Bascom Walters, brother of Gus, and only 5’9” tall.  The only tall member of the team was the center, Theo “Ted” Raines, at about 6’3”.  Raines had the jumping ability of a kangaroo and few centers ever were able to get a tip-off over him.  In those days the ball was returned to center jump after each score.  Also, each tie ball called for a jump.  Raines gave Vienna a great advantage with his great jumping and tipping ability and Coach Jenkins built his team around it.  The team used many ingenious plays devised by Coach Jenkins and Raines gave the signal for each play with his hands and his fingers.

This team attracted attention very quickly and began to win every tournament.  The “Wonder Five” won the Third District Championship in 1927, 1928, and 1929.  The team took the Peach State Championship several times and the Cotton States Championship played in Alabama several times.  Athletic clubs over a wide area sought games with the team and Vienna seldom lost.  The fans became so accustomed to winning that when the team lost, the whole town went into mourning.  Vienna once defeated a high school team 126-6.  Sports writers wrote many columns about the team and a Macon Telegraph writer gave it the name, “The Wonder Five.”

High schools were not classified according to size as they are now.  Vienna High, with a student body of perhaps 450, played Lanier of Macon, Tech High of Atlanta, Athens High, Savannah High, and many others with a high school enrollment of many hundreds.  These teams often came to Vienna to play and the whole town attended, cowbells, horns, whistles, and all.  Very often Vienna defeated these giant schools.  When the team played out of town, fans jammed the movie theatre because as soon as the game was over someone phoned the theatre and the film was stopped while someone gave the score and details of the game.

There was a large case full of trophies of all descriptions in the hall of Vienna High School and the walls were full of banners from the championships the team had won.  All these were destroyed when fire swept the school during Christmas holidays in 1934.

Perhaps the most exciting thing the team experienced was being invited to the National High School Championship in Chicago.  The team went in both 1928 and 1929.  The Vienna boys won wide acclaim for their play both years and won many games but were not able to bring home the championship, losing in the semi-finals each time.

In one of those years the team lost by one point to Cicero High School of Chicago – 27-26.  The Vienna boys had never played against a team that practiced “freezing the ball” before and had not learned to cope with this style of play.  There was no shot clock in those days and the Vienna offense was frustrated.  Vienna played for third place the next night and again lost due to disappointment and weariness.  The team was awarded a large bronze trophy for fourth place.  It was not highly prized but, looking back, to have the fourth best high school basketball team in the entire U.S. is not bad for a little school of four hundred students in a town of less than twenty-five hundred total population.

In 1925 “Peggy Campbell” was chosen on the All-American team.  He graduated that year and was replaced at forward by Wendell Horne.  In 1929 both Theo Raines and Wendell Horne were chosen All-American.  Campbell went on to play basketball at Mercer.  Raines went on to play at Georgia Tech and Horne to Duke University, where he later became president of the student body at that great institution.  The Walters brothers went to the University of Georgia.  To have three All American players in two years surely is a most outstanding accomplishment for any team.

When Witcher graduated, he was replaced by John R. Bearden and Raines was replaced by Harold “Bunker” Hill.  The team continued to win most of the tournaments around until 1930, when almost all of the players graduated.  In his final year at Vienna, Coach had a good team of rather small boys but they failed to win the state championship, losing to Savannah High in the finals.  Mr. Jenkins left Vienna the next year to become president of GMC at Milledgeville.  The era of The Wonder Five and “basketball mania” was over, but it was great while it lasted.

Supplemental Information:  This account by Mr. John Bonner was originally hand-written around 1940 per columnist-author Billy Powell.  After publication of this column I learned that Mr. Powell had written a well-researched story that was published in The News Observer on June 30, 2005.  He has included information about this notable team in a book he authored, “Pride of the Panthers,” and has provided substantial information and photographs to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.  He also made me aware of an article by Carmen Lindsey that appeared in the May 30, 2007, issue of The Cordele Dispatch.   I think there’s enough information for a good movie!  NJ

Posted in 2019 | 3 Comments