Learning to Win: Sports, Education, and Social Change in Twentieth-Century North Carolina

By Pamela Grundy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Preparation for Citizenship
The Spread of High School
Basketball, 1913–1934

In the opening months of 1927, members of the girls' basketball team at Lincolnton High School arranged themselves on the school steps for a yearbook photograph. Lincoln County, North Carolina, was still a largely rural area, tucked into the foothills of a conservative southern state. But no one would have known it from the picture. Newspapers, magazines, and movies had spread the daring styles of the 1920s to even the most remote corners of North Carolina, and the Lincolnton team members sported bobbed hair, surprisingly low necklines, and brightly patterned socks rolled down below their knees. An accompanying description cast the team's efforts in terms that made clear that the factory rather than the farm had become the dominant metaphor in these young people's lives. “The basketball season this year has been a great success,” the summary read. “Miss Hoke proved her ability as coach by taking an inexperienced team and, by hard and persistent work, managed to bring together a smooth-working machine which we were proud to have represent our school.” 1

Across North Carolina, at hundreds of newly built public high schools, basketball teams sat for similar pictures and made similar claims. Basketball swept through the state in the years after World War I, part of the wave of modern institutions that accelerated North Carolina's transition from a state centered around small farming communities to one focused on commerce and industrial production. Between 1905 and 1930 North Carolina's school officials opened more than 400 high schools as part of a broad-based effort to prepare the state's citizens for this new world. Within these institutions, students tackled the heightened academic challenges designed to fit them for the demands of jobs as clerks, secretaries, managers, sales representatives, and dozens of other new professions created by the state's expanding commercial economy. They also played basketball. The sporting craze that seized the nation in the first part

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