For anyone wondering why girls basketball was so important, take a stroll along the downstairs hall of the G. Cecil Pruett Community Center YMCA in Canton to view the inductees of the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame.
There it is easy to see the dominance girls basketball has always enjoyed in this county, dating back decades and even longer. My own aunt was a basketball star at Canton High School in the late 1920s. Even back then our girls were known throughout the state as the best basketball players on the court.
By the time I was in high school in the late 1960s, Cherokee was a powerhouse, dominating the field and racking up all kinds of championships.
In those days Cherokee was the only high school in the county. The intra-county rivalry that is so lively these days was something that happened with the seventh- and eighth-grade basketball teams from the elementary schools scattered all across Cherokee County.
When the top elementary school girls teams in the county met the crowd would literally rock the gym. It seemed those old gymnasiums were packed to the rafters with fans on Friday and Saturday nights.
As the girls went on to high school, the best players would make the high school team, and we were known everywhere as having some of the best girl athletes ever seen. Our team would dominate the region play and each year I was in high school, the Cherokee Lady Warriors went on to state.
When I was a junior and senior I was a varsity cheerleader at Cherokee and got to go state tournaments in Thomaston with the team on the bus. We all stayed together in a 1950s-style motor court, and the cheerleaders were jammed four to a room.
Those were great times, but my favorite memory and perhaps an important step in my coming of age in the 1960s was my sophomore year when I rode with two of my friends and the mother of one of the girls down to Thomaston.
Back then we didn’t really venture far from home often — there were no interstate highways, the two-lane asphalt roads of the time were often curvy and dangerous and went through every little town imaginable.
Road trips anywhere seemed to take forever. Cars weren’t as luxurious as they are today, and we had little disposable income.
So a trip anywhere was something of an adventure.
Mrs. Sara Donely was the mother who took us. She was also the chemistry teacher at Cherokee High and was a rather intimidating presence.
In those days, I was considered something of a character, or perhaps a handful to deal with.
Mrs. Donely took me, her daughter, Mary, who later became a highly respected educator herself here in Cherokee County and my friend Jeannie.
We were going on a side trip to Barnesville to visit relatives of the Donelys on the way down. Another thing about travel in those days was if you got anywhere near someone you knew, you stopped by for a visit.
The journey seemed to take all day, with frequent stops for exotic fare such as Shoney’s Big Boys and hot fudge cake, truly exotic dishes we rarely sampled.
What I remember most about that trip is that we giggled and laughed at everything. I think our spirits were so high at the high adventure we were experiencing that it was like we had inhaled laughing gas.
We must have sorely gotten on Mrs. Donely’s very last nerve and she probably wished she had brought along a few chemicals to use to subdue us.
I remember nothing about the play at the game. I know we did not win the state title that year, although Cherokee would take it the next two seasons.
And I remember that everyone in Cherokee took pride in our team and its accomplishments. Their win made us all feel that somehow we here in our little community were something special. And back then we felt like a trip to Thomaston was a chance to see the world.
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.