Old Faithful, The Bogart Gym

Bogart Gym

Bogart Gym

By Jack H. Hogan
BHS Class of ˜54

The school in Bogart, Georgia was a kind of magical place, at least I thought it was. Probably no other place will ever equal it. Within its walls, I learned to read and write and do numbers. I always thought that the two big front doors of the main brick building were supernatural, and with the start of school every September, all of my dreams and desires would be granted.

The old white wooden gymnasium, built in 1933, was the center of student and community activities when I was growing up in the forties and fifties. The building measured only about 80 by 130, not much larger than some big houses today. People in the community built the gym with volunteer help. The lumber, which was donated, was planed at Cash’s Sawmill by men like Ernest Cash, Clinton Norris, Monroe Tiller, and others. Their love and work greatly impacted my life.

The gym had a very small floor and there was less than two feet between the out-of-bounds line and the front row stands. The spectators had to move their legs and feet when a player threw the ball in bounds. Compared to a regulation court, the first row bleachers were on the playing floor.

Technically, we should have gone outside the gym to throw the ball in bounds on the North end. The gym ceiling was so low that sometimes it was difficult to shoot a long shot without the ball hitting the ceiling. I can remember making a couple of long shots as time was ticking off the clock when the ball bounced off the ceiling, banked off the wooden backboard, and dropped through the net. I don’t know why the referees allowed those goals to count. This reminds me of some of my favorite referees such as Shakespeare, Red Lawson, Wilson, and Gabrelson.

The stage floor at the South end was about waist high and right next to the out-of-bounds line under the basket. It served not only for school plays but also as the P.T.A. concession place and sitting section during crowded games. The playing floor was very small compared to other gyms. Most teams played a zone defense because of the small floor. Five players spread out in a zone took up almost half of the court. It was a real challenge to score. There were many low scoring games.

A home game was really a home game! Athens High, who had a super nice gym for that period of time, didn’t like to play in our gym. Actually, the Athens High gym was much nicer that the University of Georgia’s Woodruff Hall. But even so, the Bogart gym was just as good or better than some other schools we played, i.e., Statham, Winterville, Colbert, Comer, Loganville, Watkinsville, Social Circle, etc.

Four hundred fans and the gym was crammed! There was no heat in the dressing rooms under the bleachers, there were no showers, and there was only one dark restroom in the whole gym. Two coal burning stoves on cold nights used to heat the gym were sandwiched in between the bleachers on both sides.

Sometimes the fans would crowd around the stoves and shut off the heat to the players and others. I remember one night it was so cold that we warmed up with hand gloves. We about froze when dressing. At times, it was really too cold to play basketball in that gym. We eventually began to dress at home and wore our uniforms and warm-ups to the games.

All the small-town gyms that I played in had one or two unique features that we had to adjust to, unlike the big-city gyms at Athens, Winder and Monroe that were full-size with no peculiarities. Many of the gyms I played in, besides being undersize, usually had a hazard or two that were somewhat disrupting, like a small stage that almost curved to the out-of-bounds, potbelly stoves close to the playing floor, rough unpolished floors, low ceilings, poor lighting, leaky roofs, on and on.

I tried to never complain about the old gym because there was a time when the Bogart boys and girls didn’t have a gym. Back in the twenties and early thirties, the teams played on a dirt court on the school grounds. They also played some games in Mr. Cash’s Warehouse in downtown Bogart across the road from Patat’s Feedstore. I looked in the warehouse one day and got a glance at the old backboards, but I never got a chance to play in it. It had a concrete floor. But, after playing so much on the dirt court beside the church building at home and shooting at a homemade backboard hanging on the old oak tree and steel goal that Mr. Wright made in his auto shop, it would have really been a treat to play and shoot around in that old warehouse.

There was something about the old gym that was different and found a special place in my heart. That old gym burned about twenty years ago, and I miss seeing it when I go home. Yes, I have many fond memories of the basketball games and events that took place in Old Faithful, the Bogart gym. Some of the events held in the old gym were school assemblies, class plays, piano recitals, Junior and Senior Proms, Baccalaureate and Graduation Ceremonies as well as numerous other school activities.

Our loved ones and old places eventually fade away, but we remember them. Isn’t it sad that we never take time to sincerely appreciate them until they are gone.