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By Staff | Feb 28, 2018

With basketball nearly over and wrestling finished, the winter sports season is winding down. The Paden City girls are gearing up for the softball season, while the boys look to get moving in baseball. Kids are already training for track, and the first events are less than a month away. I look for Paden City’s boys to have a pretty darn good team. With several good pitchers and some good gloves, plus heavy hitting, I think there will be some excitement in Wildcat town. Let’s hope so! Veteran Baseball Coach Brent Croasmun and assistant Jeff Hohn are back and excited to get started. The ‘Cats are going to be three to four deep on the mound and should have some pretty good bats. The kids have good knowledge of the game, and most have played together since little league.

I am also hoping the girls softball team gets plenty of players; they have a lot of talent in the town, and I would like to see them make some noise around the valley. Good luck to all Wildcat teams and coaches in the upcoming spring season, and thanks for some good moments during winter sports.

I want to say again, it was nice seeing the Wildcats try something new with the wrestling, and a big shout out to each kid who took on the sport and stuck with it. The coaches did an excellent job and were only one win away from having a state qualifier. I guarantee if it continues, it won’t be long until we have a champion. Everywhere the team went, they made an impression with their work ethic and determination. With a couple years under their belt, we’ll see the results. I watched them at the Ron Mack OVAC tournament, and they got some wins against some tough competition. Somebody did some work, because they had the best looking uniforms of any team I watched this year.

The Wildcats have a new A.D. this year, and he has filled in nicely and is doing a terrific job; I hope he sticks around as it takes a special person like him to get things organized and keep it up and running. Coaches Jeff Hohn and Brent Coasmun had an undersized team in basketball this year, and things didn’t work out quite like they had envisioned, but they did an excellent job, and the team kept us on our feet on many occasions. I am sure next year will be a different story. The boys played hard, did their best and listened to their coach; that’s about all you can ask. Watch out for next year; they have the new system under their belt and you’ll see a different team when they hit the floor for the 2018-19 year. Three or four boys will step out and drill the three, and they might just surprise some people under the basket with a couple of the younger kids. Wait and see!

The high school girls team also struggled with only one senior on the team, but they also had some good moments and nearly upset a couple good teams. They got better with each game and learned a lot about basketball under two good coaches, Alan Miller and veteran Jamie Natali. They were also undersized, but their hustle and improvement over the course of the season were evident. They will be better next year with many of the kids getting their first real varsity experience this season. Hannah Loy led the girls squad in nearly every category, averaging around 16 points per game. She has a lot of skill and knowledge of basketball and can play all positions on the floor. Every other girl on the floor gave 100 percent, and with a couple freshmen picking up that much need experience… well, let’s just say, don’t give up on the girls basketball program.

The Tyler Consolidated Silver Knights girls dropped their first game of the sectionals against a veteran Ritchie County team, but believe me, they will be back next year with a vengeance. Coach Cathy Boggs and assistant Ben Thomas do an excellent job with the girls, but as often happens, you get the late season blues, and let-downs happen. Next season, they will be loaded with seniors, so expect better things to come. The one senior on the squad, Amanda Reynolds, will be trying her game at Bethany college. Good luck to her.

The Knights’ girls are very talented and athletic and should have a good softball season; pitching is suspect right now, but they are solid in the infield, outfield and behind the plate. They should also be a decent hitting team. Many of the Knights’ girls will be running track, and they very well could be contenders when the state meet rolls around.

The Silver Knights will be strong, once again, on the diamond, with defense being one of their strong points, as well as being fundamentally sound and loaded with veterans. Lost to graduation from last year’s 20-6 record team are Trent Smith and Nate Lantz. Returning to work the mound will be a rotation of four or five who can get the job done. The coaching staff will be back strong, and according to some inside knowledge I have access to, there’s a good chance you will not want to miss too many games. Senior veteran at the catchers position, Colby Buchanan, is recovering from surgery and not expected to play; however, I have watched him through the past few years, and if there is anyway he can, he’ll give it a shot. He’s that kind of competitor. I’m told they are hoping a certain other senior will be able to step in and fill the spot.

As far as track goes, the Silver Knights always field a strong team. I look for the boys to do very well in the hurdles with a couple skilled veterans back. Nate Barker will be a handful for other teams to deal with, especially with the extra work he’s put in over the off-season. Should be exciting. The distance runners have me excited as well, as the Knights have one of the top sophomores in the state coming back in Spencer Corley. He is a dedicated runner who, according to people around town, can be seen running the streets about anytime. Barker and Corley aren’t alone, however, as the Knights team should have several deep, something they have lacked in the past few years. Look for their relays and dashes to also be loaded, and hopefully they get some heavy throwers, pole vaulters and high jumpers in the field events.

Paden City doesn’t have very many listed on their rosters, but don’t take that away from individual efforts. The ‘Cats have done well with small teams in the past, and bringing home individual awards is part of what it’s about. They got a great effort from Jake Pierce to win the state championship in the hurdles last season, and it can be done again. That’s what I like about individual sports. You can be pitted against anyone from any size school and still come out a winner based on your own work ethic and determination. Hard work and willpower go hand in hand; put them together, and you have a recipe for success.

When you go back 40-50 years in time and think of everything that has made our local schools and communities what they have become…when you know the history, when you witnessed it first-hand and you saw the good that was done and when you’ve been apart of it, it makes you wonder how some can know so much, yet know so little. Please don’t take this wrong, I’m not talking about any individuals today and the good work they do. I’m talking about a different time when many of you were not yet born.

I watched, as a young boy, as they were building the now-famous Bob Burton gymnasium. Several men in our community were skilled carpenters and block and brick layers. I enjoyed going to the outdoor basketball court at the school. I would often stop and watch as they were high up on scaffolding, laying the brick on the west end of the gym. My grandparents lived across the street, and Grandma would send water over for them to drink.

My dad was one of the brick layers, and Charles Hayes was another. Carl Palmer also worked down low, laying the heavy block. Many of the people were paid professionals, but there were also many volunteers. That is part of how we got Paden City High School… In those days, money was extremely tight. Fifty cents would buy you a meal at Pomeroy’s or Van’s, with change leftover. Gas for the one family car, if you had one, was around 20 cents, and we had four to five stations in town. They weren’t pull in and pull out, fill up yourself stations either! They were full service, where you had your oil checked and topped off, your windshield washed, and water put in the sprayers. The air in your tires were checked, and you got a big thank you for stopping.

I loved sports in high school and am proud to have played for Paden City. After I graduated, it didn’t stop. Teaching the younger kids in town was something I loved to do; I enjoyed it. Ask some of the older guys; we spent many hours on that little outdoor court, and many good players developed.

In the summer of 1969, I joined the Paden City Jaycees. We got involved with the community, and at one point had a huge group; we did a lot of volunteer work, including help Mr. Heasley (that would be Ron and Lance’s grandfather) run the only ditch witch in the area as he dug the trenches for the light poles at the football field.

We helped as they installed them. We painted and cleaned the old field house under the bleachers that are now the visitors side. We helped in fundraising by having a booth at the athletic association’s annual fundraiser, the Labor Day Celebration. The athletic association was what kept athletics alive in this great town. It was run by many of the local business people in town. I can name many of them still today

Everyone was on the same page! Make Paden City great. That they did! The annual Labor Day event drew people from far and near. They had great carnival rides and acts that people today would pay a fortune to see. The great Wallendas walked a high-wire across Paden City’s football field. A man, on more than one occassion, was shot from a canon into a net from the south goal posts to the 40-yard line of the football field. There was a lady who jumped from a 25 foot tower into a barrel of flaming water. It was a four-day event that started with a Friday night home football game and ended with a gathering following the parade on Labor Day. The parade included many bands who spent Labor Day Monday at the football field for a band-o-rama like none other. An antique car display also was an annual hit.

Those were the days (as Archie Bucker would say) for those of us who are old enough to remember. For those of you who weren’t around, you have no clue. There wasn’t a year went by that something big didn’t happen; some of you may remember the annual ministerials. How about the big top tents for the circus, also at the football field?

At the site of the Post Office, they used to pitch a tent once a year,and a church revival was held, sometimes lasting up to two weeks. Churches were on every corner and in-between, (and they were all full). The town had employment opportunities. Potteries and glass factories dotted the landscape, and many residents worked in them. Main Street was active, as was Route 2, (4th Ave). From grocery stores to hardware, to five and dimes, we had it. Doctors, Dentists, and a car dealership. Oh, we even had a youth center, but one thing lacking was a park. Thank goodness for the many good people; they made it happened. We no longer had to hitchhike or catch the greyhound bus from Martin Lemasters grocery store, to get to New Martinsville or Sistersville’s swimming pool. Although we still found our way to the Fat Boy, Marties, or the Dairy Queen. Lots of good times were had at Paden City’s Charcoal Grill where you could pull up, and they would come out for your order.

We had good law enforcement and good people (still do); everyone helped each other out.

We had one of the best outdoor basketball leagues for several years, back in the late 60s and clear through the 80s. Teams came from all around to play in our league. Many of us helped by running the league or officiating; never can I remember any problems. Little scraps here or there but nothing major. Everything was volunteer, the way it should be in small towns. We had t-ball teams and little league, just like today. We had grasshopper basketball, just like today. The difference was we had no problem finding people to help. Everyone volunteered; oftentimes we would have to turn down help as we had too many.

Many of the kids that have gone through Paden City High School have been helped in the off-season by volunteer coaches. It’s like that in most communities; without the volunteers, it can’t get done. I mentioned the old athletic association and their big yearly event. It took a huge undertaking, with a lot of people working together to make that happen.

It’s not the same today. Not because we don’t have good people, but because people are so busy in their own lives. I think our Labor Day event here in town is great, still to this day; sure it’s not as big, and it’s not at the field, but it’s still there because certain people still care. Thanks to people like Susan Wade and Judy Ferrebee who work year-round to make it happen.

As I said before, money in the 50s and 60s was tight. If you got to go on a nice vacation or take a trip, it was rare. Getting a new pair of shoes was a big deal. Paden City even had two shoe repair shops where you got shoes fixed, instead of going to the closet and pulling out another pair. However, people were not tight. They gave when called upon; they gave to their schools, and they gave to their churches; they gave to each other and shared when they had to. I can remember when people would call on a neighbor and borrow a few slices of bread or some milk or butter. Hand-me-down clothes were often exchanged, not only by families but friends and neighbors.

We have, by far, the best volunteer fire department in the valley. (Just my opinion). I mention Paden City, because that’s were I grew up after moving here from Cleveland, Ohio. But I know the other local communities had similar situations and events. Sistersville was a thriving little town where you could always find some good little restaurant on Wells Street. They had great sports teams and great support. New Martinsville was bustling with activity, especially with the plants nearby, and Viking Glass Company, a good source of local employment. Downtown was always busy, and the ball courts and fields were always filled with kids. They also had the best youth centers and dances for the teenagers, plus the bowling alley and drive-in movie theater.

I can’t tell you much about Middlebourne, but I’m sure they had their own special ways of life that was much different than today. I do know they had some very competitive Red Raider ball teams. It wasn’t fun to play them. I love the story of the two Tyler County high schools playing each other in back-to-back football games for the state championship in the 1980s. Each got a win over the other. Hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings this week; I know there are a lot of hard-working people still doing what they can. Keep up the hard work. eparsons@tylerstarnews.com