Among the most pleasant experiences I can recall in the Calumet Region are those associated with basketball tournaments.
One of the earliest occurred when I was in elementary school and the high school tournament was held in the East Chicago Washington High School gymnasium.
At that time, the relatively new ECW gym was treated as the wonder of the world. By the time I graduated from high school in 1945, it was a band box, not quite the equal of Whiting High School, but close.
There were more teams in the tournament in those days. The sectional began with 16 teams. To fill the quota, Garfield School, in the Calumet section of the Twin City, filled one of the slots.
Alas, the older teams trampled Garfield to such an extent that one team scored more than 90. When you consider that each quarter was only eight minutes, that was an awful lot of scoring.
The sectional was especially memorable because we got to eat out. That was no small thing in our small lives.
When Hammond’s Civic Center came on board in 1938, all the little restaurants on Calumet Avenue and nearby benefited. I can still remember how we looked forward to a stop at Miner Dunn, which sold, in my opinion, the best hamburger in the Calumet Region.
Others will argue that the best hamburger came from Made-Rite. Technically, that wasn’t a hamburger at all. Made-Rite burgers featured all loose ingredients, and had a few extras thrown in for good measure.
Another memorable tournament was the sectional held in Gary. To accommodate the crowd, promoters not only put bleachers on the stage, but risers, too. An ordinary seat could give one a nose bleed.
Some tournaments were memorable because of the quality of the players. In a 1940 quarterfinal, Lebanon showed up with its usual very good team. It was an interesting team, too, since almost all of the players were the same height, which gave Lebanon great flexibility.
The tallest guard was about the same height as the center. That center, by the way, was none other than Pete Mount, a very slick article under the basket, although he was not more than 6'3".
Yes, Pete was related to Rick Mount, who later broke every scoring record in Purdue University annals and some at the national level. Indeed, Mount was a scoring machine and, I will have to say, the best high school player I ever saw.
Those Gary tournaments produced some memorable moments. The reigning team of the era was Froebel High School, whose star was Davage Minor, one of the great characters in Gary basketball lore.
Davage would take a ball at one of the guard positions and dribble it low and hard and fast, giving the impression he was double dribbling. Then he would leap in the air and line the ball at the basket. The ball usually went in, even without an arc.
When observers said that Davage flat-out beat an opposing team, they were usually speaking literally. He was impossible to stop without fouling. Were it not for PU's Mount, I would rate Davage the best high school player I have ever seen.