By Jim Orr
The SpORRts RepORRtt 

Country Ball

After They Got a Court, They Got Real. This Was Larslan Basketball.

 

Glynn Condit / Special To The Courier

In 1960, the Larslan school got a basketball court and these country boys played some ball. Their teacher, Glynn Condit, below, made it happpen. Pictured between the foul lne and a hoop on the prairie court are, from left, Gene Peters, Mike Peters, Dan Olson, Johnny Neufeld, Kenny Reimche, Danny Larson, Dennis Neufeld and Roy Neufeld.

America's original "dream team" struck men's basketball gold at the Rome Olympics, overwhelming all challengers by an average score of 101-59.

The Boston Celtics stockpiled another NBA championship, their third of 11 in 13 years.

The Minneapolis Lakers hit the road and became the Los Angeles Lakers.

And meanwhile – 5,166 miles from Rome, 1,741 miles from Boston and 1,180 miles from L.A. – basketball changed for the better at the rural one-room schoolhouse in Larslan, Mont.

This was 1960, as significant a basketball year for some Northeast Montana country boys and their teacher coach as it was for anyone, anywhere.

The court. They now had a real basketball court.

"The basketball court got built because I did not like to see the children having to play on the old dirt and rock court," recalls Glynn Condit, the Larslan School's fresh-from-college teacher that year.

To make it happen, Glynn, now retired in Oklahoma, had some convincing to do that fall of '60. First he had win over his students' parents, then the school board in Glasgow that oversaw the Larslan school. He suggested placing a cement court behind the school, which the farmer and rancher fathers could use to work on their machines. This they liked.


"A discussion was held in September at the school and the men agreed to furnish the labor and gravel if the board in Glasgow would buy the cement," Glynn says. "Four of us were traveling to Glasgow for the board meeting, and I asked who would be the spokesman for the group. In unison the other three said, 'You will.' Our motion passed at the meeting, and by the first of November we had our basketball court and began practicing."

The court was – and remains – three quarters regulation size on the west side of the long-closed school.

"The kids had so much fun on it," Glynn says. "They were a happy bunch of boys to have it paved."

Memories endure of that court on the prairie, a hoop at each end rising into the Big Sky.

"Oh, yeah, it was a lot better than playing on gravel," remembers Dan Olson, a 10- or 11-year-old Larslan student at the time who now owns Dan's Auto Clinic in Glasgow. "We played every chance we had in those days. It was something to do. We played in the snow. We shoveled and it was slippery, but we played. Because of that slab of cement, that's what we liked most. Basketball."

Dan was among the younger boys playing ball at the eight-grade schoolhouse, along with Danny Larson and Mike Peters. Older players included Dennis Neufeld, Johnny Neufeld, Roy Neufeld, Gene Peters and Kenny Reimche.

Dan mainly remembers "a lot of practicing and pickup games," but his teacher reminisces about Larslan sixth- to eighth-graders forming an actual squad that competed against other teams.

"Mike Peters became our best dribbler and shooter," Glynn says. "He was short but fast and could get to the basket for his layup shot. We only played about six games and had to play teams that were older and had playing experience.

"The most memorable game was at the Mennonite academy. We were invited to play by the IVS coach to play the scrubs that did not make his main team. We were ahead during the first half, but the coach suited up his better players at the half and they came back and beat us. The parents of our team were very disappointed and vocal about this, and their coach really got scolded for putting in his better players and winning the game.


"We did not win any games, but the boys sure had fun trying and learned a tremendous amount about sportsmanship. It was a wonderful year. We just called it the Larslan School team."

Glynn's fondness for that time was rekindled recently when he located a team picture taken on the court, in front of a basket, after the season. It's quite an historic find. If he's right, no other image preserves this brief moment in local scholastic sports. Larslan scholastic sports.

"When I found this photo, I thought, 'jiminy,' " Glynn says. "I discovered the photo while going through some old photos and decided it was one of a kind. I did not realize that I had the photo."

In the 53 years since the boys posed for the portrait, the court has aged far better than has the schoolhouse. The court, which locals use as a garbage drop-off point next to a Dumpster, shows only minor surface cracks. Put up a couple of hoops and it's game time.


The remote school, though, has deteriorated into a rundown, eery blending of yesterday and today. Textbooks remain on shelves, educational posters on walls and a blanket on a coatroom hanger – undisturbed traces from when the school closed a few decades ago. But human visitors years ago left dated graffiti that remains on the blackboard, and animal visitors have left something else on the filthy floors. Windows are broken. The ceiling and walls have holes.

After finding the1961 team photo, Glynn searched online to learn more about the Larslan school. He found a current photo.

"I thought, what a sad sight," he says. "It kind of tore at the heartstrings to see that and think of all of the fun we had there. Our family really enjoyed the school year, and I believe the parents and students accepted us almost like family."

Glynn and his wife, Helen, occupied the downstairs living quarters with their preschool children, Shirley and Larry, and their border collie Lady, a playground favorite with the Larslan schoolchildren. Glynn was the school's only teacher but Helen, who passed away this month following the couple's 60th anniversary celebration Oct. 11, helped with music instruction.

They left Larslan so Glynn could complete his college studies in Oklahoma and then moved to Alaska for him to take a teaching job.

"Being a teacher, we had opportunities to travel and saw many countries," Glynn says. "I taught overseas for nine years. The favorite place was Taiwan. I became a square dance instructor and taught 200 Chinese the basics and advanced basics for square dancing."

But all the while, he says, he never learned what became of Larslan basketball. He'd like to find out and reunite with his former students – his basketball team – next summer.

To suggest ideas for The Sporrts Reporrt, contact Jim Orr at sports@glasgowcourier.com or 406-228-9310.

Glynn Condit, 2014

 

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