Class C Continued
Last week’s column began and ended with the special, long-running win streak compiled by the Alsen Broncos basketball team in the school years of 1957-1959. While the years Osnabrock also competed in that same class and their tournaments was mentioned briefly, there was not space to write about other local teams who also participated in the 16 years of Class C. When reading the book about this series of tournaments, the first thing that you notice is how many familiar teams were part of this special group. As a result, I tried to condense the other stories for this week. Readers who recall the era may remember that it became a prelude for really good basketball from a relatively small corner of the state which has been mirrored in more recent years.
Some of the teams who won the right to compete at that level were from very small schools located in towns that you or I cannot remember hearing about. Today some are no longer on highway maps and even the often talked about GPS devices may not be able to find them. In order the 16 winners were:
1948 – Carpio Cardinals with possibly Alexander getting second.
1949 – The Alexander Comets won over Marion. It was their second trip to this tournament. Gold belt buckles were given to the outstanding players (later referred to as the all-tournament team).
1950 – The Columbus Cougers won over Aneta.
1951 – The Wild Rose Roses won over Litchville with a team from Edinburg in the mix.
1952 – The Butte Spartans won over Bowdon. This tournament was held at Devils Lake. Lawton’s team was also in the competition.
1953 – The Willow City Red Wings won for the first time playing Westhope. Also in the tourney were Edinburg (second trip) and Fort Totten. High point scoring began showing up in the game reports when a player scored 34 points in a single game and lost the record the following day to Daryl Henry who scored 35 points. My notes do not give the year, but Henry played on the Westhope team.
1954 – The Westhope Sioux won over Osnabrock who got second on their first trip to the tournament. Rock Lake was also in the tournament.
1955 – The Osnabrock Orioles, on their second trip to Valley City, won over Max. Some Osnabrock players might still be around with more details.
1956 – The Willow City Red Wings won over Sheyenne on their second trip to Valley City. Osnabrock, back for a third time, took home the third place trophy.
1957 – The Alsen Broncos won over Taylor on the Broncos' first time at state. Fort Totten was back with another strong team and moving up. Paul Glock and Kenneth Towers received special mention. Glock had 30 points in this game.
1958 - Alsen won again in one of the closest games in State Class C competition with a 50-49 win over Fort Totten. Donald Spenst and Gil Herbel were named outstanding players.
1959 – The Plaza Lions won over Souris 45-41. Fort Totten was back for a fourth time playing at this level.
1960 – The Crary Cardinals won over Tower City and were treated to a steak dinner before leaving Jamestown where the tournament was held that year.
1961 – The Arnegard Spuds won over Crary (back for a second try). Munich was also in the tournament but had lost to the eventual winner 41-35 in an earlier game.
1962 – The Makoti Cardinals won over Crary (back for a third year) in a tournament held at Valley City. The Clyde Orioles were also in this tournament.
1963 -The Mapleton Falcons won over Sharon in the last Class C State Tournament held at Jamestown. Following this event the teams became part of the Class B State events, and several went on to win at that level in future years.
One of the interesting details in the pictures which survive from the Class C tournaments are those taken during the trophy ceremonies. The person handing out the trophies changed from time to time but was always identified as the President of the High School League Board of Control which apparently was a five-man board of school administrators. Today a similar group (not all administrators!) functions for a broad range of high school activities.
For North Dakota’s smaller schools, the tournaments were a very special event and were well supported by their home communities who coined the phrase that “the last one out of town turns off the lights” when following their teams to distant games. Not only did they follow the teams to distant places but their coming home traditions became legendary. Towns with a population of 200 (or less) would form caravans of trucks, cars, or anything on wheels to meet the teams - win or lose. Victory stories included the number of vehicles which was often higher than the town’s population. Some held community pep rallies, banquets and dances to celebrate. Fundraisers helped to pay the bills. Cheerleaders are featured on many of the group pictures.
The Class C Tournament History is divided into 16 chapters (one for each tournament) with stories remembered or donated to the collection by players, parents, sports reporters, and from scrapbooks treasured over the years. One writer mentioned his contribution being from his grandma’s scrapbook. Their stories include the times they were storm-stuck, travel before there were buses, sleeping on the floors in gymnasiums and other exciting adventures. Even if you did not know the players the stories are good reading. The Cavalier County Library has several books on long ago basketball that can be enjoyed on a year-round basis.
A recent phone call from Montana brought news of the death of Mary Ritter Lincoln, at the age of 108. Mary did not live in Langdon, but she did visit here frequently along with her husband, Don. There were a lot of things special about Mary, but her age happened to be her most recent claim to fame. The Ritter family, in general, is quite large, and she was the first to reach the age of 100, pass it, and live longer than any of her many cousins. When I was asked by her son, Roger, to pass the news on to family at Langdon and Cavalier, most of them asked about Roger and his airplane. Yes, he flew to our area on various occasions and asked about the campground where he landed his airplane for a family picnic. The campground happened to be Mt. Carmel Dam which did not, at that time, have a runway and may not have one today.
Mary’s father was Henry Ritter, the fourth son in the Albert Ritter family who came from Huron County, Ontario, to the Cavalier area in the early 1880s – as it happened this was when Henry was a baby. Albert Ritter had first been married to Elizabeth Kauffeld, who died in 1876 leaving her husband with three small boys: Louis, John and Jacob. Two years later Albert married Margaret Kauffeld, a younger sister of his first wife. Margaret already had two married sisters living near Cavalier, so they spent several years on farms in that area where eight more children were born. Those sisters and brothers were sometimes called the “second Ritter family”. Meanwhile the older sons took up homesteads and tree claims near Osnabrock and later at Clyde, so by the 1890s the family settled on land known for many years as the Ritter farm north of Osnabrock. Henry, who was both a farmer and a pastor, followed the railroad west to Montana where he and his brother, Hilliard, and their wives found land near the town of Rudyard. This town is still on the Amtrak route and is where Mary and her family are buried. The Montana homes became a stopping place for family visitors from North Dakota, and the western cousins often found their way back to North Dakota as well.
One of the connections was that when the grandchildren began arriving, they seemed to come in groups with an especially large group (one per family) arriving in the 1910 and 1911 grouping. That group exchanged many Christmas and birthday cards over the years. Mary and her cousin, Francis (Wenzel) Mirehouse, born roughly two weeks apart in 1911 were especially close friends. When Mary came to visit the cousins gathered at various homes in Langdon, Clyde, Munich, Cavalier or Crystal. Frances reached 99 and counting before her death. Her younger sister, Kathryn Gustafson, made it to 103. Each year when Thanksgiving rolled around we wondered about Mary and were glad when her picture with sometimes a birthday cake would arrive at Christmas. With large families it is hard to keep track of everyone. With Mary’s death there may be one or two cousins still living, but the ones over 100 are now gone. In the collection of family heirlooms, Roger found a long-ago picture of Osnabrock last winter which his Ritter grandparents had taken to Montana with them. Not knowing if there might be a museum at Osnabrock, he had called the elevator who knew the current owner of the Ritter land and suggested he send it to Bill Wenzel, who is not a direct Ritter descendant but related to people who knew the original family. Last I heard, the picture was given to Darryl Dahl, who treasures Osnabrock memorabilia.