Our Basketball Heritage
Each year, when tournament time comes around, basketball stories seem to come out of the woodwork. The stories might arrive by phone or email, by snail mail, or pop up unsearched for in a book looked at a dozen times before. Sometimes the stories are shared in the grocery aisles or at church or even while picking up the mail. The stories tell about a long ago era when residents of Cavalier County put many other duties on hold and headed for the games on horseback, in jumpers, by train, on foot, by bombardier, by airplane and by car.
My own introduction to basketball is a dim memory of being carried into the new, and possibly not finished, LHS gymnasium in the late 1930s. My only real memory is that it was before I started school, and I was impressed by the pretty girls leading the cheering squads and the music of Homer Agar’s band. Beyond that, it was absolutely the noisiest place I had ever been. Company had been at our house for supper, so relatives were part of the mix as well as members of a family from Hannah. There would be teams from Osnabrock, Langdon, and Hannah playing that night. All three of the schools had some successful games behind them so they were always contenders. Many years later former players on those teams, plus a few others, assured me it must have been a night when their team won. Tournaments were noted for memorable games, and night after night some of the teams did win. Helen Olson’s scrapbook has an undated picture of the band before she was old enough to play in it and a note that says when the picture was taken; they had played for ten years for county tournaments and in the preceding December had played for the first Durum Show.
We do know that basketball had been around for many years but not in the organized style of today. Langdon young ladies - in middy tops, long skirts, laced up shoes with high heels and ribbons in their hair to designate the team they were on - had been playing outdoors as early as 1904 with hoops nailed to the side of a barn we are told. It must have been a spring/summer/fall game in those years. The girls were allowed to move indoors when the first St. Alphonsus Church was moved to the east side of now Third Street and became a parish hall used for many purposes while the present church was being constructed. Visiting with some of those early players 70 years later, I was told they thought they had once played girls from Milton but were “not sure if it was legal then”.
In 1914 there were dozens of teams from schools large and small who had formed teams and wanted to play on an organized level. Four districts were established: Grand Forks and Fargo in the east and Bismarck and Minot in the west. The top team in each district would play the others, and early on it seemed Fargo’s district had the edge. By 1922 the smaller schools set up a state tournament for “tiny” schools which they called the North Dakota Consolidated League. Munich played in that league and brought home some of the trophies. In 1933 the North Dakota High School League split into Class A for larger schools and Class B for smaller schools. Class C was added in 1948, and the Consolidated League abandoned in 1950. Munich, Osnabrock and Alsen all won at state levels in Class C, but at county tournament time upsets could and did happen. During the missile era when the enrollment mushroomed up, Langdon went to Class A for a few years, and the boys had at least one trip to state in that classification. Girls began playing in 1974, and a picture in the Centennial book shows the 1978 team, which won the Regional in class A and went on to win 4th at State. Local girl’s teams have been consistent contenders in both volleyball and basketball down through the years. To date the Langdon Area and LEM girls have won Class B twice: 2005 and 2020.
Langdon boys seemed to have had baseball, track and football before basketball became popular, but we know the boys played in the earlier years as well. Merrill Schallow of the Minot Daily News wrote a book about the history of boys basketball in North Dakota, and his first mention of Langdon in the State Tournament is from 1939. Schallow especially cited Bob Murie of Langdon as an exceptional player. Murie went on to coach as did his son, Craig, and maybe by now a grandson or two, but I did not find that name in recent Hoopster or Miss Hoopster listings. Local fans have told me Langdon also went to state in 1940, and when they named the players, that is a team I remember seeing play in person as a small child. It helped that some local fans had saved programs and shared them a few years back. At that time there were third generation teams appearing on the television screens. For some families we are now down to fourth generation, and those earlier players are showing up on basketball courts around the state with some in coaching positions.
With those thoughts in mind, the current Hoopster and Miss Hoopster editions arrived in the mail. Names from generations of basketball fans and players are consistent generation after generation. One that you may hear quite often this year is Crockett. Floyd Crockett played back in the early 1940s, and I understand his brother, Orrin, in the late 1930s. There had been Crocketts from at least three branches of the family in my class at school – all cousins. There were few years without a Crockett on local teams. In recent years most of the players appeared to be Floyd and Della’s grandchildren or maybe Orrin and Alma’s grandchildren or Claude and Cleo’s. Too many to keep straight, of course. It was time to ask family to sort them out. Four who appear in the Hoopster listings this year are Jase, who is a senior at Northern Cass and may play more than football and basketball, but most of his publicity is about those sports. His grandparents are Larry and Susan Faye, and his dad is Mike Crockett. Floyd, Larry, and Mike all played for Langdon teams making Jase the fourth generation in that sport. Also at Northern Cass is senior Macie Danielson, who shares the same grandparents and great-grandparents. Her parents are Cherilyn (Crockett) and Jeremy Danielson who also were involved in LHS sports. Macie plays on the Northern Cass girls team along with her cousins, Halle and Haidyn Crockett, who are Jase’s sisters. Halle got special mention for 43 points in a single game, and we hope that score is correct because it is a great score for a young player. Both Cherilyn and her sister, Ashley, went on to coaching as well.
While asking questions about former residents who continued in sports or whose children and grandchildren are following in their footsteps, the Manson name always surfaces. Gene Manson was an outstanding player in basketball and went on to many honors during his coaching career. Most readers will remember his wife, Merry Boe, who also graduated at Langdon. Currently they have grandchildren playing at every level, and basketball appears to be a favorite sport. I was told second generation player and coach Bart Manson has three children (he is still coaching basketball at Fargo Davies), and Ross, who has also coached, has two. The youngest Manson brother is Brian, whose children are younger. Granddaughter Maggie Manson is now playing basketball at UND. Ben Manson is now playing on the boys team at West Fargo Sheyenne along with a player named Dominick Dosmann, who might have roots in Cavalier County. Alivia Manson is a member of the girls basketball team at West Fargo Sheyenne, and Grandpa Gene might still be in the wings giving advice.
If you want to watch familiar faces play ball, there are grandchildren all across the state. The Carriers, playing at Cavalier and Walhalla as well as some who might be at college, are grandchildren of Estelle and the late Ernie Carrier from Milton. Jason and Collette Schwabe have a daughter, Sydney, playing on the girls basketball team at Thompson, and Dennis and Carol Throndset have a grandson, Logan Maus, on the boys team, also at Thompson. John Beneda on the Park River team is the grandson of Ron and Rita Beneda.
When someone suggested I look at the coaches, I found several whose names were familiar, but for some reason their faces are different. Sherry DeMaine is coaching girls basketball at Fargo Davies, Dan Treleaven (with a beard I do not remember) is coaching boys at Benson County, and at least one of his sisters has also been a coach in recent years. The Treleavens mentioned would be third or fourth generation in their family to play in Cavalier County, and there may be younger players on other teams today. The Jordan family, with many players, also started out at Hannah, and there is a good memory of Elmer telling about a son or grandchild playing every night if the roads were good enough to get to the games. I suspect some of his grandchildren are now coaching their own children behind the scenes as are the descendants of other early basketball players and fans.
This year’s issue of Miss Hoopster is only the second one in 30 years to picture a Langdon team, so it is a keeper. However, the listings inside are always good reading. No matter how small the town, they have had some entertaining teams, and the stats are a reminder of games you watched, listened to, or even played in.