Part II: Remembering The Glory Years
By Troy Lesan
This concludes the story about the glory years of the Jameson High School Boys Basketball team. It is an incredible account about a team in a small town with a population of less than 200 where pride and tradition fueled a remarkable era. The first installment left off with the Jameson Huskies team which Larry Holley played on.
Jameson produced many fine basketball players but Holley is the most famous because of his subsequent success as a college basketball coach. Holley, who is now, amazingly, in his 45th year as a college basketball head coach, has had numerous coaching awards which are also listed in the previous article. His William Jewell teams have won twenty games or more in twenty-four different seasons and have won 30 games or more in 4 seasons. His team once won 45 consecutive conference games and 43 consecutive games on their home floor in Liberty, Missouri. If these numbers sound familiar it’s because they resemble many of the winning habits of Larry’s High School Alma Mater at Jameson.
Larry’s roots were certainly an influence. “Jameson was a great place to grow up,” Larry wrote in an email to me in which he graciously assisted my research. “My dad L.R. Holley was the Superintendent of Schools. He coached boys and girls basketball and taught classes. My mom was the principal and taught and kept the scorebook in games. I was always in the gym with my dad’s team when I was growing up and always wanted to coach.”
In 1963, Holley’s senior year, he was First-team All-state, and led Jameson to a third place finish in the state tournament. After losing an exceptional player like Holley, one would think that the Jameson team would suffer a letdown. Not so. The very next year, the team posted 29 wins, 6 losses, and finished fourth in the state tournament. Understand that in a small school the size of Jameson, most often with a graduating class of less than ten students, boys in all grades contributed to the team effort. Association member Margaret Burns, who attended Jameson High (and later worked there), recalls years in which every single boy in the high school played on the basketball team or was a student manager.
Margaret recalls that “Coach Tom always made a special effort to reach out to all of the boys. If a boy had a physical limitation that prevented him from playing, McDaniel would make sure that he was included on the team as a student manager.”
Jameson High finished the 1960’s in strong fashion by posting a record of 28-2 in both 1968-69 and 1969-70 and finishing second in the state in 1970. That season was the final year in which Tom McDaniel coached the Huskies. “I lost the last game I coached in Jameson,” McDaniel wistfully reflects upon the championship game. Then, he adds: “That 1970 team was loaded with talent. Steve Tingler was First Team All-state and Paul Drummond was All-State Honorable Mention (First Team All-State the following year). If one of my players, Lynn Dustman, hadn’t broken his arm late in the season, we would have won the State Championship.”
“Yeah, I guess it hurts when a good player is on the bench,” I sympathetically reply.
“Oh, Lynn wasn’t on the bench. He still played, but he wasn’t as big of a scoring threat with a broken arm.”
“Wait a minute. Lynn Dustman continued to play high school basketball games with a broken arm?” Sure enough! Lynn’s wife Jean (the daughter of Margaret Burns), was a Jameson cheerleader that year and explains: “The High School Athletic Association had a rule that players couldn’t participate in games if they were wearing a cast. So before the games, Lynn had the cast removed and his broken arm was bound in a tight wrapping of tape. After a game or two of this, it was decided that both Lynn’s arms would be wrapped so that opposing players wouldn’t know which arm was broken and take advantage. It wasn’t a straight crossways break. The bone fracture was parallel with the arm.”
Holy cow, I’m thinking, but then I remembered the higher calling of the cause. This was Jameson basketball!
In talking to Coach Tom McDaniel, who now lives in Gilman City, I quickly learned that he is, shall we say, understated. His coaching memories often contain modest assessments of his own contributions. “I was never much of a coach,” McDaniel typically reflects. “I just tossed the boys the basketball and let them play.”
Tom McDaniel’s record tells a different story. During his 11 years as Jameson Coach, he compiled a record of 260 wins and 57 losses for an 82% winning percentage. Any coach on the face of the earth would be happy to have that kind of a record!
Again, just as the departure of Larry Holley as a player didn’t diminish Jameson’s basketball fortunes – neither did the departure of Coach McDaniel. Under new coach Frank Cox, the Huskies once again soared to lofty heights. It was the Cox teams that posted the amazing two year record of 61 wins and 2 losses. In 1980 the team again finished third in the state tournament. Players included Frank Wheeler who was First Team All-state (Class A) and John Holdsworth as Second Team All-state. Just think: this class had thirteen graduating seniors (a whopping number by Jameson standards) and two of those boys were named among the top performers among all of the small high schools in Missouri. Wheeler had been First Team All State the previous year and is the only Jameson boy to be so honored for two years in a row. Frank Wheeler went on to play college basketball at Missouri Western and is now the Athletic Director at Blue Springs High School.
As in all great tales, the storied legend of the Jameson Huskies ultimately came to an end. In 1985, the Saint Joseph News Press ran a feature on Jameson which ominously chronicled the decline from the town’s early years when population peaked at 429. Jameson once had a newspaper, 2 banks, 2 hardware stores, 3 grocery stores, 3 blacksmiths, a lumberyard, 2 hotels (it was a railroad town), and 2 barbershops. Jameson’s high school enrollment was never large and the era of consolidation finally prevailed. In 1990, Jameson and old arch-rival Coffey merged to become the North Daviess Knights. Meantime, the forces of urbanization, globalization, and dwindling population have greatly eroded the small town.
This year, the US postal system announced the closings of small town post offices, and last month a petition was circulated to close North Daviess High. Jameson is a proud little town. It won’t give in without a fight. The Jameson picnic has been going for 121 straight years, and it’s every bit as good as any similar event in the county. Jameson resident James Duly still publishes The Jameson Gem which is a two page flier and available at the library in Gallatin.
“I once heard that there were 111 trophies that the Jameson basketball team had won over the years,” Coach McDaniel told me. That would be almost a trophy for every man, woman, and child currently residing in Jameson.
Sometimes when I think of Jameson, I can visualize imagery similar to that in the Movie Field of Dreams. I can imagine among the mists of late evening the constant pluck, pluck, pluck of the bouncing basketball and the ghostly echoes of youngsters’ shouts as they enjoy yet another pick-up game in the old Jameson schoolyard. Faces are determined, eager and in excited in anticipation of the sound of the shrill blast of the referee’s whistle and the squeaking of sneakers on the wooden gym floor. Call it a vision of a distant bygone era, when the little town of Jameson basked in the glory days.