Editor’s Notebook column
By Rick Palsgrove
It was never a large gym. It was never a fancy gym. But it was always a loud gym and it was always our gym.
This summer, the 50-year-old Groveport Madison High School will be demolished to make way for the new high school. The school’s gym, classrooms, labs, offices, auditorium, hallways, cafeteria, and more will all be headed to the rubble pile.
The last varsity basketball game played in the gym was a 64-61 victory over Big Walnut on Feb. 16.
Current Cruiser varsity head basketball coach Ryan Grashel once said of the school’s gym, “Our old gym has a loud and intense fan environment. This gym can get rockin’!”
When the school was first built in the late 1960s, it first served as a junior high school and the gym was originally half the size it is now. The floor ran north and south and there was only one set of bleachers. As construction continued and the building blossomed into being a high school, the gym was enlarged and the floor reconfigured to run east and west.
The building became the high school in the 1970-71 school year and the first
varsity basketball game was played there that season.
Anyone who has played or performed in the old gym, including myself, has their own memories of the place.
Jerry Clements, class of 1972, remembers playing basketball at the old high school (now Middle School Central) when that gym had a linoleum tile floor. He said it was a big difference playing on the new wood floor when the move was made to the new high school.
Buddy Waters, class of 1971, played in the first varsity basketball game held in the gym.
“I remember while they were building the gym. I was always going up to the school and opening the doors and looking in and seeing how far along they were,” said Waters. “I
remember the smell of the wood flooring they were putting down and I remember kidding with one of the installers saying, “Make sure you put a lot of spring in the key area,’ and he chuckled.”
Waters said the gym was ahead of its time when it was new.
“I remember looking at some small colleges and their gymnasiums didn’t compare to what Groveport had at that time,” said Waters. “The Mid-8 League was in transition in the early 1970s and three new gyms opened at the same time in Grove City, Marysville and Groveport.”
“The ‘Barn,’ as we nicknamed it, was packed every game,” continued Waters of the gym. “I mean standing room only, both sides. The pep band rocked during warm ups and off and on during the game. Great memories and friendships were made on that floor. Sad to see you go old friend, but new memories will be made by young men stepping into the new hardwood for their first game.”
The gym proved to be an all purpose facility and gathering place for the school and community over the years and often served as more than a home for basketball. Wrestling meets, volleyball games, cheerleaders, and other athletic endeavors took place there. The Cruiserettes performed there often. But in the early 1970s, before the auditorium was built, the gym was also a home for the arts as choir and band concerts were held there as well as theatrical
performances. It was a place for school assemblies and sometimes graduation ceremonies.
The Cruisers started playing basketball in the early 1900s. The first games were played on the second floor of Groveport Town Hall until 1923. From 1923 until 1952 the teams played in the cozy gym that is in what is now Groveport Elementary. From 1952 until 1970 the games were held in the massive gym in what is now Middle School Central before moving to the existing gym where they have been held since 1970-71.
The gym in the new high school, which will be the fifth home court in more than a
century of Cruiser athletic history, will open next fall. It also will provide a loud and energetic atmosphere at basketball games and for other sports. That energy will be a present and future link to the old gym after it is gone and is just a memory of the echoes of bouncing basketballs, the squeak of sneakers on the wood floor, and the good times that took place there.
Rick Palsgrove is editor of the Southeast Messenger.