Team photo

Pictured from front row, left to right, are E. Barwick, L. Smith, E. Gibbs, N. Holmes and M. Smith. Back row, Coach Mary Spear, O. Holmes, L. Herring, M. Whitley, L. Parks and A. Grady.

“Queens of Wayne County Cagers” was the title attached to the photograph of that fantastic Seven Springs team of 1938. Never- theless, we are about ready to say farewell to a cohesive unit that had, for years, outplayed and outscored every team they faced.

This was a team of resilient guards and sharpshooting forwards who had endeared themselves in the hearts of loyal hometown fans as well as others from around the league.

Take a look at the photograph, likely their last taken together in uniform.

“With no defeats in play this season, the Seven Springs girls Friday night captured both the Wayne Tournament and the county championship by defeating the Mount Olive girls 43-24. In recent years Seven Springs has turned out several championship teams, and the above aggregation with consistent fast play this season have asserted their right to the twin titles.”

Seven Springs places four on all-star sextet

The first team is selected by the highest number of votes cast for each player; the second team is the next highest; and the players who draw honorable mention are the ones who were given credit for their playing ability but did not receive enough votes for either of the first two teams.

First team: The four champions: L. Smith, right forward; N. Holmes, left forward; E. Gibbs, jumping center; L. Herring, side center. Rounding out the team was Sutton of Mount Olive and Waddell of Nahunta. P. Smith, Seven Springs left guard, made second team. Honorable mention: Baker and O. Holmes of Seven Springs.

Roses for Eleanor

Take a look at the girl holding the basketball. In a recent column I wrote: “Now, then, I want you to deposit the name ‘Gibbs’ in the bank of your mind. As I continue this and other columns you’ll understand why.” (End of quote).

I share the words of an old favorite Carter Family song as preamble to my introduction: “Wonderful things of folks are said when they have passed away. Roses adorn their narrow bed over the sleeping clay. Give me the roses while I live trying to cheer me on. Useless are flowers that you give after the soul is gone.”

I suppose many flowers adorned Charlotte Kea’s grave when she was laid to rest in Sanford at the age of 96. Her accomplishments as a player and throughout her life were legendary. I’m sure she was the recipient of many bouquets, for she lived a long and full life.

After one’s passing many postings are added to Ancestry.com and other sources including, in some cases, a death certificate.

However my search on Eleanor Gibbs turned up practically nothing. Why? Because I learned, to my surprise, that she’s still a living, breathing and vibrant human soul. Of course at 97 she’s not running the courts and tingling the nets these days, but she continues to enjoy the excitement in watching her favorite ball bouncers on television.

A few weeks ago I spent a wonderful 2½ hour session in her new home on the outskirts of Seven Springs built on farmland that has been in her family for over a hundred years. She was born a mile or so away in a beautiful white two-story green-shuttered home on another parcel in Seven Springs’ residential district.

Arrangements for our get-together were made by a mutual friend, Iris Price Kilpatrick. You may recall that in my first Seven Springs basketball column Iris’s mother, Dora Ruth McArthur, was pictured with her teammate and best friend Mildred Barwick.

I came to the gathering with some prepared questions for Eleanor to which she was congenial and thorough in her responses. She shared many life experiences and was particularly pleased to talk of her scoring days on the basketball court. She spoke fondly of the girls who won championships with her.

Not to detract from that interview, but I just wonder if we “outsiders” know the demoralizing conditions that ravaging waters have done to her pretty little town. Following one such flood, Eleanor and sister, Hilda, had to partially rebuild that home in which they were born. They vowed then that if floodwaters ever again destroyed their efforts they would not do it over.

Keeping her word, Eleanor, in her 90s, built the new home on much higher ground.

I asked if Seven Springs had always been plagued with such flooding.

Her answer was blunt and straightforward: “Well, it all started when they built that damn dam up there in Raleigh. We did have flooding before but not nearly as bad as in recent years.”

Right or wrong, I’ve heard from many who share her view.

What would she have me share?

At first I think she was somewhat leery about my putting her in the spotlight, but I don’t think she would mind my telling you a little about her life after graduating from Seven Springs in 1938. Her first year of college was spent at Mars Hill. (As pictured in her first year.)

“Eleanor,” I asked, “most folks were still suffering from the effects of the Great Depression. How in the world were you able to fund yourself going off to college?”

She assured me that her father made many sacrifices for her and sister Hilda to be able to continue their education.

After her first year, she transferred to Baptist University for Women in Raleigh (Meredith). She was not there on a basketball scholarship, for none were offered, but I believe her talent would have earned her one today. Nevertheless there were some very exhilarating and extremely competitive intramural sports at Meredith.

Beside her senior photograph was written a lengthy list of her accomplishments and involvements:

ELEANOR GIBBS, Seven Springs, N.C. A.B. Chemistry, Astrotekton, Meredith College, 2, 3, 4. Hockey, 4, Varsity, 2,3,4. Captain 2: Tennis, 4 Varsity, 2,3; Basketball, Varsity, 2,3, Captain, 3; Softball, Varsity, 2,3; Soccer, Varsity, 3; Archery Club, 2; A.A. Board, 3,4; Monogram Club, 3,4; Wake Forest Summer School, 3; OAK LEAVES staff, 3,4; Barber Science Club. (She was one of only three chemistry majors).

Her Meredith yearbooks are replete with many photographs which proved that she never lost her competitive edge — her desire to win. She was involved in just about every sport the school offered including field hockey of all things. Her sister, Hilda, followed her off to Meredith a couple of years later where they were basketball and field hockey teammates. In Eleanor’s senior year both were on the varsity tennis team. Eleanor was the manager.

In my garden more roses grow, which, in time I will deliver to the teenager holding the ball. For as far as I know she’s the only survivor to whom I can make the delivery.

Sherwood Williford writes a weekly column for the News-Argus. Contact him at 919-440-8811, Sherwoodowl@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 175, Princeton, NC 27569.