Yes, I know, a few of you may have grown weary of reading about that basketball team. Either because you harbor little affinity for sports or because you do not have a serious interest for historical human accomplishment, unless of course you have a vested interest in one or more of the subjects.
In either case, may I encourage you to read on. These young ladies, veterans of the hardwood, played their hearts out. Court lessons learned probably had an influence in the way the “girls” raised their children, inspired their grandchildren or coped and mingled with society.
Only a handful of those players are left to talk about it. Therefore it makes me feel right good to have a venue in which I will likely be the last voice to ever speak for them in verbal or written form.
Championship game announced
“The curtain will ring down on the Wayne County high school basketball season for 1935 in the Wayne Memorial Community Building gymnasium tonight, March 20, at 8 o’clock when the Brogden and Seven Springs girls’ teams meet to decide the championship of the league.
“A large crowd of fans is expected to be on hand to see the last high school game to be played in the county this season.
“The Seven Springs girls were winners of the first half, and Brogden won the second half. Playing of the deciding game was delayed by the intervention of the Tournament of Champions which was held here for three days last week.”
Captain Kea leads Seven Springs girls to fourth championship
For the fourth consecutive year, the Seven Springs high school girls’ basketball team won the championship of the Wayne County high school league by defeating the Brogden girls 46 to 26 in an action-packed game in the Community Building.
Headed by their Captain Kea, who played her last game for Seven Springs to wind up her high school basketball record in a blaze of glory, the Seven Springs sextette quickly rolled up 15 points to five for their opponents in the first quarter. Holmes and Ivey, star guards for Seven Springs, also playing their last game, performed in the usual flashy style.
Captain Kea scored a total of 30 points for her team. Lindsay Dail, another of the county’s outstanding girl stars, saved her team from an even more severe drubbing by scoring 16 of the 26 points chalked up for Brogden. Jones added 9 points and Grady 7 for Seven Springs. Guards were Herring, Holmes and Ivey.
Kea — a shining star
I never knew the Seven Springs’ star, Charlotte Louise Kea (pronounced Key). In fact, she was born Aug. 14, 1918, and conceivably was old enough to be my mother. Nevertheless I feel impressed to share brief segments of her life after basketball.
Charlotte and husband, Jackson Miller, are pictured with two of their three children. A caption reads: Charlotte Kea Miller, Bertram Jackson Jr., Bertram Jackson Sr., Charlotte Jill Miller (Gray) aboard the Andrea Doria ship. Photo courtesy Ancestry.com, as shared by Barbara Burke.
She played four years for Seven Springs High, which in those days included eighth through 11th grades. Twelve years of schooling would not be incorporated until after World War II.
A few folks around Seven Springs may know somewhat about her life after her “glory days,” but I’m too pressed for time to gather information from those who knew her firsthand. Thus the remainder of what I share comes from online research including but not limited to Ancestry.com.
Her parents were Maryus Baxter Kea and Mary Powell Kea, who were living in Wayne County when Charlotte was born. Miss Kea graduated from Seven Springs High in 1935. Unfortunately the school, as was the case throughout the county, never published a yearbook, thus there is no way to verify other accomplishments she may have had during those years.
She was living in an Asheville boarding house in 1940. Census details confirm that she was working as a general duty nurse at the hospital. She was 21 years old.
When she was 23 she met and married 27-year-old Bertram Jackson Miller in Wayne County May 30, 1942. They must have come “home” for the wedding, for the marriage certificate shows they were residing in New York at the time. From her obituary we learn what sparked that romance:
“After graduating from high school Charlotte went on to become a registered nurse, attending the nursing program at Carolina General Hospital in Wilson, N.C., with additional clinical training at the Medical College of Virginia.
“At the outbreak of WWII she went to New York, joining the staff at the Marine General Hospital in Staten Island. During a dance held at the hospital for members of the nursing staff, she met Bertram Jackson Miller. They were married on May 31, 1943.
“Her husband Bert’s career with the Caltex Oil Company took family abroad for many years. Charlotte gave her children a worldwide education, noteworthy in its time, during their family’s five-year residence in Bombay, India, with five additional years in Sydney, Australia. The family returned to the United States in 1959, living in Scarsdale, N.Y., until Bert’s death.”
(I have no explanation as to the obvious discrepancy regarding their marriage date).
Charlotte’s husband passed away young, Nov. 22, 1971, in Westchester, New York. He was 56 years old. They had been married 29 years. After his death, Charlotte settled in Sanford in 1972 where she joined the Steele Street United Methodist Church, giving it her loyal support throughout her lifetime.
Charlotte died on Jan. 28, 2015, and is buried at Sanford’s Buffalo Cemetery. Survivors included three children, David Lee Miller, Jack Miller and Jill M. Gray, and their spouses. Four grandchildren and seven greats. Her siblings were listed as Mildred, Faye, Jack and Serene.
A tinge of irony
Until I was “inspired” to write a series on these amazing girls from Seven Springs, I had never heard the surname Kea. Reread this sentence from a paragraph above courtesy News-Argus: “Captain Kea scored a total of 30 points for her team.” That was Charlotte 84 years ago.
Now compare this statement from a game played 14 days ago, News-Argus report: “Paris Kea scored a season-high 30 points to help the North Carolina Tar Heels stun No. 1 Notre Dame, 78-73.
The similarities just caught my fancy: same last name, same number of points, similar results, albeit, the logic says the two were no kin. Charlotte was an outstanding white player; Paris, a great black one. For Paris’ performance she was named ACC player of the week. In broader recognition ESPN named her national player of the week.
Paris Kea just happens to have been born up the road in Tarboro. That town’s collective chests must be swelling with pride after that performance. And what else? This very night at 6:30 all eyes will be on Atlanta as they witness Tarboro’s high school’s Los Angeles Rams running star, Todd Gurley, competing for a Super Bowl ring.
Moss Hill’s near championship
After Moss Hill’s defeat of Seven Springs in first round of the Tournament of Champions, they were next pitted against Long Creek (Pender County). They came out the victors by a score of 35 to 29. Moss Hill scorers were E. Smith-9, G. Croom-8 and I. Cauley with 18.
Their next victim was Cleveland High. They won again 31-25 which advanced them to the championship game against Salemburg. Their ace, I. Cauley, scored 13 points. G. Croom had 12.
Lenoir County’s little Moss Hill no match for big old Salemburg
Moss Hill did themselves proud by advancing to the finals. However, the newspaper account of the game was not in their favor.
The half ended with Salemburg far in the lead 21 to 4. The remainder of the report got no better, and in the end the team loses by 18, 38-20. Moss Hill’s E. Smith was leading scorer with 10. G. Croom and I. Cauley scored 5 each. Guards were M. Rouse, C. Jones and M. Croom.
Following the presentation of the winner’s trophy, Monty Smith of Garland was announced as the tournament’s most outstanding player. The reporter described her play in glowing terms:
“A diminutive flash of greased lightning, a member of neither finalist teams — little Monty Smith of Garland — was voted the most outstanding player seen in action on the Community Building basketball court during the Fifth Annual Tournament of Champions. Miss Smith won the applause and admiration of every fan who saw her in action by her dazzling speed and almost uncanny accuracy in scoring goals from almost any position within her throwing range.”
All-star teams for the tournament were announced.
First team was headed by Miss Monty Smith. Others from local teams were Annie Price, Brogden and Rouse of Moss Hill — guards. Second team included Lindsay Dail, Brogden, and I. Cauley, Moss Hill — forwards. Lavinna Dail, Brogden and D. Holmes, Seven Springs — guards. Brogden girls were in the mix because counties were permitted two entries. In this case the county champions, Seven Springs, and runner-up, Brogden.
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.