By Frances Benell
The Daily Iowegian
---- — My goal was simple. Do a story on the storied Moravia girls basketball program, it being March and all. I know my mom, Alice Cox Kaster, was told, come and graduate here and we will let you play on cinders, outside most of the time in mostly winter weather. Mom loved basketball, so she said sure, probably more fun than doing outside chores. She boarded in town because there weren’t school buses yet. She was able to go home one weekend a month. She did child care and cleaning jobs to pay her board. It looks like they played about 20 games a season, against teams like Moulton, Mystic, Unionville, Iowa, Rathbun, Blakesburg, Albia and others. She played center, at 5’ 3” coach Tommy Irelan told her she could do it and she decided she could always push her thumbnails in the tall girls’ underarms. Those towns were brave enough to build gyms for their kids. Nobody had much money then. I know Moravia and Mystic had the well-known CrackerBox gyms. I played in them. But they looked pretty good to those who had played outside. Now I think the city fathers and mothers were pretty brave. Times were hard and cash was pretty hard to come by. But they had faith that it would all work out and they would find the money to pay for it. And they did.
That gives you an idea of how hard it was to play basketball in the winter back in the late 20s-30s and until the school was built with a small school gym that lasted until they built the new high school in about 1961 that was added to have the grade school kids all together with the big kids. Now we have had the larger gym for a while and the new enlargement will be even better. I am not sure just where everything will be but we will have an excellent total facility.
Now we come to the 1951 girls state basketball tournament. Moravia made it the first time ever. Everyone who could, went to the game. Dad and I scrubbed the kitchen floor, tile by tile, listening to the game on WHO, while mom was at work. Moravia was to play Holstein and it was nip and tuck all the way. Dad and I gave up on the cleaning and just sat on clean tiles with Jim Zabel (I think) broadcasting and listening to his every word. It came down to the last 30 seconds or so. The whistle came for the end of the game and a referee blew his whistle at the same time for a foul on Holstein.
The Moravia forward who was fouled, we though we had lost, and had left the gym floor. The referee finally gave Joyce Hiatt the ball and said, “Shoot ‘em.” We were one point down, so we had to make them both. Joyce hadn’t missed a free throw all year and she didn’t miss those two free throws either. We won by one point.
The girls had the next day free until the day after to play Steamboat Rock, so they went shopping, Younkers seventh floor and all of Penneys, etc.
They did their best against Steamboat Rock but they were too much for us and we went down to defeat.
We were so proud of our girls, and so was their coach, Mel Kupferschmid. He thought the (3J’s) Joan Callen, Joyce Hiatt, Janet Broshar, also Pat Kaster, Verna Harper, Joyce Martin, Wanda Cochran, Mitzi Sawvel, Nellie Duvall, Kathryn McDanel, Wanda Jordan and Carole Broshar were the best ever. Moravia girls went to state twice more. Their stories will come later.