LAMBERT GRADE SCHOOL & NEOGA HIGH SCHOOL

OFF TO LAMBERT SCHOOL
(BY ROBERT YOUNG DECEMBER 1996)
AT AGE 6, I STARTED GRADE SCHOOL AT LAMBERT SCHOOL JUST ACROSS ROUTE 45 FROM OUR NEW HOUSE. AT RECESS, MOM COULD SEE ME FROM THE FRONT PORCH OF OUR HOUSE AND FREQUENTLY MUCH TO MY EMBARASSMENT SHE WOULD SHOUT "PUT ON YOUR COAT" OR "PUT ON YOUR OVERSHOES" AS THE SITUATION REQUIRED.

LAMBERT SCHOOL HAD ABOUT 10 STUDENTS IN GRADES 1 TO 8. IT WAS AN OPEN RECITATION OR "BLAB" SCHOOL WITH EACH CLASS RECITING VERBALLY WITH THE TEACHER AS THE REST OF THE STUDENTS DID HOMEWORK AT THEIR DESKS. MY FIRST TEACHER WAS A VERY PRETTY YOUNG MISS WOODS FROM MATTOON. FOR 90 DOLLARS PER MONTH SHE DROVE FROM MATTOON THE EIGHT MILES TO OUR SCHOOL BROUGHT A SACK LUNCH, BUILT FIRES, MAINTAINED SOME ORDER AND TAUGHT THE 10 STUDENTS IN 8 GRADES EACH DAY.SHE GAVE EACH STUDENT MUCH PERSONAL ATTENTION. THE "BLAB SCHOOL" PROVIDED A WONDERFUL EDUCATION FOR EACH OF US HEARD ALL OF THE OTHER STUDENT'S LESSONS. THUS I HAD SEVERAL PREVIEWS OF ALL THE FUTURE EIGHT GRADES. WE HAD A LITTLE WORK TO DO AT HOME BUT USUALLY THERE WAS AMPLE TIME DURING THE DAY TO COMPLETE THE WORK.

ANNUALLY OUR COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT CAME TO THE SCHOOL. HE WAS A VERY DISTINGUISHED LOOKING MAN WITH LONG WHITE HAIR. DURING HIS VISIT HE SPOKE TO US AND I RECALL THAT HE PREDICTED I WOULD DO WELL BECAUSE HE NOTED THAT I WAS LISTENING INTENTLY TO HIS TALK. AS A FIRST GRADER,

I WAS BIG FOR MY AGE AND AS BIG AS TWO OLDER STUDENTS JOHN BINGAMAN, 4 YEARS AHEAD OF ME, AND HOWARD GORDON, 2 YEARS AHEAD OF ME. WE PLAYED SOMETHING LIKE FOOTBALL AND I TACKLED THEM FEARLESSLY WITHOUT ANY REAL INJURY. TO THIS DAY I HAVE A BLACK MARK IN MY LEFT EYEBROW THE RESULT OF A CINDER THROWN BY JOHN BINGAMAN WHICH DREW BLOOD IN MY EYEBROW. THOUGH THE WOUND BLED PROFUSELY. IT WAS NOT CLEANED OUT PROPERLY AND THE BLACK FROM THE CINDER REMAINS TO THIS DAY. JOHN CLAIMED THAT I HAPPENED TO BE BEHIND A WEED HE WAS THROWING AT. (A LIKELY STORY!!).

FOR MOST OF MY GRADESCHOOL DAYS, MY TEACHER WAS MISS THELMA NOYES. A YOUNG, RATHER TALL LADY FROM MATTOON. SHE WAS A VERY GOOD TEACHER AND OFTEN AT RECESS, SHE PLAYED BASKETBALL WITH US. BY THAT TIME, I WAS THE BIGGEST BOY IN SCHOOL AND MY SIDE USUALLY WON OUR RECESS AND NOONTIME GAMES.

MY DAD HAD BEEN A STAR BASKETBALL PLAYER AND TRACK MAN AT NEOGA HIGHSCHOOL IN THE EARLY 1910 -1915 PERIOD. HE WAS CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM AND HIS GOOD FRIEND RAY KING ALWAYS CALLED HIM "CAP" FOR CAPTAIN. VERY EARLY, HE MADE SURE THAT BROTHER PHILIP AND I HAD A BASKETBALL AND A BASKET ON THE FEED SHED TO SHOOT AT.

DAD FREQUENTLY PLAYED WITH US. HE SHOT LONG SHOTS AND FREE THROWS UNDER-HANDED WHILE I SHOT FREE THROWS UNDERHANDED BUT LONG SHOTS ONE-HANDED. WE PRACTICED A LOT AND FREQUENTLY I PLAYED GAMES WITH BROTHER PHILIP. HE WAS YOUNGER AND SMALLER THAN ME SO I ALWAYS BEAT HIM FREQUENTLY IN VERY CLOSE GAMES.

WE ALSO PLAYED A LOT OF BASEBALL AND PING PONG WITH THE SAME RESULT. IRONICALLY, SOME 40 YEARS LATER, HE BEAT ME MERCISSELY AT GOLF AND I THINK HE THOROUGHLY ENJOYED THAT.

FOR ME ALL THAT BASKETBALL PRACTICE PAID OFF FOR AS A SOPHOMORE AT NEOGA HIGHSCHOOL I MADE THE FIRST TEAM. IN SO DOING, I TOOK THE POSITION AWAY FROM A SENIOR HAROLD CROCKETT WHO WAS THE SON OF A GOOD FRIEND DAD HAD PLAYED BASKETBALL WITH. HAROLD WAS A GREAT PERSON AND BECAME A MUCH HONORED STATE OF ILLINOIS POLICEMENT. LOOKING BACK, I REGRET THAT I TOOK THE POSITION AWAY FROM HAROLD BUT AS YOUNG PEOPLE WE WERE VERY COMPETITIVE AND NOT TOO KIND.

AS I STARTED TO PLAY HIGHSCHOOL BASKETBALL, I HAD A GREAT ADVANTAGE BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE PRACTICE I HAD DURING GRADE SCHOOL. AS A FRESHMAN, I MADE SOME BASKETS IN B- TEAM GAMES BUT THE COACH AND OTHERS COMMENTED THAT MY ONEHAND SHOT LOOKED FUNNY. I DID NOT TAKE THAT TOO SERIOUSLY FOR MOST OF THE OLDER PLAYERS WERE STILL SHOOTING UNDERHAND SHOTS. FINALLY, WE GOT A NEW COACH WHO NOTED THAT I WAS PUTTING THE WRONG FOOT FORWARD FOR MY RIGHT-HANDED ONE-HANDED SHOTS.

IN MY FIRST VARSITY GAME, I MADE 3 BASKETS OUT OF 6 SHOTS ONE BEING A VERY LUCKY SHOT FROM THE FAR CORNER WHICH HIT THE BACKBOARD AND WENT THROUGH THE BASKET. IN REVIEWING THE GAME WITH US, I RECALL THAT THE COACH PRAISED MY 50 PERCENT SUCCESS AND SUGGESTED THAT PERHAPS I SHOULD TAKE MORE SHOTS IN FUTURE GAMES. THAT WAS THE TYPE OF ENCOURAGEMENT I LIKED TO HEAR


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