By John Oliver, President, Historical Society

Our history of high school sports is relatively short. We’ve only had a public school in Hartsville since 1909 and we have only had the name “Trousdale County High School” since 1917. It took a few more years for the school system to create an all-around sports program!

Because the town of Hartsville had a football team, it was easier for the school to form a high school football team. That was in 1909, making our high school football program one of the oldest in the state.

Some years the team didn’t have a coach as changes in teachers would leave the school without an athletics director.

Submitted photo
The first year that Trousdale County High School had a girls’ basketball team was in 1930. The girls are shown here in matching uniforms along with their coach, Miss Anna Green Smith. In 1931, there would be no girls’ team. Read this week’s article to find out why!

However, football held on and today we can point to some impressive state titles. Now keep in mind that basketball, the subject of this month’s articles, was developed so that college football players would have something to do in the winter months to keep active until spring practice rolled around.

Perhaps that was its original intention, but with time the game took on its own persona and soon had its own coaches, fans and playoff games.

The earliest date the Historical Society can put on Trousdale County basketball is 1925. If anyone knows of an earlier date, let us know.

We have high school yearbooks dating back to 1925 and in that year, we have pictures of the high school boys’ basketball team. The coach was Mr. Charles Robison, who was also the school’s Agriculture teacher.

Then the team disappears from the yearbooks and reappears in the 1928 annual. That year the coach was Mr. Roy J. Simpson. A search of the high school faculty doesn’t list Simpson as a teacher, so we are left to wonder if he was a local resident who simply volunteered.

The 1929 yearbook has a boys’ team. The coach was a Mr. W.K. Simpson, who is shown in the faculty section as the school’s Commercial Work teacher. The similarity of names leads one to suspect that he was the brother of the Simpson who had coached the year before. The pictures clearly show that the men were different, so it was not a typing error.

Now remember, this was all before the school had a gymnasium!

In last week’s article we wrote that the school system built a new school in 1919, on the same location as today’s Jim B. Satterfield Middle School. That school would hold grades 1 through 12. It had two stories, or three if you included the basement. The school had a cafeteria, a library, schoolrooms and even a small auditorium – but no gymnasium.

So, back to that 1929 team.

The 1929 yearbook had a page dedicated to the records of the football team and the basketball team. It had this to say about the fledging basketball team: “The lack of a playing floor was the only thing that prevented T.C.H.S. from having a wonderful basketball team. The material from which to mold a basketball team is as good as any in the State, and it was regrettable that there was only an outdoor court, where practice could be held only between thaws and rains.”

But there were other Midstate schools that did have gymnasiums, which led to this being part of the description of the 1929 team’s record: “The first inkling of the boy’s ability came when they traveled to Carthage and, playing upon an indoor court for the first time during the season and for some the first time in their athletic careers, played the strong Carthage team to a standstill and were only defeated in the last few minutes of play by the score of 27 to 22.”

The team persevered, and when a visiting team came to Hartsville or if one of the small rural schools wanted to play against them or another rural team, they would use one of the local tobacco warehouses.

Continuing to search the high school yearbooks, we see that in 1930 the school had both a boys’ team and, for the first time, a girls’ team. The boys were coached by the school’s Math and Biology teacher, Mr. W.T. Butt. The girls’ team was coached by the school’s French and History teacher, Miss Anna Green Smith.

We have no statistics for either of the teams from that year.

Things got tough for the nation in 1929 as the Great Depression hit hard, and Trousdale County also struggled to hold things together.

It comes as no surprise that in 1931 and 1932 there was no boys’ basketball program and the girls’ program also disappeared.

In 1933, the school didn’t even have a yearbook!

Who could afford to buy one?

But, by 1934 the school once again had an annual – with a paper cover as opposed to a hardback cover – and a return of the basketball program!

A reminder that the Trousdale County Historical Society will meet this Saturday, March 10, at the County Archives building at 2 p.m. The public is invited to all Society meetings.