Tales of Xenia: Xenia High Sports

06 Mar

When I was in high school at first  the coach’s name was Bill Kaylor. Mr. Kaylor did not think that playing more than two black people at the time was a good idea. It did not make any difference how good they were, how tall they were or how productive they were, he would not start a team with more than two black players. Occasionally he might put three in during a road game, and on rare occasions he played three at home, but he generally stuck to his “two is enough rule.”

I know a lot of younger folks who do not really know the racial history of Xenia will find it amazing that even in sports racism reared its ugly head frequently, but it did. I have already written about how we called the league we were in, the WOL, the White Only League, since virtually none of the other high schools we played had any black students. Springfield South was virtually the only exception.

I remember going to football games in high school where black boys would carry the football down to the one or two yard line and the coach would then give the ball to a white boy to carry it into the end zone on the next play. That way the white boys, like Beals would get the stats, even though they were not nearly the athletes some of the black boys were who were doing the lion’s share of the work.

The black people grumbled and complained, but it was part of the way things were. White folks were going to do what white folks did and it was going to advantage white folks. Not much we could do about it but acknowledge it to each other and commiserate.

But, I digress, back to basketball–after all my Tarheels are playing those nasty Dukies tonight. I was in the stands at the Field House, for all the home games while I was in high school and probably most of them for years afterward . The Field House was a venerable and quite impressive facility, at least I always thought so.

So I was at the game the night the entire East End was holding its collective breath. Old Coach Kaylor finally retired, I think it was before my senior year and  the new coach was named Rollie Barton. Rollie  did not share Kaylor’s racist attitudes and played the boys he thought were the best players.

Shortly after I graduated in 1966 the rumor ran through the East End like a whirlwind that, having both the Byrd boys, Mike and Ray, Rollie was going to start five black guys, the first time that would have happened at XHS.

My husband and I always bought season tickets and were virtually the only black folks in our reserved section. We arrived at the game early, making our way down to our seats which were in the third row from the floor on the left hand side of the facility, not far from the stage. My son, Michael, who would later be a star three sports athlete at Xenia High, was two or three years old and with us for the game.He was learning to count by twos by keeping score of baskets. He was obsessed with sports even then and the easiest way to make something academic relevant to him was to link it to sports.

The horn sounded for the game to start and the visiting team was announced first. When it came time to announce the Xenia team virtually all of the people older than 12 in the audience were on the edge of their seats. The rumor about Rollie starting five black boys was not confined to the East End.

First player is announced, he is black, second player is announced, a Garner, and although he is bi-racial and could pass for white, he is to us and identifies as, black, the third player is announced, black, the fourth player is announced, black  player, by now anyone who has any knowledge of Xenia basketball knows that the only person left to be announced is one of our best players, Ray Byrd, unless Rollie is punishing him or afraid to break the taboo, this is going to be an historic night.

The announcer, I swear, hesitates when announcing  ” for Xenia, starting at guard……. Ray Bird.” The traditional black section of the Field House, that nearest the front door, goes wild. I am sure the people we were playing, I do not remember who the opponent was, wondered what all the hoopla was about. Then again it being the WOL, perhaps their own eyes provided all they needed to know.

Black people in the late sixties, early seventies did not have a lot of victories to celebrate in Xenia. We were rarely hired for city jobs, the police force, the fire department, the banks, they law offices, as store clerks, as teachers, but for one night at least, at the venerable Field House we were part of history.

Oh, and we won the game too.


Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Athletes, Race


7 responses to “Tales of Xenia: Xenia High Sports

  1. Dave Litteral

    April 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I knew Bill Kaylor. I played for him in the early 60’s. While he was not my favorite coach, by any means, I respected him. Winning was much more important to Kaylor than racial issues. He played the best five people he could put on the floor, black or white.

    • minerva5

      April 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Thanks for expressing your opinion, Kaylor was in many ways a product of his age. He taught me World History and when I asked him about the race of some ancient African civilizations he always said “Caucasian”‘ he did not seem to grasp, or perhaps did not know where Nubia and Egypt were. If you believe that he started the best players I suggest you talk to some more Xenians, Kaylor did not even select the best athletes to be on the team, he limited the number of blacks. Growing up white in Xenia in the early sixties there would have been lots of things you would not know about race and racism. One of the greatest things about white privilege is being able to ignore race.

  2. chlee

    July 25, 2012 at 3:48 am

    I strongly agree with you. Kaylor cut me from the basketball team my sophmore year after making the team because I missed a game. I missed the game because I was best man in my father’s wedding. (He remarried my sophmore year of high school). I was later vindicated, at least in my own mind, by playing freshman basketball at Drake University in the Missouri Valley Conference, then called “the Valley of Death” because the basketball was so good.

    Other anecdote about the racism of the early 1960s. As know southern Ohio has these marvelous mounds. My teachers first stated they did not know how the mounds were created. They went on to say they thought they were the result of the retreat of a ice glacier at the end of the ice age and they offered other dubious theories. Years later while watching a documentary on TV scholars pointed out that the Indians who inhabited the area before white settlers were the ones who erected mounds.

    Lastly, do you remember when we were forced to sing “Old Black Joe” during music class at Central Junior High School? Of all the songs they could have selected, why that racist one?

    • minerva5

      July 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      There were some teachers at the fairly recently integrated schools, Central and XHS in the 1950s and 60s who had some serious racist tenancies. Because they were not sure how much power the black community held, especially with the added number of highly educated blacks the Wilberforce community provided, so they did some sneaky things to uphold white supremacy.I did not sing Old Black Joe, I missed that somehow. But the actions of Kaylor and others might not have been the result of just racism. It truly may have been the result of ignorance. A lot of the white teachers in Xenia at the time did not hold college degrees, they held degrees from schools that provided a teaching certificate after a two year program. One of the complaints when the school system was integrated and they refused to allow most of the black teachers who had taught at East to teach at the high school or even the junior high level was that black teachers could not get hired in Xenia without a four year degree, while white teachers could get hired with a two year degree from a “teacher’s college.” Even so only a smattering of black teachers in non-academic subjects were allowed to work at the high school. Flora Corley refused to be assigned to an elementary school, but they would not let her teach history and geography, her two subjects, so they collected about fifty books, put up some book shelves in a classroom and made her the “history department librarian.” I never saw one student visit this pseudo library.

  3. chlee

    July 25, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Yes. I had Flora Corley. She taught me American government. I remember her as a good teacher who was animated and engaging. In looking at my old yearbook I noted that my algebra teacher Ms. Smith signed my book. She was one of my favorite teachers. She then wore funny looking black shoes which I now know were orthopedic shoes. When she stepped to the black board boy could she burn. Conversely, years have not lessened my unfavorable view of Ms. Zambon, my physics teacher. In those days she had a vaunted reputation which I think raised my expectations of her too high. I remember that she showed a lot of films and had us in small work groups. I don’t remember her being particularly good in conveying what was admittedly challenging material for a 17-year old. She was very tough on discipline though and she definitely had her favorites like J.G.

    You told me something I didn’t know. I wasn’t aware that C. Mc had a visible relationship with a white guy back then. C. Mc and I grew up together and our parents were close friends. When I visited her in Las Vegas several years, she told me that J. B. a prominent member of the football team had called her a nigger. When she informed her father who was involved with local government at the time he was made to apologize.

    Sadly I was informed that years back an old friend Rodney Sampson died. Is it true? I was also told that Jerry Rowe who graduated with me in ’64 died.

    • minerva5

      July 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      Yes, sadly Rodney died of a heart attack. He was living in Columbus and evidently was dead at least a couple of days before he was found. And Jerry is also dead. You graduated with my husband, Wayne! I graduated in 1966. Just talked to Carol not long ago, she is still in Vegas. Her sister Anne was in the area ( NC)thinking of re-locating and might want to buy my condo since we are moving back to Ohio in January when I retire from UNC

  4. chlee

    July 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Well you have confirmed it. In reading one of your blogs a reference was made to Cookie and I thought right away you were Wayne’s wife. Wayne and I became friends my senior year. Please give him my warm regards. I am Carleton and have been living in Philadelphia since I graduated from college. In all my years here I’ve only met one person from Xenia. Her name is Alba Giles, a public school teacher. She was well after me. Maybe four or five years. I think she stated she was related to Patsy McCormick. I also spent some time with Ann while in Las Vegas. I see she is still not truly satisfied there. When I spoke with her she was thinking about moving back to New York. Let me know if you come to the Philadelphia area I would love to see both of you. I have been retired from about a year.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: