When Did Basketball Begin
In the County?
By Jim Carter
For many of us basketball has always been around as long as we can remember. For me I can remember shooting basketball in our dirt driveway at home in Parkhurst Siding on the East Presque Isle road. We used to play out there year round, shoveling it off in the winter. There were also other places that became available to us, inside of barns, potato bens in potato houses once empty farmers would put up hoops for us so we could play. Wherever there was a basket you would seem to find people playing.
I would be interested in knowing when basketball began formerly in many of the communities in this area and who was responsible for introducing it. Many people believe it began with boys’, however in Presque Isle it was girls who had the first organized team. Myra Vickery who was born and raised in Bangor and attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts introduced the game to girls at Presque Isle High School in the Fall of 1900 and continued through the Winter of 1901. She began her teaching career at Presque Isle High School and felt that young people needed something active to do during the winter months. It is believed that Mount Holyoke College was probably the first women’s college to incorporate the playing of basketball and instruction. While attending college Ms. Vickery participated in the sport and developed a strong liking for the game. Although the time or place when the first game was played in Aroostook County hasn’t been established it may have been Houlton, Presque Isle or Caribou. Dr. James Naismith while at Springfield College in 1891developed and introduced the game of basketball. The initial introduction to the sport did not go smoothly there were many objections to the sport some thought Ms. Vickery’s influence would be a source of danger and many did not feel the males should be allowed to watch the girls play. Needless to say they overcame the opposition and the girls continued to play. The girls made their own uniforms which consisted of blouses with long sleeves and high necks, bloomers pleated around the waists and gathered in by elastics below the knees, of long black stockings and rubber soled gym shoes. Many mothers in the community thought it was unladylike for girls to wear such apparel. They began playing their games in the Opera House until it was damaged by fire and the games of 1900-01 had to be cancelled for the remainder of the winter. Outdoor courts were constructed at Gouldville and in May the girls continued to play and before the end of the year had played five games. During the fall of 1901 they were able to move baskets back into the Opera House. The sport continued during the 1901-02 season and the girls were rewarded with increasing interest in the game, team membership doubled and spectators paid admission to watch them practice and play. Fees were five cents for students and 10 cents for the general public. The girl’s basketball club became a very worthwhile activity and a financial success. Miss Vickery formed the first team from this town to play an outside in this sport. They played the Caribou High School girls team in 1902, they played two games one in each town. Presque Isle defeated Caribou at home 34 to 9 and lost in Caribou 29-26. Myra Vickery taught at Presque Isle High School from 1899-1904 and 1918 and 1919. She married Leon S. Howe (a businessman), they later moved to Houlton where she continued teaching for a total of 33 years.
The first boys team was organized in winter 1902 and the coach was the principal J.E. Roberts. The first men’s basketball club in Presque Isle consisted of 17 members. They practiced twice a week during the winter and played two exhibition games. The exhibition games netted part of the money necessary to fund athletics. They played a game with Ricker Classical Institute in Presque Isle April 10th, Presque Isle won by a score of 40-10. April 17th there was a return match-up in Houlton with Ricker coming away with the win 22-10. Financially the team did well and cleared enough from games to cover all running expenses for the next term.
In 1903 Colby J. Kitchen coached the team and the scheduled games with Houlton and Caribou High Schools. Presque Isle won both Caribou games by scores of 29 to 11 and 28-6. The Houlton game which was played at Presque Isle was PIHS 24 Houlton 5.
In 1914 Aroostook Central Institute, Caribou, Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle formed the Northern Aroostook League. In the fall of 1925 the Northern Aroostook league failed to exist and was replaced by the Aroostook League which comprised the four schools in the Northern Aroostook League plus Washburn and Houlton. The league consisted of both boys and girls teams. The Aroostook League remained in existence until 1962.
Most people remember that when the game of basketball first originated (1891) that peach baskets or boxes were nailed to the walls of the area that the game was being played. There were bottoms in these and when the ball went into the basket someone would use a ladder and go up and retrieve the ball. It was 10 years later (approximately 1901) that nets were introduced and placed around a metal rim.
I would be interested in know when basketball was introduced in your area.
Thank you to Turner Memorial Library, Nathan Whites book of Playing Basketball From 1900 to 1951with providing me with information for this article.