Old gym still gem of community


The mail might have been a little late one Friday in early August in Owensville, and here’s the story why.

This is a beautiful little community in southern Indiana and a place where strangers are made to feel at home. On Aug. 3, Sandy and I went backroading in Gibson County, which led us to an old gym I wanted to see.

When we arrived at the gym, it was locked up, of course, and no one was around. I took some pictures of the outside, and when I peeked in through some windows, I could see it was a very special place and still meant something to the community.

I decided to try and find someone to let us in, so we drove uptown, and our first stop was the Owensville Town Hall.

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The lady working there told me I should go over to the post office and ask for Clyde.

So off to the post office we went, and I made a request to see Clyde to a lady working at the counter. She smiled and turned to a man sorting mail, telling him someone was here to see him. Seconds later, Clyde walked into the lobby.

I told Clyde I was hoping to get in the gym and the lady at the town hall told me I should see him. Clyde seemed as excited as me but said his shift wasn’t over and I’d have to wait a couple of hours.

But then Clyde told me to hang on and went and told his supervisor what was going on, who granted him permission to take me over to the gym and show me around. After all, this is Indiana, and when it comes to old gyms and Indiana basketball, even the U.S. Postal Service has a soft spot.

Clyde’s full name is Clyde Scott, and he’s a lifelong Owensville resident and a veteran of the Vietnam War. His pickup truck even has “Vietnam veteran” stickers on the back window.

As Clyde lets us in the gym, he proudly tells us he is a 1965 graduate of Owensville, and the gym is one of the most special gyms in Indiana. And yes, Clyde is a little biased, but there are some really special things about the gym.

The gym, home of the Owensville Kickapoos, was last used as a high school gym in 1974, the year the school closed when it consolidated with Haubstadt and Fort Branch to form Gibson Southern. It was built in 1950 and was the first underground gym in Indiana, seating nearly 2,200.

A few years ago, the community supported a cause to make the gym an Owensville High School museum and recreation center, as the gym is now owned by the town. The gym is full of unique artifacts and memorabilia, like a trophy case that has all of the scorebooks of every game ever played by Owensville. Former students donated letter jackets, which hang proudly on the walls of the gym.

One of the most unique items hanging on the wall is a glass backboard on the south end. In 1921, Owensville became the first school in Indiana to have glass backboards. While one board is in this gym, the other is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Museum. The glass backboard was used in an older gym at Owensville.

It’s obvious Clyde loves Owensville. He’s on the town board and is the only town board member living in the town. He seems to long for the days when the old gym was packed and when life was a little simpler.

“You couldn’t find a seat in here on Friday nights,” he said. “People would be standing and leaning against the rails. It was real serious in here at times.”

Standing there listening to Clyde talk made it easy for me to visualize a packed, hot, stuffy gym on a cold winter night, the pep band blaring, pretty cheerleaders on the sidelines and an anxious, tense crowd cheering on their team.

Meeting people like Clyde always makes a backroad trip even more special, and any time I run across an old gym anywhere, I am deeply touched in a very nostalgic manner.

It was such a joy to find an old gym that still meant so much to a community 41 years after the last high school game was played there in 1974. It’s even more impressive when you realize the population of Owensville is around 1,300 citizens.

We stayed in the gym with Clyde for about an hour, and then it was time to go. After all, Clyde had to get back to work at the post office.

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