you've ever watched Serena Williams crush a tennis ball or Simone
Biles defy gravity, you might be surprised to learn that there was
a time when many experts in the fields of athletics and medicine believed
females were not as tough as men and were too delicate to play sports.
Those experts never met my mother-in-law.
Those beliefs about weak females were strong enough that the University
Interscholastic League (UIL), the organization that has governed high
school athletics in Texas since the early 20th century, was slow to
accept girls athletics. (Tennis was an exception.) For sports like
basketball, it was up to high school coaches and administrators to
get the ball bouncing.
Fredericksburg High School organized its first girls basketball team
in 1914. There was no organized league then. The girls played any
high school team in driving distance.
In the first couple of years the team could count its wins on one
hand with fingers left over. Then in 1916 the girls beat Kerrville
twice and Harper twice. The
thrill of victory was contagious.
The girls played close to home those first few years. The team added
Boerne High School
to the schedule in 1921 and Blanco
had no gym in those days. The girls played on an outdoor dirt court,
weather permitting. If the weather was bad the team cleared the dance
floor at Peter's Hall (the corner of
Main and Orange where BBVA Compass Bank is today) and played there
until the school district built a gym in the early 1930s.
For the first 14 years the team had no uniforms. "It takes money to
buy uniforms," the local newspaper reported in 1928, "and money is
hard to get. Perhaps Santa Claus will take pity on good children who
are needy and leave at the school house door, sometime before long,
a 'surprise box' for the basketball girls."
Sure enough on January 12, 1929 a large box arrived at the High School
on Travis Street. Inside the box were red and white striped jerseys
and red trucks.
| One of the jackets
awarded to the 1947 girls basketball team. This jacket belongs to
Madeleine "Mad" Oestreich.
Photo courtesy Michael
the girls had no opportunity to play for district and state championships
in the 1920s and 30s. Then in 1938 a group of high school coaches
and administrators who believed in girls athletics formed the High
School Girls Basketball League of Texas. Fredericksburg High School
joined that group in 1944.
The league assigned member schools to districts. At the end of the
year the district champions met for a state tournament at Rena Marrs-McLean
Gym in Waco
or Dowdy Gym in Hillsboro.
In 1946 the FHS girls basketball team didn't lose a game in the regular
season and beat San Marcos Academy 30-15 for the district championship.
Mabel Henke - forward and Madeleine Land - guard (my mother-in-law)
made the All-District Team. (Texas girls played "6 on 6" half-court
basketball until the 1970s.)
In March the team represented Fredericksburg High School in the state
tournament in Hillsboro.
With a group of talented underclassmen the team went back to the state
tournament the next two years. In 1948 the girls won the consolation
bracket beating West Columbia High School 30-22.
| The FHS girls
basketball team. Image is from the 1947 yearbook (The Mesa). Click
on image to enlarge
| That year the
school and the town sent the team on its way in style. There was a
big pep rally for the girls broadcast by the local radio station.
The FHS Swing Band "The Korn Kobblers" accompanied the girls to the
state tournament. The band made the trip in Bull Moellering's station
In those days the FHS girls basketball team was called the Billikens.
In case you're wondering a Billiken is a mythical good luck figure
that represents "things as they ought to be."
By 1950 girls basketball was a big success in Fredericksburg
and all over Texas. That year the UIL, which had been sponsoring high
school boys football and basketball since 1920, finally agreed to
include girls basketball, as if it had a choice.
Turns out those experts who said females were too delicate to play
sports were wrong. Probably the same bunch of guys who said women
shouldn't vote, preach, run a company or be in politics.
"Basketball Ball Sport," Fredericksburg Standard, March 11,
"Basketball In High School," Fredericksburg Standard, November
"FHS Girls Left For State Meet This Morning," Fredericksburg Standard,
March 6, 1946.
The Mesa, Fredericksburg High School Yearbook, 1946, 1947 and