Time passes by quickly, but memories of those high school glory days always remain.
This past spring marked the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Chattaroy High School basketball team that finished as state runner-up in Class Single A.
Ironically, that was the last year for the school, which was consolidated with Williamson High School that autumn.
This weekend is the annual Chattaroy High School all-class reunion and many of those recollections were bantered about. The Yellowjackets twice made it to the state tournament. Once in 1955 and again in 1962, both times losing in the championship game.
Locals Frank Smith, Jimmy Webb and Dodie Slone were members of that storied team. Both still live in the Williamson area and talked about that squad, coached by the late Bob Meade.
Smith, a longtime basketball coach in the area, was a lanky 6-4 starting senior forward on that squad. Slone, a 5-10 junior, was the flashy point guard. The other starters included 6-5 center Doug Layne, 6-3 forward Donald South and the late Roger Jackson, a 6-2 shooting guard. Others who saw action on the squad were Webb, Freddie Campbell and Roger Campbell.
Smith said when the Yellowjackets headed to the state tournament in Morgantown - it was like a scene from the movie “Hoosiers.”
“You have heard that old saying, the last one out turn out the lights,” Smith said. “That’s how it was. We had great fan support. And it was a long eight hour trip back then.”
“I scored 13 points in that game,” Webb recalls. “We played in the old WVU Mountaineer Fieldhouse.”
“Rod Thorn sat on the bench with us,” Webb, who was a junior that season, added. Thorn was an All-American for the Mountaineers during the early 1960s. He was later a first round pick for the NBA.
Webb said the team stayed in the WVU football dorms while in Morgantown at the old Mountaineer field.
Chattaroy went undefeated against schools in their own Class, but did lose to Class AA Lenore that season, which went on to win the state title in that classification the same year. Smith said the Jackets also lost to a tough Belfry team, which was a much bigger school.
“Kermit gave us a tough game too,” Smith recalls. “That was when they had those super sophomores, who went on to win the Class A championship as seniors in 1964. I think that game went into overtime.”
“Just getting by the local teams in the Sectional, Regional and at that time, the Area Tournaments was tough,” Smith said. “We had tough games against Liberty too, as well as Gilbert. There was great basketball in this region.”
To make it to the state tournament, Chattaroy had to defeat Conley of Mullens, which was an all-black school. Smith said that Mullens team went on to win the state title the following year. Only four teams made it to the state tournament during those years.
“We were just a small school that went to the big-time,” Webb said. “Those are some special memories.”
“We were like a family,” Smith said of the close-knit Chattaroy squad. “We were really close – there was no jealousy on our team. We were unselfish and all five starters averaged in double figures.”
Webb said most of the same players on the high school roster had won a couple of Mingo County Junior High Championships when they were in the 8th and 9th grades. “We had some good basketball players at our school,” he added.
Smith said Coach Meade did a good job of blending the talent he had and that Slone was one of the best point guards he has ever seen, coached or played with. “He has to be the leading assist man in Chattaroy history,” Smith said. Slone went on to play his final season at Williamson after the consolidation.
Smith added that CHS had a great bench too and that he and his teammates had a great tournament run back in 1962.
“We had a lot of incentive, since it was our last year before the school closed,” Smith recollects. “There were rumors that if we had won the state tournament, they were not going to close the school. That might have put a little pressure on us.”
Chattaroy lost to Williamstown 60-53 in the final game and finished with a fine record of 20-5.
Smith was named to the all-tournament team in Morgantown along with Jackson.
Like many smaller high schools in the small coal mining towns in southern West Virginia, Chattaroy is no longer. But those cherished memories of the school and their sports teams will live forever.