Two players, sisters Zola and Vivian Emerson, remember playing basketball in the 1920s for Little Cedar High School. Zola (now Mullenbach) played from 1928-35, including her junior high years. Vivian (now DuShane) played 4-5 years from 1924-1928, and "enjoyed every minute of it."
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Tell me about basketball in your time.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: It was 3 court. We had two forwards, two guards, a fender, and a side fender and we could only dribble one dribble is all. Now they dribble more, and we had coach, a gal, a lady coach that had never played basketball.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: When did you play and who did you play for?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Like I told you before. Well, it was 1925 and we played three court. We had the two forwards, two guards, a fender, and a fender and we could only dribble the ball once, or else you would be traveling called.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How is it different than it is today? What do you remember about that game. the 2, 2, and 2?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Well you couldn't go over the line of course. You would be called for that. A foul for that, but I don't know. See I don't go to basketball games now.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I don't either.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: So, I can't tell you what they do. I think they cover the whole floor run, and dribble that's if you want to. As long as you don't stop dribbling and then start dribbling again.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Zola, when you played, tell me about the game. How did it work then and what happened during the time you played?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Well there was this one change. She said they had three court and then I remember we did at first two when I played, but then later soon after that, must have been the very next year probably when we could go to the center line.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: So that was two court I suppose it was called.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How did you like that? Which game did you prefer?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yes, that was a little better. It was too confining, just the three court. You couldn't move around much. I think that was it was too strenuous for the girls.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Yes, because it used to be things like that girls didn't do.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: So both of you grew up on the farm. How do you think that maybe influenced your playing ball?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I mean, we were stronger girls. We used to milk. I was used to milking cows and working in the field, and I think it made us stronger and probably faster and I know Dad was always great for us girls to, that we were doing… I know he used to put up a hoop on the barn, and we'd have a little ball, probably just throw it and play like that.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What were your uniforms like?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yes, I wrote that down too. The ones we had were black with white lettering and they had straps on the shoulders. The bottoms had elastic like bloomers and there was a belt in the middle. They were cotton, well similar to my dress. Cotton like that was like butter.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: You said oh my, you know. Why did you say that Vivian?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: She said the straps over here, we had to have sleeves part way down and up. We couldn't reveal anything, of course, and then it was just barely over our knees with the cotton long socks. Because you didn't have to wear cotton socks? We had BIG cotton socks, and it was gold and the black letters. But know I think we were covered more probably.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: In a couple of years then they changed that, a little risque.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I remember that.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Tell me a little bit more detail. You mentioned they were held up a certain way.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Oh, well yes. We had to wear long cotton socks with garters and a garter belt to hold up our long socks.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I don't remember that.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Well yeah, you're younger, you probably didn't. You maybe didn't know.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Oh no we got cotton ---- and held up with the garters and a garter belt. Oh yes, that was what we had to do then.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How were the state tournaments played at that time?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I think in March weren't they? I think in Iowa Falls or is that in the book? But anyway she went down there and all these towns we'd never played before and probably smaller ones, but we'd play in the finals three, two overtimes, and it was Wellsburg and Wellsburg went on. They beat us by one point. They went on to the state, went through the state, played in the finals, and lots by a very, very close game. So, see I mean, the little town of our little theater was all down there by that time, and I thought they said they were only about 100 for population. They said we've got more than 100 from that little town, of course Des Moines, or Iowa Falls is what it was, a long ways back. Of course we stayed over night and stayed in a hotel. That was quite something for little country girls.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: So that was a big ride up, that team. But yeah, we only had eight players and I think one or two fouled out. So, we had to go into that was quite exciting. I guess we had the town behind us still. Pretty exciting.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What kind of support did you get from your parents or the community?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Your larger schools didn't play. It was only your small schools that played. Yes, and they did follow us.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Oh my, yes it was. Even _____ , he never went to a basketball game because he had his own grocery store. He had that open and they said he even went down to Iowa Falls when the girls were playing in the finals later. So, we did have a lot of support. Of course our folks were just -- Dad would get home and he played the game all over again. So and so did this, he could play the whole game over again. Which it made it nice for us too.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was game night like? Traveling to games and what were facilities like back then?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I guess we went in the back of truck. I was hard for me to remember but one of my class-mates just told me that. We got together, we got in the back of an old, well the truck wasn't old itself, but it must have had cans in it during the day. That they'd haul milk in I believe. Then at night they must have taken out the cans if we needed to go to a basketball game.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What did you travel in, Vivian?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Well it's like I said, I remember my Dad telling me: well, when we go to Rudd or when we go to wherever I'll take the car. I can take five, well I can take six, and so Dad was always one of them that drove the car to take us, a touring car. But it got real tight, and then oh, it was blizzarding and things like that. Well, then we'd have robes, heavy robes, over our knees, and I can remember that. I can't remember that car. And I suppose probably Opal's folks, her dad, probably. So, yeah we traveled in style. We'd be traveling in a touring car.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: When did you practice? And did you have locker rooms back then?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: We did.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Where did you change clothes?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: In the bathroom, in the toilet.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yeah, I remember that. There were lockers there.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Zola, when we were talking on the phone you were talking about how you would practice. Tell me what you had to do in order to stay after school and play ball.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Well that was just myself. Now I don't recall our practices at all. Do you?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I don't think we practiced basketball. I don't think we practiced at school. I think we'd go home and then we'd have to get back at night to practice basketball. When I rode it, oh just a little girl, and she rode it to practice, and that's the way I think most of us did to get to practice was ride their ponies, and well some of them would stay after school, maybe at someone's house.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yeah that was my point, was when I wanted to practice shooting baskets, because I was a forward.
When I wanted to stay and practice shooting baskets, I would ride Downey down. I'd ride my pony down and I'd tie him in the churchyard across from the school and they had posts there that had been used by the church members if they had to drive their team if it was bad weather. The roads would get impassable, just big deep ruts. So the church people would have to drive their teams occasionally, but during the week if I rode my pony down, then I could tie them over there in the morning when I came and then I could stay and practice all by myself.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: So you rode you pony into practice?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yeah, practice. Go in to shoot baskets. Again there was another forward, too, but I don't recall that she did that.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Maxine Penny was the other one.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: We had basketball practice at night and _____ a friend of mine. Well, Danny didn't like two of them very well. So, anyway we got the skis and we said one will ski and one will ride the pony to practice and in the meantime the snow melted, and a lot of gravel-dirt roads. Well we had an awful time. We had a pair of skis and the pony. One on the pony, one on the skis. So, we tried to get down there. We carried the skis across the mud and then we got on. So you know that when we got down to basketball practice it was practically over with. Well in the meantime some of these boys, Freddy Conrad and some of those, and we had nothing to do with them, but they were outside saying rah, rah, rah, team, rah, rah, rah. Well, they were outside, but we didn't know anything about that. We finally got the pony tied up to the barn and got back up there late, and so when we came in the coach, the gal, I never liked her at that, she came and she said you girls have been goofing off and you don't need to bother to dress, and then they were going to play Adams, Minnesota the next Friday.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: That would be their loss. You and sis were good players.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Well yeah, we were. So anyway, she said: you don't need to play. We'll kick you off the team, and we tried to tell her that we were skiing and trying and the snow had melted and everything. So, she kicked us off the basketball team and we'd have to blah, blah, blah to get back on the team. So, anyway sis and I were kind of ornery at that time. We said okay. We all just won't go and they'll probably lose because we were on the first team.
And so we just said okay. Well then the next morning she called us and she said well we're going to let you play, and we said: oh well, we made other plans. We aren't going to play. So they had to use the substitute and everything. They did lose, and so in the meantime some of the guys at school asked us for a date, and I said, well, lets go to Adams and watch the basketball game.
So we went to Adams and we sat with the Adams people. I don't think we did cheer but they lost anyway and of course they went down and got the ___, we were the main on the team. And then she saw me in one of my classes in school too. Mrs. Andersen, she was the coach. I did get over it, but that was one of the escapades was that we got kicked off the basketball team.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Did you know at the time how unique it was for young women to play ball?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yes, yeah. We were kind of proud of that. I think we were proud of that. and the other big schools like Frances/Osage as a county seat, they didn't play at all, but we kind of thought we were good to be playing. I think, don't you?
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What it was like, Zola, to be on a team? Why a forward and what did you like?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I thought it was fun to shoot baskets I guess.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: You must have been one of the best players that shot baskets. I don't think I could be a forward. I could guard them so they wouldn't make a basket. I was short but I was fast.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yeah, you were fast and you were strong. Strong girl.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What are some of your fondest memories?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Oh, they were all fond. We just lived it. We just lived it. Very, very good.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Well I was real proud of that one. Maybe I shouldn't tell this but it was probably after I practiced shooting baskets. So, I had to make a free-throw this one night, and as I stood there and in front of a basket on the line there, probably shaking, I hear somebody in the audience say she usually makes her free throws. So, that made me feel real good. I think I probably missed it that time.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Well, you probably did.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: I think for young girls it gave you a sense of pride to be a part of that team. Elaborate-
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I don't know. I don't remember that. They came. I remember they came.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was your team like? Did you remain close to your teammates over the years?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Oh, oh yes. We some of us girls started a baseball team. Of course, we played with the boys. Little sis and I, and then of course we had in the summertime I wore the same jacket or same shirts for Little Cedar and then the jeans. And we'd play boys teams all the time, and so that was kind of exciting too. Well, there was no girls' baseball team at that time, but we played with the boys at recess at noon. Play with us, we need another, and of course there were a few boys that were kind of sissies in high school and of course we were kind of rough and rowdy, and so they wanted us to play.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: You were better. Helen was good too.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: But we played St. Ansgar boys.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I was going to say they didn't have a girls' team at that time. It must have been the boys.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: No, the high school boys and the coach asked and I would play against St. Ansgar with all boys. I think they stopped us on that.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I would have thought they wouldn't let you play.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Yeah and _____ was a pitcher and then he went on where he had higher ___ right up to bat. I got to hit, I got to first. I was so thrilled and _____ was supposed to be such a great pitcher and all boys. I was so thrilled. I didn't get a score but I got first, but that's when we were playing, really playing ball.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yeah, you girls were really good at everything. You and Opal and some. You were more athletic than I.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Rough and tough.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was your team like, your coach, and how did you feel about your teammates?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I liked all of them. We still only have had some of our class reunions. We've reminisced a little that was from this one girl said to me do you remember how we rode to those basketball games? Yes, and I think we were close to the other forward and I were cousins anyway, Maxine, and we were real good friends, and we enjoyed being together.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Well I think small towns you get that way. Close.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yes, you didn't have a choice. You knew what to choose to put on your team. They were just that many there.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Real close I think to our players.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: So why was basketball important for you, because of no diversions? That there wasn't a lot offered?
Both: That's right, that's true.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Why did you enjoy the game so much?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Well, I like basketball the best. I really thought it was. You have to be agile, you have to be fast. I wasn't as fast as you were, because you girls were stronger I think. You were. I really enjoyed it though. I liked being a forward.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was Little Cedar like when you played ball, and how have things changed?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: It isn't there, hardly.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: No, it's terrible.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: It's sad. All these little towns when you go back. I go to church there. I belong to their church and it's still active.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Take me back to what Little Cedar was like and your school.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Oh yes, that was one thing. It was not regulation size according to the basketball association. So, when they came in there-
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I remember there was a heat run that dropped down so many feet in there and they'd laugh about that. You remember that? It hung down from the ceiling. They couldn't move it, it had to be there, and they hit that every once in a while with a ball.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: I don't remember that. I did remember it wasn't regulation size required by the basketball association. So when other teams came to our school to play, they called it the cracker box.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Yeah, yeah.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Tell me about your gym that you played in and what were people saying about it?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yes, they came in and they called it the cracker box because it was not regulation size, and I really don't know what the regulation size was.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I don't know.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: But that was a little confusing then when you went to another school. It was harder to pass.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: That's what I thought too. Yeah. Imagine the difference for them.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Yeah.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: When they came to our school too, and you get all the great big guys playing ball in that little gym.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Any other stories? You met your husband when you were playing ball.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I was one of the players and he was the referee, but he didn't know me, of course. I was only 14 and he was 21 I guess, and of course he didn't know I was even around, but through high school I dated other fellas and everything. Probably more about him after a week or two, but I- gee he's good looking and he's a referee and all that was quite important, but then later on I went on into Osage to work in the restaurant, and the proprietor told me, he said, Shane the referee comes in now for a cup of coffee after the game. He's never been in our restaurant before, must be you, Vivian. I said I don't know, kind of hope it was, but I probably had the voice in the back- but it worked out. We started dating and going to dances and then married him.
So, I told my son yesterday morning, he calls every morning from Colorado. I said: did you know your mom and dad met on the basketball floor? And he said No, I didn't know that. I said well, I forgot about it. I never played that much.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Why did you play each of you when you were in 8th grade?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: I suppose they were short of players.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Small schools. There weren't any three pointers then. There were no point guards.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How is the game different?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: That was one of the things that I meant, was later I heard them talk about point guards, and there were no point guards. There were no three pointers in the scores. There were two points for the basket and then one point for a free-throw. I think that's about all I had.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Could you jump? Were there other different rules that you were aware of?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: No, I think the rules were the same. It had a rubberized floor. Now that is kind of interesting. Do you remember it?
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: No.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: It was a rubberized floor. See there are things you remember that I didn't remember at all either.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Were there bleachers then?
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: No, no-
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: No, we came up to the diamond. Back to the wall on three ways. The people had to sit on the stage.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: That was small, too.
Vivian (Emerson) DuShane: Oh, yes, it was all small. They would also follow us to other towns sometimes too. People that really liked us, I even think some even if they didn't have their own kids playing ball.
Zola (Emerson) Mullenbach: Oh yes, they liked ball.