Jim Hunt

Jim Hunt, contributing sports writer

Register file photo

1911: St. Helena’s first-ever girls basketball game was a great success as the Thunderbirds defeated Napa High 17-16 in Turner Hall. The team members were captains Edith Giugni and Mary Steves, Helen Tepping, Margaret Griffith, Louise Zierngibl, Alice and Mabel Taplin, Frances Kort, and Bessie Marr.

1954: In Calistoga, the Saints boys basketball team beat the Wildcats 45-43 in overtime. Ed Schulz led the scoring with 20 points, followed by Roy Raymond with 14. Schulz was also the night’s hero as he tipped in a Saints’ missed shot at the buzzer to win the game.

1965: Andy Vanderschoot scored 18 points, Chris Schuh added 12, and Jeff Warren had 11 as the Saints won at St. Vincent’s of Petaluma, 61-50.

1975: The girls basketball team beat Petaluma 56-35 in St. Helena. Tami Ruiz scored a game-high 22 points, while Shelley Stovall and Cindy Perez added eight points each.

1984: Even though the Saints’ girls basketball team suffered a 60-45 loss at Willits, Sylvia Corro had the game of her life, scoring 25 points on 11 of 15 shooting and went 3 for 3 from the free throw line. She also grabbed 12 rebounds and handed out eight assists.

2004: In St. Helena, the girls basketball team beat Fort Bragg 47-45. Amizetta Clark was the Saints’ leading scorer with 10 points and Courtney Menegon added seven.

Plus: Fight for the Native Sons Hall

During the 1920s and 1930s, St. Helena was no different than any other part of American society in terms of some of the sexist attitudes young female athletes had to endure.

And it wasn’t limited to just attitudes – it was blatant discrimination.

Consider this, a piece in the 1923 Far Darter (the name of the SHHS yearbook at the time) stated that the girls basketball team didn’t perform as well as they would have liked during that year’s season because:

“During the first few months, practically all the practicing had to be done on an outdoor court. However, we were allowed one night a week in the Calistoga High School gym, for which we were very thankful. Later, the Board of Trustees was successful in securing the Native Sons Hall one night a week for basketball work, which was indeed a great help to us.”

Meanwhile, of course, the boys team had access to the Native Sons Hall every single afternoon for practice while the girls were either outside in the cold or traveling to Calistoga one night a week to work out.

The girls’ frustration over this openly unfair treatment finally boiled over in 1925, as this Star article of Jan. 21, written by the young student writer who called himself “The Hi School Gossip,” revealed:

“Fight! Fight! You should have seen it. This is how it started. Mr. O’Brien (Harold O’Brien, the SHHS boys coach) gave the boys, and Miss Carson (Margaret Carson the SHHS girls coach) gave the girls permission to use the Native Sons Hall for basketball practice the same day. After school the Hall was jammed with boys and girls gesticulating wildly and giving extemporaneous speeches as skillfully as candidates in a presidential campaign. Of course they were both right, and this made the contestants all the hotter.

“After a glorious ‘free for all,’ the girls finally got in the Hall and demanded their rights, but to no avail, for the boys were practicing and would not give up. Mr. O’Brien arrived on the scene and it’s not his fault that he isn’t dead now. He was pinned to the wall and gagged, and a regular hold-up was staged, altho’ nothin’ was stolen, except perhaps his pride. Neither side would give in, so the real fight began. Everything was thrown, from words to benches. There were no broken bones, however, which is a marvel! The boys soon became disgusted and, declaring that they would not play Vallejo Friday night, they threw down their basketball suits and departed.”

Although I’m sure the “Gossip’” was exaggerating a bit, as he was often prone to do, the incident certainly reflected the girls’ frustration and sense of outrage that had been building for quite some time.

The next day, after everyone had had a chance to cool down overnight, a meeting was called by the principal with the coaches and the team captains, and an agreement was eventually reached to give each team the Hall two days a week and any day on which either of the teams were to have a night game.

Peace between the sexes of St. Helena High was restored.

Oh, just in case you were wondering, the boys did play Vallejo on that Friday night, but lost to the Apaches 30-29 in overtime.