More tales from the first era of girls basketball


March 29, 2024


The March 1931 issue of "The Cromwellian" recapped the girls triumphant basketball season.

A photo featuring the 1931 Cromwell girls basketball team in the March 8 issue brought accolades on Facebook, a visit from Clarence Badger with an old Cromwellian magazine, and a phone call from June (Kingsley) Collman, whose mother, Blanche Line, was the top scorer in 1931.

Collman said her mom had been playing defense until someone got sick and she was moved to center. That meant she could finally shoot and was a lucky change for Cromwell. According to the March 1931 Cromwellian, Line played center and made 162 points out of a total 275 made by the team that season.

Collman (then Kingsley, Cromwell Class of '55) was a pretty good basketball player herself, but by the time she went to school in Cromwell, there was no girls basketball team.

"We couldn't play because they said it 'might hurt us,'" Collman said. "Funny. I could milk 30-head of cattle every morning and night, and no one worried about me getting hurt there. We did everything else, but we couldn't play basketball."

They found a way around it by creating a Girls Athletic Association (GAA) club.

"We played over the noon hour at school," said Collman, also GAA president. "That's the only time we could play. That was a lot of fun.

Collman was an assistant basketball coach under Oscar Eliason to both daughters: April (Cromwell Class of '83) and Julie (Cromwell Class of '86).

The apple didn't fall far from the tree.

"We even went to State a couple of years. We did really really well," Collman said, noting that Julie was honored at State.

Her mother marveled when she watched the girls play at State. Blanche and some of her teammates were honored as "pioneers" of women's basketball.

"It's come a long way," said Collman during a conversation about the current NCAA women's tournament and the state of women's basketball. "When my mother played (and I played at lunchtime), we had six players on a team. Players could only play on half the court: You either played defense or offense, you couldn't play both. Because you might, you know, hurt yourself."

Collman shared a book, "Daughters of the Game," which documents the first era of girls basketball in Minnesota, from 1891 to 1942. Cromwell High School got over four pages and seven photos with short stories from many different players.


Gladys Dahl Clark shared how the girls got to play one more year, by boycotting the boys team and demanding they be allowed to play another year. They got their wish, but the 1932-33 Cromwell girls basketball season was the last for almost half a century.

Moose Lake and Cloquet High School are also featured in the book, with Cloquet photos ranging from 1903 to 1932. Other Carlton County teams are mentioned as well, including Barnum, Carlton, Esko and Wrenshall.

But those are stories for another day.


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