A visitor to The News office dropped off a sheet of paper one day, a photocopy of a document dating back 70 years.
The simple sheet of paper, along with a brief explanation from the elderly man, describes an interesting time in U.S. history.
In high school and college, I learned a great deal about the beginnings of the United States. Starting in grade school I heard about Christopher Columbus all the way up to the surrender of the Japanese. But what about those soldiers returning home from World War II?
Many local WWII veterans admitted that they were underaged and lied on their military forms in their desire to defend our country. Some were still in high school. Others were young enough to be in school, but had dropped out to get a job to help their families.
When they returned home, these soldiers weren’t boys anymore. They were grown men who wanted to get good jobs and start a family.
The government informed these men that if they wanted to procure an education, they could re-enroll in high school to get a degree.
The paper brought by the office discussed the local four-county sports league giving its guidelines for letting military veterans to play on their high school teams.
The Yadkin Valley Athletic Conference passed a provision that states that in addition to passing all regular guidelines (like being enrolled in school and having good attendance), “All returning veterans will be allowed to participate in interscholastic athletics, subject to the following restrictions:
“When, and if, a veteran re-enters high school, he will be eligible for participation in athletics, provided he has not reached his 21st birthday on October 1945 — after deducting time spent by such veteran in military service.”
In other words, any 20-year-old could play sports. A 22-year-old could play sports if he had a year or more of service time.
Along with the provision, the paper lists a roster of players for an upcoming basketball tournament.
In handwritten scrawl, an H. Chilton and Maynard Nester are listed as 15-year-olds in their first year of varsity experience.
Other names include Kelly Tilley (14), Sammy Swann (15), Carlisle Cooke (16), Lefty Inman (16), Wayne Jessup (17) and some where the writing has faded too badly to read.
Then there is Moir Johnson (24) in his second year on varsity, Alvis Holt (22) second season, and James Nester (20) in his third season.
Under their names are scribbled explanations that Moir had four years of military experience, Alvis one and James two.
Reporter Andy Winemiller, himself a veteran of the U.S. Army, remarked at what a physical advantage Johnson at 24 would have over some 15-year-olds.
I’m sure that’s true, but that isn’t what stuck out in my mind. Here were three men who faced down an enemy force that had taken over most of Europe. They went through experiences that changed them forever, and yet when they came back home all they wanted was to finish their education.
Why shouldn’t those young men been allowed to play sports? If anyone had done enough to deserve some fun, it was these soldiers who went off to war.
In any case, I’m glad this visitor came by. I had no idea this ever took place, and I’m sure many others today don’t know it either.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.