That Championship Season

New York Times article features Madison’s 1950 basketball team

The Madison Cubs won the
state high school title that year

(May 2016) – It’s no secret that basketball is like a religion in Indiana. And if the game is a religion to Hoosiers, then the high school gymnasium might be likened to a community center, a church or even a temple. For many years, basketball games on Friday nights in high school gyms have been the heart of a community.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Tony Dattilo poses in his Dattilo Fruit Market store on Madison, Ind.’s Main Street.

Since 2013, photographers Chris Smith and Michael Keating have been engaged on a project to photograph old gymnasiums in Indiana. The love of Indiana basketball comes naturally to them. Smith is a commercial photographer in Aurora, Ind., and teaches photography at the University of Northern Kentucky. Keating recently retired from the Cincinnati Enquirer as a general assignments photographer. He is from Cannelton, Ind.
About three years ago, Smith came across an old photograph of his late father with the 1937 Versailles High School basketball team. He had an idea that he pitched to his friend, Keating. How about photographing old gyms in Indiana?
“We think there are 400 or more gyms in the state,” Smith said. Some are filled with action. Some are not. All tell a story, and that is the goal of the project. “We are trying to tell the history of the state.”

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Photographs of the Madison Cubs 1950s basketball team  hang inside the store at Dattilo’s Fruit Market.

On March 1, the New York Times Magazine published a feature, “In the Temples of Indiana High School Basketball,” by Eric Nagourney, with 20 photographs taken by Smith and Keating. One of those photographs was taken at Dattilo’s Fruit Market in downtown Madison, Ind. It shows the victorious Madison Cubs when the team won the 1950 state high school basketball championship. The picture hangs on the wall of the fruit market near the front window and next to a sign listing the prices of fruits and vegetables.
“This picture will be shown in an exhibit at the Indiana State Historical Society next fall,” Smith said. It will be part of the Indiana Bicentennial celebration. It also hangs among 100 photographs at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame at New Castle.  In addition, a portrait of Spencer Schnaitter of Madison also will hang in the exhibit at the Indiana State Historical Society. Schnaitter was captain and Most Valuable Player of the 1950 state championship team. Smith considers him “a large part of the soul of Madison basketball.” In a video shot by Smith and Keating, Harold (“Pee Wee”) Lakeman called Schnaitter “a scoring machine” and “an icon since his glory days at Madison High School.” 
The New York Times’ feature also includes a photo of the Switzerland County Lady Pacers and two pictures from Jac-Cen-Del in Ripley County. One of the most poignant photographs was taken in Holton after the 2012 tornado simply shown a forlorn basketball hoop.  
Tony Dattilo, owner of Dattilo Fruit Market, and his staff, Don Morris and Jackie Frazer, were surprised and delighted to learn that a photo of the store was published in the New York Times. 
Frazer said she thinks she remembers the photographers but is not sure. Many people come into the market to take pictures, she said. It is a picturesque and unique place.
Morris pointed out the many sports pictures and memorabilia that decorate the store, including a picture of The Monarchs, the first traveling African-American baseball team, and articles about baseball  great Tommy Thevenow of Madison. Thevenow “took out Babe Ruth in the World Series.” There is a large photograph showing 33 teams from the old Madison High School, located at Broadway and First streets.
Dattilo’s late father, Tony, started the store in 1929. He was the one who had the sports’ pictures blown up and collected the Madison memorabilia, Dattilo said. He added to the collection. Abby Schutz, who had the Schutz Brothers Shoe Store, gave his father the photograph of The Monarchs. “He came in and said ‘I’d like you to have this picture because it’s one your dad always admired.’ ”
Along the way, Smith and Keating spent several days in Madison and the surrounding area, including Brown Gymnasium, the old Armory, Deputy and Dupont, Paris Crossing and Shawe Memorial High School. “Every time we come, we always eat at Hinkles,” Smith said. On one of their trips to Madison, they talked with Schnaitter and found him “a wealth of information” about Madison and the Madison Cubs. In fact, Smith featured him in his Hoosier Hardwood blog. He also featured Lakeman. Smith’s blogs also show photos from Shawe Memorial High School, Dupont and Deputy. They can be found at these links:  http://hoosierhardwood.blogspot.com/20131/12/spence.html and http://hoosierhardwood.blogspot.com/20131/12/pee-wee.html.  There also is a video about the two men.
J. Ray Eddy coached the 1950 Madison Cubs, who were runners-up in the 1949 high school tournament. Surviving members of the 1950 team include Schnaitter, Don McCauley, Stan Weber, Buddy Bunton and Morris Lorenz. Deceased team members are Ted Server, Ed Cheatham, John Werbe, Dave Turner, Wayne Richey and Charles Brown.

Smith and Keating are “taking a pause” now in their photography project. “The best time to photograph a gym is when something is going on,” Smith said. He talked about how gymnasiums are centers of communication that are engrained in our culture. That certainly is evident in their photography.

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