A History of the Old Knightstown Gym
ROBERT L. MYERS
Teacher, Principal, Superintendent
L. E. Rogers was appointed as Superintendent of the Knightstown Community Schools in 1920. The school had no gymnasium. Basketball games were being held in what was known as Bell’s Hall which was situated over Jolly’s Drug Store and in the basement gym of the Presbyterian Church. A gymnasium was badly needed.
One afternoon in February, 1921, about half dozen business men of Knightstown, met for the purpose of talking over the possibility of building a Gymnasium-Community House for the benefit of our whole community, having in mind, more particularly the physical needs of the school children. They were cognizant of the fact that Knightstown was lagging behind most other towns in the development of its children’s athletic education and they were determined that this lack of progress should not continue to exist, that the young people were entitled to the approved forms of physical education now.
It was there agreed that a campaign for personal subscription should be made to obtain funds for the erection of a building to meet these needs and that the first gun of the battle to be fired should be a dinner which the citizens should attend. This dinner was held in the Presbyterian Church gymnasium in February 1921. Over 150 men and women attended who were interested in seeing the gymnasium project started. That evening $9,000 was pledged for this purpose.
A building committee was organized to plan for the gymnasium and its erection. A finance committee was also formed and an intensive personal solicitation campaign was then pursued. Results were that over $10,400 was subscribed by over 250 people, ranging from .50 cents to $500.00. The School Board was able to grant $2,000.00 from the budget. A group of twenty businessmen readily signed a note to borrow this money.
The building was constructed and ready for use about December 1, 1922. The original purpose for this building was strictly adhered to. It was to construct a building of sufficient size and arrangement for a basketball floor, with a seating capacity of 1200. It was also to serve as a center for many other community purposes.
The building was a frame structure being 105 feet long and 80 feet wide. Bleachers were erected around the sides and end of this playing floor. Dressing rooms were provided in the space under the bleachers. The building was heated by three hot air coal fed furnaces located in the northeast, southeast and southwest corners of the building.
Since there were additional financial needs for maintenance, custodial service, heat and lighting, several fund raising events were scheduled.
Arrangements were made for several professional basketball teams to play on our new floor. Among the teams that appeared were the EmRoes, Michigan Rails, Baltimore Orioles, and players from various colleges were persuaded to play against local teams. Rather rich athletic seasons continued for a few years. A local Board of Control was established to manage the gymnasium. After four years the School Board made the final payment on the gymnasium and took full control of the building.
This is how the exterior of the Gym looked before the WPA work in the 30s.
During the years the building received various areas of remodeling and enhancements. Under Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was used to complete a major exterior facelift, build the front entrance, add the lobby and move the dressing rooms into basement areas at each end of the building.
The passing of time has mandated many changes in our community, our schools and the need for bigger and more functional facilities. The last official regular season basketball game was played in the old gymnasium in February 1966.
A new Knightstown High School building and gym was completed in April of 1966.
The Board of School Trustees of the Charles A. Beard School Corporation found it to be in their best interest to discontinue use of the Academy building and the old gym in 1976. Following this decision the Academy and old gym were sold to a Housing Developer.
Through rigid pursuit and unyielding determination by some interested community members the Town of Knightstown was deeded the property of the 1921 gymnasium. During this interim of time the occasion arose for the filming of the movie “Hoosiers” in the gymnasium. This was a great event for the local community and the memories of such will linger in the minds of many for years to come.
As a result of this movie the gymnasium became know as the Hoosier Gym. It is now governed by a Board, similar to the first governing board in 1922.
In 1922 it was recorded: We have the building and are proud of it and are especially proud of the spirit in which it was built and paid for. We know it is a sound investment and has been paying and will continue to pay the greatest dividends on the investment ever made in our Community, not in cash, but in up-building the health and fine sportsmanship of the young people, which can not be estimated in mere money. The benefits to be derived from the project will continue to increase if the public does not lose interest, and it will not.
So it is true today, under the same purpose and with the same pride the Knightstown Community glows with pride, dedication, and an undying interest in the “Hoosier Gym”,
Robert L. Myers