Hard times and failing farms afflicted Oklahoma in 1931, but a basketball team of scrappy young women and one determined coach gave them a reason to cheer. In their new-fangled red satin uniforms (goodbye bloomers!) and worn Converse sneakers the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals dazzled the crowds with their talent, teamwork and jaw-dropping record. Lydia Reeder tells the true and exciting story of this history-making team in Dust Bowls Girls.
From every corner of Oklahoma girls left hardscrabble farms and dusty towns to play basketball at tiny OPC in Durant, Oklahoma. In unheated buses and borrowed gymnasiums, juggling school work, scholarship requirements, and a hard-driving coach, they practiced and barnstormed and practiced some more to perfect their game. There was diminutive Doll Harris, a crack-shot despite her size, who rigidly enforced team rules as the captain, but also had a secret crush on the coach; there were the six-foot-tall redheaded twins Vera and Lera Dunford who cried for their mother on road trips; and there was 16-year-old Lucille Thurman so nervous and self-doubting, but a star once the whistle blew.
Six-on-six basketball may seem quaintly old-fashioned and even funny to read about – can we have one below-the-knee dribble, please? – but these young women were unquestionably talented athletes and fierce competitors. Drawing from interviews, scrap books, and memoirs, Dust Bowl Girls is warmly evocative of a time and place in American history and a well-deserved tribute to a group of talented, hard-working young women.