It was the roaring 1920s. Herbert Hoover was President. People were trying to survive the recent stock market crash.The price of a gallon of gasoline was 21 cents, which only applied to those lucky enough to own an automobile.
But for Jewel DeShazo McAfee means for travel in Saltillo during that time was referred to as “ankle express” or better known as “the 10 toe express”— you walked where you needed to go. “We walked it, that’s what we done. We were more tough back then,” McAfee recalled. “We played basketball outside on a dirt court. Our Lady Lion team only played one game in a gym and that was in Sulphur Springs. Those were the days.”
McAfee was one of two forwards on the 1929 Saltillo Lady Lion team. That team which included Goldie Swinford, Evelyn Roberts Faye Crauley, Tessie Mae Ross, Euna Lee Woolsey, Cleo Smith, Helen Burns, Lera Henry, and McAfee won the Hopkins County Championship and brought home the first trophy to Saltillo ISD. The Hopkins County Championship was the highest level of competition during that time, comparable to achieving state honors in present day.
McAfee was honored on Friday, Jan. 30, during Saltillo’s 2009 Homecoming Ceremony. She was recognized at the halftime of the varsity girls’ basketball game. She was greeted with a warm standing ovation by the large homecoming crowd as she took center floor and was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Kerry Garmon, retired superintendent of Saltillo ISD.
Garmon brought out the 1929 trophy that had tarnished almost black with the years of time. “After 80 years, she (McAfee) looks better than the trophy,” Garmon jokingly remarked before he went on read the names of her teammates.
“I knew for homecoming that they were going to honor the Class of 1989, and since it was 80 years ago that the championship would get mentioned as well. But I really wasn’t expecting all of this,” McAfee said. “It was a great night. You know the saying, ‘everybody should have their 15 minutes of fame’? Well, I’ve had my 15 minutes of fame. They all surprised me…they all stood up even from the opposing team to cheer for me.”
McAfee still holds a great appreciation for basketball seeing it evolve through the years. In the 20s, teams did not play night or even many road games. Few fans were able to travel to away games, but home games were the afternoon’s free entertainment. In fact, there weren’t even 3-pointers in those days recalled McAfee. “There have been a lot of changes since 1929. In our team photo, the girls wore white knit blouses with black pleated bloomers (that looked like a skirt),” she added. “And there were many more little schools in this area that played basketball, we competed against about 13 schools in three divisions. It was different.”
The one thing that hasn't changed much over the years in basketball is the price of admission. McAfee was surprisingly pleased with the cost to get into the game. For senior citizens the door charge is one dollar. McAfee recalled when Saltillo finally built their first gym the admission ranged from a nickel to a dime.
Currently, the Lady Lions are 25-2 overall, 4-0 in District 22-A Div. II roundball action. NOTE: The Lady Lions will play Tenaha (27-2 overall) on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in New Summerfield for a postseason warm-up game.
“Saltillo has always had good basketball teams,” McAfee said as she marveled over the many improvements not just in sports but in life. She lived through times without indoor plumbing and electricity. “‘High school kids today are just that good if they take advantage of it. They have every opportunity that we didn’t have. It was so difficult living in the deep depression days. But you forget about those days and you’ve got to take up with the days you have today.”
Five years ago, McAfee survived the untimely passing of her beloved husband. The couple never had any children but has been blessed with nephews and family that live nearby. She keeps active reading books, playing the piano, exercising, and attending church.
“I do just what I’ve always done, and I drive to where I need to go,” she admitted that there is less and less places she needs to go.
What is the secret to her long, healthy life?
McAfee said it is in her good genes. Her mother lived to 98 years, her sister to 96, and her father to 86. The life expectancy of a person in 1929 was said to be 53 years for a man and 55 for a woman. On March 16, Jewel DeShazo McAfee will celebrate her 95th birthday.
As the saying goes in basketball there are four quarters—that’s just 32 minutes to make the most of every action and for Jewel DeShazo McAfee that philosophy holds true over a lifetime.
At almost 95 years old, she truly is a “jewel” of a person on and off the court.
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