Sports memorabilia display opens at Decatur City Hall
DECATUR — From 1939 to 1970, high school students from grades nine through 12 once graced the halls in what is now Decatur City Hall. On the back side of the building was the gym where the basketball Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs gathered for practices and games for 31 seasons.
A new display celebrating the rich Decatur sports heritage was opened on the first floor near the city office June 15.
In 1970, the high school moved to its present location on Stadium Drive in eastern Decatur. Soon afterward, the Bulldog sports program moved into its new home at Peterson Gym where the tradition of great sports continues today.
Part of the move involved transferring all trophies and plaques housed in a display case on the second floor of the old high school to a set of new cases at Peterson gym.
Over the next 48 years, the Decatur sports program amassed well over 200 district, regional and state championship trophies. Eventually, the athletic program ran out of space and was forced to store many of its older awards.
Former athletic director, John Unger, in an effort to preserve these relics, contacted Mike Eckels to see if there was somewhere in Decatur to preserve these trophies. Eckels, chairman of the Decatur Historical Commission, happened to have a small case available for a few of these artifacts.
On a trip to Peterson gym, Eckels found a storeroom filled with 35 trophies and plaques. After acquiring 27 trophies and plaques from the storeroom and another 15 from the cluttered showcases near the concession stand, Eckels started filling his small showcase, which accommodated only 15 awards.
Lacking the space for the 27 remaining artifacts, Eckels started a search for a bigger showcase. His quest was shortlived when he contacted Allyn Lord, director of the Shiloh Museum in Springdale. Lord just happened to have an old upright display case in storage. Within two weeks, the showcase was transported from the Shiloh facility to Decatur City Hall.
For two weeks, Eckels positioned and repositioned the trophies and other artifacts until it was finally finished and ready for public viewing.
The display case consisted of two shelves and a base. On the top shelf are trophies from 1939-1949 featuring the many championships and tournaments won by the Bulldog and Lady Bulldog basketball teams.
On the middle shelf are featured trophies and plaques from the 1950’s Bulldog and Lady Bulldog basketball teams and two from Bulldog football.
All these trophies and plaques were once on display in a case on the second floor next to the stairway which was located where the present front entrance is located. Many were lost over the years but several remain, like that of the 1945-46 Lady Bulldog basketball team.
Completing the base are trophies from the 1970s up to a few from 1999. Again basketball dominated this shelf. But there are a few football mementos, including a plaque commemorating the 1977 Bulldog football team which finished second in the 2A conference that year.
Rounding out the display are a few more trophies from the 1970s and ’80s. Besides football and basketball, there are four awards that the Decatur cheer and dance teams earned in 1999 and a plaque won by an unlikely sport for Decatur, golf.
The Decatur High School sports display is open from 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Anyone who has any Decatur athletic memorabilia and wishes to donate it to the Decatur Historical Commission is asked to call 479-422-0208 or 479-7523912.
The Decatur Lady Bulldogs took a second-place trophy in the Gravette girls’ basketball tournament in 1941. This is one of 40 trophies on display in the main hallway at Decatur City Hall. The exhibit opened to the public June 15.
The new Decatur High School sports display case at Decatur City Hall was completed June 15 and ready for public view. On display is an assortment of sports memorabilia from 1939-1999.
The inscription reads “Winner Jr. Boys B.C.A.A 1940.” This trophy, won by the Decatur junior-high boys’ basketball team, is one of 40 on display in the hallway at Decatur City Hall.