Sports mem­o­ra­bilia dis­play opens at De­catur City Hall

Westside Eagle-Observer - - SPORTS - MIKE ECKELS meck­els@nwadg.com

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.

West­side Ea­gle Ob­server/MIKE ECKELS

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.

West­side Ea­gle Ob­server/MIKE ECKELS

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.

West­side Ea­gle Ob­server/MIKE ECKELS

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.

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