Friday, May 3, 2013

Girls of Central High at Basketball; Or, the Great Gymnasium Mystery (Girls of Central High #3)

Girls of Central High at Basketball; Or, the Great Gymnasium Mystery (Girls of Central High #3)
Gertrude W. Morrison
World Syndicate Publishing, 1914

Genre: Sports, Mystery, School, Realistic


Mrs. Case, the new basketball coach, really has it out for Hester. She complains that she is so good at book matters that none of the other teachers ever get to see her temper. In the locker room after basketball practice, Hester confronts Bobby about talking behind her back. She goes to slap her and accidentally hits Nellie who is trying to prevent a fight. Bobby says that if it wasn't for Gee-Gee's favoring of her she would have been kicked out of Central High long ago.

Later that night Nellie tells her father, a doctor, about the fight in the locker room and he tells her that it would be best if she just ignores Hester. The next day when the girls arrive at school they discover that their gym has been broken into and vandalized. Bobby and Nellie know exactly who hates the girls so much they would do this—Hester. Bobby quickly spreads the gossip and soon all the girls are talking about how Hester declared her hatred of the girls. Luckily, when Principal Sharp calls a meeting he declares that the vandalism and the intent behind it is well beyond any hatred of the students. After school that day, Hester goes to the park and sees Rufus and Johnny Doyle. Rufus, an “innocent” and “half-whitted” young man (the 1914 “polite” way of saying mentally handicapped), does not see three-year-old Johnny fall into an open sewer grate. Hester follows him down into the six-foot water because she can swim and saves Johnny's life.

Many of the girls at school believe Hester did do the damage to the gymnasium or possibly hired someone else to do it for her. Luckily for her the adults in charge don't believe she is responsible and everyone wonders how the culprit got in and out of the building without the custodian noticing. The girls seem to have better things to worry about as their first game of the season is against East High, who beat them last season. It is also Bobby's first game on the team. When the ball goes to Hester, her opponent quickly snatches it and the referee yells at her for over guarding. The captain is forced to replace her. They end up losing the first half. Nellie discovers that Hester has left the locker room and won't even be around for the second half. They end up tying the game. The referee admits that if Hester were in the second half they probably would've won. Naturally, the girls blame Hester for their loss and decide that they want her off the team. A number of the girls get together to write a petition to give to Mrs. Case.

Later that night, Nellie feels bad when her father tells her how Hester saved Johnny Doyle's life. When she arrives at school the next day she discovers another raid has occurred in the gym but this time it is a case of arson. The police did find some tracks to an open window this time so they think they know how the culprit got in but they still do not know how he got out. Mr. Sharp tells Mrs. Case to remove Hester from the basketball team but rumors about her involvement in these attacks need to be stopped. Laura, Nellie, Jess, and Bobby decide to investigate. They quickly discover that the footprints outside the window can't be Hester's as they are clearly a man's. Laura deduces that the man did not get inside the building from the window; in fact, he exited the window. She points out how the scuffs on the footprints show that the man was actually walking backwards.

On Saturday a number of the girls go to visit Eve Sitz's farm and they learn that her new $150 colt, Jinks, was stolen. They decide to head to the Four Corners, were notorious gangs hang out, and see a boy riding Jinks. They give chase. Laura yells at him and he says that the horse belongs to his brother, Hebe, one of the most notorious liars in town. Eve smacks him. As the girls are fighting with a gun holding Hebe, Hester's mother shows up in a car. Hester is there too but won't even look at the girls. Her mom looks at Hebe and says that he's never had the money to afford a cult like that and demands that he give the horse back. She yells at the women who were gawking at the scene and tells them to clean themselves up. She comments about how she can't believe she used to live here among these people who are a disgrace, which embarrasses Hester. The reason why Hester refused to knowledge the girls is because earlier that morning Mrs. Case showed up at her house with the petition to remove her from the basketball team. Because of all the gossip and rumors Hester has found herself shunned by everyone, including her best friend Lily.

Hester discovers that her father has finally bought a car for her and she demands that she should be taught how to drive it immediately. When she is out with the chauffeur she kicks him out because she doesn't need him chaperoning her. As she is driving along by herself the car stalls. As she's trying to fix it a car with Laura and her friends drive by and save her. They're coming back from a game they won without Hester on the team. She decides to head back the way she came from despite the warnings of a forest fire nearby and proceeds to get caught right in the path of the flames. She runs across a man and helps him get into her car. They decide to take a short cut road to warn other farming families of the danger. For two hours they drive around the small town and save more than 40 people. It takes a few days for her parents to learn that she is considered a hero even though she didn't want her name in the paper.

The big game against Keyport High is upon the basketball team. Halfway through the girls are behind by two points. Some girls lament at Hester still being gone (Nellie and Laura) while some of the girls are happy (Jess and Bobby) and don't think they need Hester to win the game. Nellie then informs them of Hester's latest daring deed—saving people from a forest fire. The girls end up winning by six points. The next Saturday all the teens are gathered at Eve's farm. Laura tells Nellie that Jackway, the school custodian, admitted that the night of the first act of vandalism Rufus had slipped into the building somehow. Could Rufus be the culprit? While laughing and telling stories, they hear some shouts from some fishermen. It turns out that Hebe was out on a rock which twisted and rolled onto his leg trapping him under with his head barely above the water line. Laura sends the boys to look for rope so that they can hopefully get enough leverage to move the rock and free him. They succeed in getting him out and they take him to the hospital.

The girls’ next game is against Lumberport. They do alright but at halftime Nellie sprains her ankle. Mrs. Case refuses to let her play. Nellie, however, bandages of her ankle and demands to play and they end up winning by eight points. It is the beginning of a winning streak for them. One of the boys, Chet, goes to visit Hebe in the hospital and discovers that he is mad that he didn't get the job at the school as Jackway should have been fired. Billson, the old man Hester saved from the fire who happens to be Hebe's roommate, tells Chet that that job is all the man talks about. He can tell that Chet believes Hester is responsible for vandalism and he tells him that he is going to prove that she didn't do it.

Meanwhile, Nellie is terrified and disgusted at the same time to learn that Johnny has developed anemia and needs a blood transfusion or he'll die. Hester volunteers for the procedure. The girls keep winning but they can't move beyond third place in the rankings. Bobby declares that while she hates Hester she does kind of wish she was back on the team so that they'd win the championship. Nellie informs them of Hester's latest daring deed—saving Johnny's life again. Chet has been trying to get more information out of Billson but the man refuses to talk to him because he thinks Chet is against Hester. The girls decide to sign a new petition to request Hester being put back on the team. Hester agrees. The girls soon face off against East High again, this time winning and moving up to second place.

The final game is between Central High and Keyport High. This will determine the championship. After a tough game they end up winning all because of Hester's final goal. Billson is released from the hospital and decides to talk to Chet. He admits that everyone is praising her because of what she did for Johnny but they still think that she is the one that vandalized the gymnasium. Rufus is there with his mother to visit Johnny and Billson tells Chet to go and get Rufus. Rufus comes into the room and Billson shows him Hebe sitting in the bed. Rufus starts shaking and crying while Billson asks Rufus why he is scared of the man in the bed. Rufus replies that the man is a bad man who said that he would kill him if he told. He says that he saw the bad man in the gym the night of the vandalism and Hebe, knowing he had been caught, admits to causing the damage in an attempt to get the job as the custodian. He gets transferred to a prison hospital and after he is healed he looks forward to three months of hard labor.

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

This book was a fun read. I enjoyed how Hester kept doing daring deeds! The book mainly focuses on physical descriptions of the girls and some major sexist and gender stereotypes when it comes to girls and sports.

Let’s start with the physical descriptions.

Hester is the main character and a lot of time is spent talking about her, her temper, and her family’s economic status.

On page 1 Hester is described as “a rather heavily built girl for her age, with a sturdy body and long arms—well developed in a muscular way, but without much grace.”

She is the “only daughter of the very wealthy wholesale butcher . . . She was one of those girls who fairly ‘boss’ their parents and everybody around their homes. She had bought the friendliness of some weak girls by her display in the lavish use of spending money” (p. 8).

Page 36-37 – description of Hester's family:
For some years now, her daughter had grown quite beyond her control and Mrs. Grimes had learned not to comment upon Hester's actions. Yet, oddly enough, Hester was neither a wild girl nor a silly girl; she was merely bold, bad tempered, and willful.

Mrs. Grimes was a large, lymphatic weighty, given to loose wrappers until late in the day, and the enjoyment of unlimited novels. “Comfort above all” was the good lady's motto. She had suffered much privatization and had worked hard, during Mr. Grimes's beginnings in trade, for Hester's father had worked up from an apprentice butcher boy in a retail store—was a “self-made man.”

Mr. Grimes was forever talking about how he'd made his own way in the world without the help of any other person; but he was, nevertheless, purse-proud and arrogant.

Page 38:
Under these circumstances it may be seen that the girls home life was neither happy nor inspiring. The kindly, gentle things of life escaped Hester Grimes. She unfortunately scorned her mother for her “easy” habits; she admired her father's bullying ways and his ability to make money. And she missed the sweetening influence of a well conducted home where the inmates are polite and kind to one another.

Hester was abundantly healthy, possessed personal courage to a degree—as Dr. Agnew had observed—was not naturally unkind, and had other qualities that, properly trained and molded, would have made her a very nice girl indeed. But having no home restraining influences, the rough corners of Hester Grimes's character had never been smoothed down.

Her friendship with Lily Pendleton was not like the “chumminess” of other girls. Lily's mother came of one of the “first families” of Centerport, and moved in a circle that the Grimeses could never hope to attain, despite their money. Through her friendship with Lily, who is in a miniature already a “fine lady,” Hester obtained a slight hold up on the fringe of society.

Nellie gets an earful from her father about women in sports (p. 19):

Loyalty. That's the kernel—loyalty. If athletics and games they don't teach you that, you might as well give 'em up—all of you girls. The feminine sex is not naturally loyal; now, don't get mad! It is not a natural virtue—if any virtue is humanly natural—of the sex. It's only the impulsive, spitfire girls who are naturally loyal—the kind who will fight for another girl. Among boys it is different. Now, I am not praising boys, or putting them in iota higher than girls. Only, long generations of working and fighting together has made the normal male loyal to his kind. It is an instinct—and even our friends who call themselves of the suffragettes have still to acquire it.

The background into why it is important for girls to compete in sports is contradictory in nature. On one hand, one would think how awesome a book in 1914 is for promoting sports for girls. On the other hand, when one reads the rational for it one realizes it is horribly sexist.

Page 12:

The Girls' Branch Athletic League of Central High had been in existence only a few months. Gymnasium work, folk dancing, rowing and swimming, walking and some field sports had been carried to a certain point under the supervision of instructors engaged by Centerport's Board of Education for the organization of the girls themselves into an association which, with other school clubs, held competitions and all beams, and other, athletics for trophies and prizes.

Page 13:

Public interest had long since been aroused in the boys' athletics; but that and girls' a similar development had lagged until the spring previous to the opening of our story.

Page 53 – 55:

Basketball is perhaps the most transparent medium revealing certain angles of character in young girls. At first the players seldom have anything more than a vague idea of the proper manner of throwing a ball, or the direction in which it is to be thrown.

The old joke about a woman throwing a stone at a hen and breaking the pain of glass behind her, will soon become a tasteless morsel under the tongue of the humorist. Girls in our great public schools are learning how to throw. And basketball is one of the greatest helps to this end. The woman of the coming generation is going to have developed the same arm and shoulder muscles that man displays, and will be able to throw a stone and hit the hen, if necessary!

The girl beginner at basketball usually has little idea of direction in throwing the ball; nor, indeed, does she seem to distinguish fairly adverse between her opponents and her team-mates. Her only idea is to try to propel the ball in the general direction of the goal, the thought that by passing it from one to another of her team mates she will much more likely see it lands safely in the basket never seemingly entering her mind.

But once the girl has learned to observe and understand the position and function of her team mates and opponents, to consider the chances of the game in relation to the score, and, bearing the things in mind, can form a judgment as to her most advantageous play, and act quickly on it—when she has learned to repress her hysterical excitement and play quietly inserted boisterously, what is it she has gained?
It is self-evident that she has one something besides the mere ability to play basketball. She had learned to control her emotions—to a degree, at least—through the dictates of her mind. Blind impulse has been supplanted by intelligence. Indeed, she has gained, without doubt, a balance of mind and character that will work for good not only to herself, but to others.

Playing basketball seriously will help the girl player to control her emotions and her mind is far higher and more important matters than athletics.

Lastly, there is one minor racist element featuring Mammy Jinny, the Beldings’s old black cook (p. 145):

“It's jest de beatenes' what disher fambly is a-comin' to. Gits so, anyhow, dat de hull on youse is out 'most all day long. Eberything comes onter Mammy's shoulders.”

1 comment:

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