Retired educator explores gyms’ places in history
By Miles Smith
Retired educator Jackie McBroom has seen a few high school gyms in his career, which has included numerous years as a teacher, coach and eventually, an administrator.
But McBroom says the gym is more than just a place kids play basketball and volleyball in a small community, where the simple structure has often been the sight of some noteworthy experiences in a town’s history.
“When Bonnie and Clyde were on the run, they stopped at a gym in Big Sandy,” noted McBroom, who lives in Aubrey, a small town located near Dallas. “They were just up there in the stands, taking in a basketball game. They were heroes. People loved them.”
Tales like that have led McBroom to ramp up an effort he started before he retired: visiting various communities with historic or long-standing gyms, taking photos and talking to people living in those communities in hopes of hearing something anecdotal and interesting.
If you guessed he’s planning to write a pictorial book complete with historical accounts involving these gyms, you’re spot on.
McBroom was recently in Lockhart checking out the Adams Gym – a structure built during the Great Depression. The WPA project’s distinct style (complete with dugouts for the players – something not often seen in today’s gyms) was a draw to him, he said.
“One can spend $1 million on a gym, but it’s still too small, too hot, and the kids don’t like the locker rooms,” McBroom said. “But beautiful older gyms just standing there in a pasture by themselves are special.”
McBroom is focusing his tour – and the book – on Texas towns. The working title is “Historic Gyms of Texas,” he said.
In doing so, he hopes to preserve history and provide something that records the memories of schools that are disappearing without recognition.
“Small town gyms were the cultural hubs of their communities,” McBroom said. “People would come out every Tuesday night and watch the games. But people are passing away, and when they do, these stories are gone forever.
“We don’t want to forget the people who were there before us.”