The term most shared with me in repetition when I interview former female barnstorm basketball players when I ask what life was like when they retired off the road is FISH OUT OF WATER. Whether they left the road to get married, from a knee injury, to go on to college, start a different career or needed at home on the farm, or needed to take care of siblings. The same story and comment resonates "Fall would come and I would be unsettled it was time for training camp and hitting the road and I was not going, Took a lot of years to come to terms with that, " Some still. even in their seventies shoot hoops everyday in their driveway and or play ball with neighbor kids , nieces and nephews. I receive comments about how they smell the hardwood and hear the sounds attending high school games and flashback to their days as basketball barnstormers. Not followers of the WNBA as they play girls basketball not men's basketball like they did and disappointed in the way the game has changed in the NBA saying they get away with a lot on the court where is the dribbling ? Where are the calls it is all ego?
Myself and some of my siblings have struggled with the FISH OUT OF WATER syndrome. My dad died when I was twenty two my youngest sibling was twelve and my oldest brother was twenty nine .
It was hard to suddenly lose him it still is. It was hard to lose the life we lived as a barnstorm family , still is. It was culture shock . One of my sisters was attending college , the rest of us did not prepare, the lifelong family business that was the fabric of who we were would come to an end, For me it was all I knew and who I was , I worked for my dad until his passing. I had been on the road with the Harlem Queens because he was too ill and in the office when I was off the road, I was a FISH OUT OF WATER. I married had for children, various careers in radio,non profits, government, and sports. The only one coming close to fulfilling the craving of road warrior life was when I was on the road with professional boxing . That came to an end when I was away from my children at a moments notice missing their milestones as a mom and not having the support from my husband to keep up on the home front when I was on the road. I sought to fulfill my self with various careers some utilized my skills some did not. I tucked the life of growing up in a barnstorm family away for more than two decades. People were interested in hearing about it when it was on my resume during interviews more than once , others would be called in " you have got to hear this who her father was and how she grew up." My neighbors, husbands, dinner guests would look at me like I had two heads when I talked about my upbringing. Then the movie League Of Their Own hit the theaters . I started getting phone calls from reporters, and even Hollywood ,( my mom got a lot of the calls and would send them on to me). Some came because people would say "hey I know this women in the area that had a dad with a female basketball team". others would do web searches and newspaper archives and find out about the history. I arranged interviews for my mom and other team members that I could locate ( at the time that was few and far between not the list of women I talk to today after a quest of years of searches, finding the first one in 2003, other than my aunt that had played for my dad's Texas Cowgirls ). Stories were run in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Capitol Times, Legends Sports Magazine before my mom passed. I was on a quest to continue the recognition for the team. I would politely with each interview that followed explained when asked about the baseball movie " League Of Their Own was a great movie, The Rockford Peaches were from my neighboring town, but they were different , baseball players that played against women, in a small section of the Midwest for a few years. My dad's team ( teams) played basketball, playing by men's basketball rules , against men's teams all over the country, around the world, even opened for the Harlem Globetrotters and the N.B.A. and existed in the sports world for more than a quarter of a century as World Famous , without a movie telling their story yet. Articles about my dad, his wife and their Texas CowGirls basketball team have continued in the Chicago Tribune, Nostalgia Magazine, Beloit Daily News, Janesville Gazette, Texarkana newspaper, Spokane Washington paper, television stations in Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois , the national Boing news letter, another addition of the Legends in Sports issue last year, an induction into the Ted Perring Sport's Hall of Fame , web sights, books being written about my dad by other authors . "Dempsey's story is compelling and we want to produce the feature film." is the development of fourteen years of my hard work and dedication to this true story .
I still have the need to get in a car, not a plane and travel roads , back roads and hotels with no reservation stopping at off beat diners along the way and enjoying off beat attractions and entertainment.
Luckily I have a B.F.F. understands me and says that says let's go.
I look back at the dedication and the desire the barnstorm athletes and entertainers had, but understand more how the majority of the world and their families thought of them as FISH OUT OF WATER while living the life of barnstormer so completely different than the guy an gal that got up to go to the same place to work everyday. To them is was natural to be caged into the day to day job was not. After the road warrior life ended they had to adjust to that.
What I have found in my interviews is the free spirit in these women that blossomed from the experiences on the job they had as barnstormers still exists in their chemistry. I am amazed at the independence, the freedom, the way they see the world , the activities they relish in in their golden years.
I also hear "I tell the ladies at the senior center, or my neighbors, or co workers what I did for a living and they just don't get it." Then a current newspaper reporter will write an article about them, a local T.V. anchor runs a nostalgic story about their history or someone comes to interview them for a college paper, or a web page pops up about them and the magnitude of what they did for a living becomes a little more understood. That is why I am writing my book , to encapsulate the experiences, to honor the road warriors, including my dad and my mom for the history they made, the doors they opened, the lives that they lived . It is a window into a select community, small in numbers in an era gone by that historically is pure Americana at its best.