BRAMWELL HIGH SCHOOL 1967 MEMORIES

A MEMORY FROM BRAMWELL'S 1967 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON


( June 26, 2017 )

Bramwell star that overcame adversity off the court.

Ricky Stores, wearing his Bramwell Millionaires jersey prior to his senior season, was pictured in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in this 1966 photo.

Ricky Stores kept at it when others would have quit. The former Bramwell High School basketball star had quite a story to tell on Saturday while waiting for the start of the 50th anniversary reunion of his state championship team. For two years, he walked seven miles daily from the high school, over a mountain to his home in Wolfe. Often this was late in the evening, after long basketball practices. It was a task to be accomplished whether the day was clear, rainy or snowy.

Then he would get up in the morning and walk the seven miles again. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Stores was an African-American teenager in a mostly-white part of Mercer County, in an era during which racial prejudice was inflicted on the less powerful in many ways, almost always anonymously. “I experienced many racial problems,” Stores said. “I faced adversity on the way.” On his long daily walks, some motorists would veer their vehicles toward him, forcing him off the road, he said. “I would always walk facing the traffic,” he said, so he could be on the lookout for the threat of danger.

Regarding verbal abuse, he said, “They would come off that mountain and taunt me.”Once a gun was pointed his way out of a car window, he said.“I would just ask — WHY!?” he said, reliving memories 50-plus-years old. “I wouldn’t let that faze me,” he said. “I kept playing because I loved the game.” “God gave me the courage, and I stuck with it.” That courage was reinforced by some important people in the teenager’s life. He remembered an especially strong and reassuring friendship with teammate Wayne Hodge. He reported, “My mama would tell me, ‘You can’t quit. You’ve got to be strong. Life ain’t gonna be easy.’ “

His head coach, Bill Norton, “was a man that understood my situation,” Stores said. “He was a good coach. He was always in my corner. And he was a good man.” He recalled Norton’s advice to “keep your head up.”

The Millionaires also had a 24-year-old assistant coach, Charles Phelps, who had recently completed playing for Bluefield State College. “Charlie was the man that anchored the black ballplayers,” Stores said. “He kept us together as young men. He told us, ‘You’re going to have adversity in life, but you’ve got to maintain the course.’ “The team was honored after it went through the 1966-67 season 26-0 and won Bramwell’s first state championship — by a record margin of 37 points at the WVU Fieldhouse in Morgantown.

To get to that final game, Bramwell defeated defending champion Piedmont 47-44 in the semifinals. Team captain Bill Pierce wrote that “the last two baskets we scored were Rickey Stores’ bank shots from about 18 feet on the foul line extended. He had hit those bank shots all year and he didn’t hesitate to do so with the game on the line. What a money player!”

Stores, Pierce and Tommy Gravely made the Class A all-tournament team in 1967. Stores and Pierce were also named to the Class A all-state team and to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph “all-Mercer” list, back when the county had eight high schools. Stores was on the Telegraph’s “Official All-Area” second team.

The sports editor of The Princeton Times at the time, Silas Maxey, wrote, “Stores may be described as a ‘jumping jack.’ The 135-pounder is one of the very few 5-9 athletes to ever be called for goal-tending.”

Stores went on to work 33 years as a fraud investigator for New York City and is now retired and living in the Bronx, N.Y.He said on Saturday, “The success of the team brought our school together. It brought our whole community together.” “Wow. That was a tough situation back then, but we made it better.” With a little coaxing, he defined that comment further.

( Material Furnished By: Tom Bone, Bluefield Daily Telegraph - June 26, 2017.

 

BRAMWELL HIGH SCHOOL 1967 BASKETBALL TEAM PHOTO

BRAMWELL HIGH SCHOOL 1967 BASKETBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PHOTO

COACH BILL NORTON MEMORIAM

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