He played basketball upstairs at City Hall
Dickerson, 98, was a Bulldog in the early 1930s
Spoilin' the Broth by Bill Cooke
Rockdale Reporter - 2016-06-02
Graham Dickerson, 98, of Thorndale got a kick out of my column a couple of weeks back
about the fact that high school basketball games were once played on the top floor of
the old City Hall, now the police station.
He played in some of those games while he was a Thorndale High School Bulldog, back in
the early 1930s.
What prompted my column was a note from Iola Avrett of Rockdale who is 95 and recalled
attending a game upstairs at City Hall.
“Iola is three years younger than me but we’ve known each other for a long time,”
Both Iola and Graham still live alone, Iola on Hogan Street in Rockdale and Graham 3
miles south of Thorndale off FM 486, on the Dickerson home place that dates back over
100 years to his grandfather.
Back to early 1930s basketball at the old City Hall: “Yeah, we had uniforms back then,
shorts and undershirt-style sleeveless jerseys,” Graham said. “But those shorts were
not the great big, long ones like today.”
He said in the early 1930s rules called for a jump ball after every basket made.
“That made for some pretty low-scoring games,” he said. “I remember one time we beat
Caldwell 14-12, a real thriller.” Luckily, he noted, that jump-ball rule after every
basket was rescinded a few years later.
Also in his playing days, coaches could not talk to their teams during timeouts. “They
could coach us at halftime only,” he said.
He said he and his Bulldog mates played their home games in a vacant building on West
“It was pretty cramped,” he said. “The walls were out of bounds and, with a 14-foot
ceiling, you didn’t put much arch on your shot.”
Graham said his teammates included Bob Clark, Alex Conoley, Clarence Stelzer, James
Terry, Hollis Fields and Harry Wayne Clark. Coach was Johnny Latham. Virtually all
later served in their country in World War II.
“I’m the only one left,” he said.
Graham graduated Thorndale High in 1935. He said Thorndale built its first high school
gym (now the juniorhigh gym) in 1934 and Rockdale built its first gym (now the
elementary campus gym) in 1936.
Graham attended Thorndale sports events loyally over the years but had to concede to
immobility recently. “I get around on a battery-operated cart now.”
He is proud that his grandson Bradley Dickerson coaches the Lady Bulldog basketball
team. Not only that, but Bradley and wife Jennifer are expecting their third child and
plan to name him Graham.
“One of my coffee buddies heard about this and said, ‘Oh my God, there’s going to be a
Graham Dickerson around here forever’!”
Graham has lived alone for 37 years, since wife Elkanah died in 1979 at age 57. They
married in 1939 and raised a son and daughter.
The son, Gordon, lives a half mile from him. The daughter, Beth, who was married to
Wayne Luker, died of cancer six years ago.
When I remarked about his keen memory, Graham replied, “Well, I’ve always said if my
mind goes, I want my body to have gone the day before.”
Sounds like a real good plan to me.