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Gardner to speak at All-American Red Heads reunion in Little Rock

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Gardner to speak at All-American Red Heads reunion in Little Rock

FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas head women’s basketball coach Susie Gardner is the featured speaker at the national All-American Red Heads Reunion set for Saturday, June 25, in Little Rock. The All-American Red Heads was a professional traveling team of women’s basketball players that toured the nation from 1936 to 1986 playing local men’s basketball teams. Approximately fifty of the alumni of the Red Heads are expected in Little Rock for the weekend celebration. The reunion culminates with a banquet at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Clarion Hotel ballroom in Little Rock. Along with Gardner as the featured speaker, former Texas forward Andrea Lloyd Curry will speak about the history of the Red Heads and several former Red Heads will be honored. Started in Cassville, Mo., by C.M. Olson, the team picked up its trademark, the player’s red hair, as a joke that became the signature of a flamboyant style not unlike the Harlem Globetrotters of men’s basketball. Playing close to 200 games a year, several of the stars of the Red Heads would amass career point totals to rival that of NBA legends. Playing in the era before college scholarships for women’s basketball, the Red Heads became an outlet for players to earn a living outside of the annual AAU basketball tournaments. Often, the money earned touring with the Red Heads eventually paid for college educations after the young women ended their playing careers. Caraway, Ark., resident Orwell Moore took over the team in the postwar years, and enhanced the team’s reputation for showmanship. Moore became the team coach in 1948, then bought the team from the Olsons in 1955 and moved its headquarters to Caraway. Unlike the Globetrotters, the Red Head games were not staged and were contested against local men’s basketball teams. Perhaps one of the highest scoring players in women’s basketball history was Moore’s wife, Lorene, who scored over 35,000 points in her 11 seasons. Many of the top players for the Red Heads had Arkansas connections, notably current Siloam Springs resident Willa Faye “Red” Mason. One of the most talented players during the 1950s era, “Red” Mason was typical of the athletes that not only could play a competitive game but also entertain the crowd with special tricks at halftime. Another famous Red Head was future Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member Hazel Walker of Ashdown who played for three seasons with the Red Heads before starting her own rival team, the Arkansas Travelers. Sporting flashy uniforms that utilized the “All-American” theme of stars and stripes in red, white and blue, the Red Heads toured across America and as far overseas as the Philippines. Another trademark was a 31-foot stretch limousine used to tour the country. At their peak, the Red Heads also had a farm club, the Ozark Hillbillies, and briefly competed in one of the precursor pro leagues to the WNBA, the Women’s Professional Basketball Association, in the mid-1970s. In the team’s heyday, the Red Heads made appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and What’s My Line as well as earning features in national magazines including Life. Tickets for the banquet are $25, and must be reserved in advance by June 23. Contact reunion organizer Judy Cameron at 501-413-8535 to purchase tickets and more information.



Sports Category : Basketball (W)