I spent a few minutes in the Tehachapi Heritage League Museum last week. I think I am going to make this a regular pit stop as I always find a new story of old to tell about our Tehachapi Warriors.
As I waited for my meeting with Heritage League President Charles White, who along with fellow Tehachapi News columnist Jon Hammond happens to know just about everything about the history of this valley, a book with old "Warrior" newspapers caught my eye. I was intrigued because I spent three years writing for "The Warrior" and a year as managing editor, well before the school board decided it was a good idea to cut the award-winning newspaper out of the budget. And we wonder why finding quality journalists these days is an issue?
I thumbed through them for a few minutes, settling on an issue from November 1945. Newspaper layout was different then — lots of words and short articles crammed into a few pages; high school students lacked the technology to insert pictures; sports always seemed to have plenty of run on the front page, and this issue was no different.
Along with a recap of Tehachapi football beating Maricopa, it also included a note that the 1945 basketball season was set to tip off, the first for Tehachapi in the Sierra League and, as the paper stated, “since we have our new gym, the Warriors will be a threat in the League.” Even back then, facilities made the difference in athletic programs.
It would prove to be a premonition because Tehachapi would go on to win the Sierra League that season, the first year they competed in the league. The new gym, which replaced a gym that had mysteriously burned down two years prior, was the pride of the school and community that season. Warrior articles touted the hard work of volunteers painting the lines on the floor while other articles encouraged students to stay off the court with street shoes and during assemblies to not cut across the playing surface but walk along the edge. I couldn’t help but notice these articles were written by managing editor Dick Johnson, who also starred on the team. Just an athlete protecting his home court through whatever means necessary. I respect that.
That team would lose the valley championship that season 32-31 in front of 500 fans in Tehachapi when the game winning shot was one second too late leaving the hands of Tehachapi’s Fred Castro. They finished the year 14-1. That gym still stands today. After it was Tehachapi High School, it was Jacobsen Junior High and then Monroe.
Now without a school tenant, it serves as the host of a lot of youth games in the winter and was the Madison Square Garden of my brief junior high school hoops career. It boasts a new floor these days as the old one was literally falling apart. I’ll admit I felt bad walking on it the other day in cowboy boots, after I had read Dick Johnson’s stern warning from decades ago.
That gym has seen an awful lot in its day: basketball games, school functions, dances, assemblies, you name it. It stands today as a catch-all community space and still functions as a basketball court when the need arises. It's a testament to the importance of athletic facilities to a community, and a bit of a reminder that some of our stuff is getting pretty old. At least those old walls have plenty of stories to tell.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.