Not many are aware that the very first Gold Medal in basketball in Olympic history was won by a team from right here in McPherson, Kansas.
“A lot of people don’t know that gentlemen from McPherson went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and, together with a Hollywood team, won the Gold Medal in basketball,” said Anna Ruxlow, Director of the McPherson Museum, which this weekend is hosting the 80th Anniversary of McPherson’s Globe Refiners basketball team.
“[What] CHS is now, used to be the Globe Refinery, and they sponsored the Globe Refiner basketball team.”
According to Ruxlow, members of the 1930s Globe Refiners basketball team were even recruited from workers at the McPherson refinery.
“I’m sure when they looked for those workers, they looked for the tallest ones,” laughed Ruxlow.
“And then the coach of the Globe Refiners was Gene Johnson, and he had formerly coached the Wichita State Shockers. He was one of the winningest coaches at Wichita State before he came to McPherson.”
Family members of the 1930s Globe Refiners basketball team will be in McPherson this weekend for the 80th Anniversary celebration, an event the public is invited to attend this Saturday evening, August 13, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the McPherson Museum at 1111 E. Kansas Avenue.
“We will have a party at the museum,” Ruxlow enthused. “You can walk through the museum; you can talk to the family members that are present.
“And we will have three of the gold medals on display at the museum,” she continued. “The family members are bringing them with them. You can have your picture taken with one of those gold medals.”
A lot of history is associated with the 1936 Olympics in Berlin with the rise of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany, and the accomplishments of track star Jesse Owens, an African-American whose four gold medals were a smack in the face of Hitler’s claims of Aryan superiority.
“It was a pivotal time in world history, and [the Globe Refiners] played a part in it,” Ruxlow said. “[McPherson was] in it!”
A $10 admission fee will be charged for Saturday’s public event with all proceeds going to help complete the ongoing Globe Refinery exhibit at the McPherson Museum.
Hors d'oeuvres will be served and a trivia game with prizes will be played throughout the evening.
The McPherson Convention and Visitors Bureau will also be sponsoring trolley rides down to the Community Center in McPherson where the Globe Refiners played.
“Part of the trivia is at the community building,”explained Ruxlow. “One of our staff members will be down there to tell you about the history of how the games were played and a little bit more about the building. And we will have prizes for the trivia, so you don’t want to miss out on the prizes.”
The history of the Globe Refiners in McPherson helps explain the legacy and love of basketball in this town. Anyone who loves the sport of basketball, loves the Olympics, or just loves to learn more about the history of McPherson will benefit from going to this special event.
And take your kids and grandkids! especially if they have no idea that the basketball term of “dunking” was originally inspired in the 1930s by a New York City reporter who watched basketball players from McPherson drive the ball into the basket -- and likened it to someone “dunking” a donut into a cup of coffee.
“I hope everyone will come out,” Ruxlow said. “A little piece of their history… it should be exciting.”
For any questions, contact the McPherson Museum: (620) 241-8464.
Reservations are not required for Saturday’s event.