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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Neill remembers helping to build Greene County Keg

Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2011, at 5:54 PM

Ryan O'Neall of Bloomfield (20) has possession of the Greene County Keg before a boys basketball game during the 2010-11 season. The Keg has been traced back to the early 50s and was built in a shop class at Worthington High School. (By B.J. Hargis/Greene County Daily World).
When Willard Neill was a student at Worthington High School in the early 1950s, he had no idea that he would become a link to history in Greene County.

Neill, a 1954 WHS graduate, was a member of George Boyd's shop class.

Boyd was put in charge of constructing what is now known as the Greene County Keg, a symbol of supremacy in boys basketball.

"We just thought it was something that was fun to do, said Neill, who currently serves as Greene County Assessor. "We made it in shop class.

"I helped work on it quite a bit. I liked fooling around with it. A lot of different boys helped work on it."

Former Greene County player, coach and administrator -- Roger Weaver -- has worked toward finding out more about the Keg.

"I was able to find four newspaper articles relating to the beginning of the Keg," said Weaver. "There was a Greene County Principal's Association that loosely met over the years. They met periodically, even though they tried to meet once a month.

"At one of their meetings, they were able to start the Greene County Coaches Association, creating their own bylaws."

Out of this meeting, Weaver said then Worthington principal Richard "Wheezer" Richardson wanted to come up with a symbol to promote school sprit and create competition at the county schools, including Worthington, Scotland, Bloomfield, Midland, Linton, Jasonville, Lyons, Marco, Switz City and Solsberry at that time.

There is some question about the time the Keg was actually constructed. Neill said he thought it was the 1953-54 school year when he worked on it. Weaver said his research showed that the principals met in October 1952 and the Keg was constructed shortly after that.

According to one of the articles that appeared in the Linton Daily Citizen newspaper on Nov. 25, 1953, it indicated the Keg must have been built during that 1952-53 school year.

The story is about visiting Lyons knocking off previously undefeated Switz City 66-52.

It said Lyons received possession of the Greene County Keg, a coveted victory symbol, after the 14-point win.

The story said that the Solsberry Hornets had kept possession of the Keg since last spring's tournament.

Earlier in November 1953, the Cardinals then lost the Keg to Switz City.

The article went on to point out that Solsberry had lost the Keg to Bloomfield at the start of the '53 season.

Another article from the same month and year stated that the Switzers defeated the Cardinals 47-44 to take possession of the Keg.

Neill did say he thought the Ramblers did not win a game the year they built the Keg, and one of the articles in the LDC said that Worthington had started the 1953-54 season winless.

"We did not have very good teams back then," said Neill. "We lost it first thing and never got it back."

Neill said he wasn't sure if the Keg was the idea of Boyd or the coach Henry Pearcy in 1951-52 or Don Miles in 1952-53.

"Mr. Boyd was a really young guy and a good shop teacher," said Neill. "I think it was his idea, but he probably had some input from the coach.

"We all liked having a different project to work on. I was one of the older kids in class and I kind of helped supervise some of the young kids while they helped put it together. Mr. Boyd might have been afraid of them getting hurt."

Weaver said that Boyd had ties to basketball.

"I think he was either a junior high or assistant basketball coach at Worthington at the time," said Weaver, who finished his career in education as principal and athletic director at White River Valley before retiring.

Neill said he remembers finishing the project in a short period of time.

"We had it ready before that season started," he said. "There must have been at least 10 schools back then.

"We had to paint on the names and colors of all the different schools on the Keg."

Weaver said that WRV had to be painted on the top of the Keg after the consolidation of Switz City, Worthington and L & M (Lyons and Marco) in the fall of 1990.

In theory, the best team in Greene County has possession of the Keg, but Weaver said it doesn't always work out that way.

"Coach (Guy) Glover and his Bloomfield teams had it up through the 60s," said Weaver. "WRV had it for a long time in the early 90s.

"But if there is an upset, the best team might never get a chance to play for the Keg. It is funny how that works out sometimes."

Neill said that Boyd had some sketches, but nothing too intricate and no special wood was used.

"We just thought it was a fun thing to do," he said. "It was something nobody had ever done before around here."

His grandson Jeremy Neill helped refinish the Keg three or four years ago while at student at Bloomfield

"I guess it came full circle," said Neill, who said he still is amazed when he attends games where the Keg is placed at halfcourt before the tip. "Heaven's no, I had no idea then that it would still be around."

Weaver said it is a tremendous thing that the Greene County Keg has survived almost 60 years.

He added that the Greene County Keg for girls basketball was built in the 80s, but that is a story for another day.

B.J. Hargis is sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12 or at hargisbj@gmail.com.

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Great story, BJ. I remember in the late 90s/early 00s the Keg belonged to Eastern. They were just too tough.

-- Posted by hitman648 on Thu, Apr 21, 2011, at 9:01 AM

Uncle Willard,,,,your just amazing!

-- Posted by lvgrnco on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 9:13 AM

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