Norma Henning Ritchie played college basketball 64 years ago. It's a bit amazing that she even had the opportunity, since so few women did in the late 1930s, and it's a bit more amazing that she's still around to talk about it. But there was Ritchie, who played from 1938 to 1942, among the many former players from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania who returned to campus in February to celebrate 100 years of basketball -- for men and women -- at the school.
Basketball was started there in 1902, only nine years after the school, then called the East Stroudsburg Normal School, was founded. East Stroudsburg was unusual because women played the game there from the very beginning.
East Stroudsburg celebrated the centennial with a day full of activities, including a celebration luncheon, alumni basketball games in the afternoon and a men's and women's doubleheader against Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania that night.
Among the players who returned for the activities was George "Ecky" Berger, a World War II veteran who was a member of the men's basketball team in the late 1940s. Though he's now 80 years old, Berger -- who was a high-school teacher and coach in New Jersey for 41 years -- decided to resume his basketball career with an appearance in one of the alumni games.
"I wanted to show the young guys how to play the game and also hopefully get the MVP," he joked after the game. "By participating, it was my way of showing how much East Stroudsburg meant to my generation of World War II veterans in giving us an education."
Other returnees included Ken Sisson, the East Stroudsburg men's coach from 1964 to 1983, who had not returned to campus in 19 years.
"East Stroudsburg has impacted many lives. For many, this campus was a life-changing experience for them," Sisson told the Pocono Record. "It was a very emotional, touching day to be back here sharing memories with all of my former players and friends. Some of my fondest memories happened here."
Lynn Breedy, a 1971 graduate, also was one of the speakers who represented the more than 100 players who returned for the festivities. In her remarks, Breedy compared the current game to the one she played.
"I shot basketball, not hoops," she said. "A brick was used to build a house, not to describe a bad shot. I didn't have 50 different styles of shoes to choose from, but I wore white canvas Converse shoes because that was all that was available."
Grace AsBerry Jones, who graduated in 1954, displayed the one-piece tunic women players wore back when she played for East Stroudsburg. And she noted the differences of what was expected of players at the time, noting that then-coach Genevieve Zimbar insisted that the "team members act like ladies at all times, on and off the court."
And what about Ritchie, who had played so long ago? She decided to stay the entire day rather than driving back to her Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, home after the luncheon as she had planned.
"I had a ball," she said. "I was having so much fun that I decided to stay for the entire day. I figured I would get a hotel room, but I didn't realize with it being President's Weekend, there were no rooms available in the Poconos."
But Ritchie is a hardy sort, and Nancy Weaver, the East Stroudsburg dean of students and a former East Stroudsburg basketball player herself, came to the rescue. She located a guest room in one of the dormitories, Lenape Hall.
"We kidded her that we didn't want her going out with the students and getting herself in trouble," Weaver said.
There wouldn't be trouble for Ritchie, just a soft pillow and a nice bed, even if it was her first experience in campus housing in 60 years.
"They trusted me really," Ritchie said of her "chaperones." And they need not have worried. "I had such a busy day, it didn't take me much to fall asleep."
Surely her dreams were full of basketballs, bouncing on a hardwood floor in Pennsylvania all those years ago.