Continuing recollections of Dora farm life in the 1950s: Basketball and learning how to gamble

This photo of the Dora High School A and B combined basketball team is from the 1959 Doramo yearbook, posted on the Dora School Library’s Facebook page. From left: John Hamby, Kelly Martin, Sonny DeBoard, Jerry Birdsong, Martin Capages (holding basketball), Larry Owen, Teddy Thornton, Don Nielson, Don Driskell, Jim Shipley and coach Paul Batesel.

Editor’s note: Sections of these 1950s Dora-area reminiscences by former Ozark County resident Martin Capages Jr. will be reprinted in the Ozark County Times as space allows. Capages, a Ph.D. University of Missouri-Rolla graduate and the retired former owner of ARIS Engineering in Ozark, attended seventh, eighth and ninth grades in Dora. He can be contacted at 2638 E. Wildwood Road, Springfield, MO 65804; 417-883-5621 or This week’s section picks up as Martin continues his freshman year at Dora High School in the fall of 1958. Basketball season has begun...


Chapter 16

Learning how not to gamble

Another social event was the Dora Carnival or the Dora Picnic. It was not a school event. It was fun, cotton candy, bumper cars and carnies. The carnies had a “spin the wheel” game, and I had four quarters. I bet a quarter and spun the wheel. I won a dime plus my quarter back. I went again with the same results. I made it to a profit of 50 cents; then my luck changed. I kept losing until I got down to my last two quarters. I figured out that the wheel was rigged. I needed my quarters for the skating rink and a Coke. The lesson was learned: Quit when you’re ahead or don’t gamble at all, preferably the latter.


Chapter 17


High schoolers didn’t play softball. It was hard ball and apparently wasn’t for freshman because I don’t remember being on a freshman hardball team. The school had changed in other ways too. We now had a new gymnasium and a new basketball coach, Paul Batesel, fresh out of college. It was his first teaching and coaching job. He taught freshman math and coached the varsity and B team basketball squads.

Back in Millington, I had learned to dribble and shoot layups. Not even the seniors at Dora had done that in a gymnasium with wood floors. As a freshman, I played on the B team and varsity - “the A team.” Freshman and sophomores played on the B team. Three sophomores played on the varsity team, my two friends Kelly Martin and Jerry Birdsong and a new-to-me kid, Sonny DeBoard. He was the best all-around player on the team, and I copied every move he made.

Our best set shooter was John Hamby. He rarely missed a shot. John had a unique, unorthodox style that drove Coach Batesel to distraction. But Sonny was a crazy man dribbling. He would imitate the Harlem Globe Trotters. His layup shots were incredible. I concentrated on jump shots and modeled my style after the pros and a kid who played for Bakersfield – which had trounced both our A and B teams. I played in both games but only touched the ball twice in the varsity game. Missed a layup and hit a jump shot – but it was enough to earn a varsity letter as a freshman.

Sonny DeBoard had all the gear. He even had a gym bag. I had to carry my basketball shoes, warmups and game uniform in a brown paper sack. 

I was usually the youngest in class because my birthday was in late August. It didn’t hurt my grades, but I had some unfounded worries about showering with the slightly more mature male teammates. Then puberty took over, just in time. 

Coach Batesel was only a couple years older than some of the seniors. I admired coach Batesel and thought he did a good job as a rookie. 


To be continued.

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