Our Town Williamsburg - Havin' a Ball in Williamsburg

By John Sears, TV9 Sports

WILLIAMSBURG - In Our Town Williamsburg, they take their sports very seriously, even dating back to the early 1900's.

Everyone has either seen or heard of the Harlem Globetrotters, but did you know the small town of Williamsburg played a huge role as to where the Trotters are today?

In 1929, 3 years into their existence, the Harlem Globetrotters began their 1st road trip. One of their stops, Williamsburg, Iowa, to take on an independent team formed by Gus O'Donnell.

Williamsburg won the game at an armory that used to stand in Williamsburg. But it was what happened after the game that the Trotters remember. They were segregated times back then, but Mrs. Gillam, who ran a local hotel didn't care, she provided beds and warm meals for the team.

Bob Murphy said, "Go back to that time, how many white women would take in a black basketball team? That really says something."

Ron Chapman said, "Back in those days there were people who were prejudice, and here's this woman that forgot all color lines."

The 2 teams played a total of 6 times over the years, but in 1958 it meant a little more.

"Everybody was happier than heck the Globetrotters were coming," said Murphy.

"The buzz was tremendous, all the kids wanted to go," said Chapman.

"I didn't have any trouble selling tickets," said Murphy.

By this time the Trotters played in arenas with no less than 15,000 seats. Williamsburg had just built a new high school and wanted to have a dedication game in their 1200 seat gym.

Rita Bower said, "It was quite an event...how the town had accepted and received them

Being that the Globetrotters had a special place in their hearts for Williamsburg and Mr. O'Donnell, they came, packed the house and played in the 1,200 seat gym.

"The next smallest town the Trotters have played in was CR, so we got that to brag about," added Murphy.

"Residents have a lot to be proud about and thats just 1 of many," said Bower.

"They didn't forget us and we didn't forget them," said Chapman.

1958 was the last time the Globetrotters here in Williamsburg, which is by far the smallest town they've ever played in.
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