County Champs In Spite of a Broken Shoestring

1939 Dallas County Champs

Dexter had a great boys’ basketball team that year. That was heartening for the whole town of nearly 760 souls, which was still in the grips of the Great Depression. It certainly boosted the spirits of Wilson family since Dale, a senior, was on the first team. 

Dexter boys’ basketball team, 1939. They won the County Championship that year. Back: Coach Carl Stoddard, Warren Harris, John Shepherd, Charles Lee, Howard Kirkman, Dale Wilson, Victor Zike, Charles Thompson. Front: Bill Myers, Lyle Thompson, Danny Wilson, Max Sutherland, Lynford Bebout, Jim McMenamin. Four of these boys would killed in WWII: Lynford Bebout, Lyle Thompson, Dale Wilson, and Danny Wilson.

When a shoestring broke in those days, the owner tied it back together, each time ending up with a shorter strong. Dale’s ruptured during a game. Dexter took a time-out so he could take care of it, but it’d become so short, there was nothing left to make another knot. Someone on the opposing team handed over a shoestring so he could finish the game.

A blizzard set in during the last game of the Dallas County Championship tournament, which was held at Perry, at the opposite side of the county. Folks at home worried that the team might try to make it back home during the storm, but someone sent word that they were staying overnight at the Perry schoolhouse. 

And that the Dexter boys had won the tournament!

Victor Zike, Warren Harris, Cahrles Lee, John Shepherd, Dale Wilson

Dallas County News, Feb. 15, 1939–”Dexter Boys Team and DeSoto Girls Are County Champs–Dexter’s brilliant boys’ team eked out a 21-20 victory over a strong Minburn team in the closing minutes of the championship game. It was a thrilling and exciting game all the way, and the packed house that saw it certainly got their money’s worth. A crowd estimated to be over 1000 people saw the final games.

 “Dexter’s ‘Five Iron Men’ waded through all competition and then turned on the heat in the closing minutes in the last game to beat Minburn by one point. To Victor Zike and ‘Homer’ Harris go credit for the championship as these two hit the hoop from all angles and played a fine brand of basketball throughout the whole tourney. [Charles] Lee, [John] Shepherd and [Dale] Wilson were the other members of the team, and they, too, counted in the pinches and played great ball.”

“1939 Dallas County Champions–The local boys basketball team won a hard fought game Saturday evening at the County Tournament at Perry from the Minburn quint to win the Championship. Boy, what a game. [John] Shepherd dived half way across the floor to grab the ball and save the opponents from a sure field goal. [Charles] Lee played superb ball, grabbing the ball off the bangboard many times. And [Dale] Wilson, well, if you saw that game, you know the swell game he played–a real defense man.”

The story of the broken shoestring came from my Uncle John Shepherd, who married Dad’s sister Nadine Neal. Uncle John was also on this winning team, the one who “dived half way across the floor to grab the ball.”

This is Chapter 45 in Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression.


  1. Winning the county championship was a great achievement for a team from such a small community. How exciting! The pictures showing their uniforms and shoes were particularly interesting.

  2. That shoestring story is an example of true sportsmanship! I wonder if teams would be so accommodating to their opponents’ misfortunes today, when “win at all costs” seems to be the driving philosophy?

  3. Fun story. They did that kind of thing back then. Real sportsmanship. I grew up in a basketball family. Most of us played high school and college ball. Dad was the winningest coach of our little town (still on record). It is quiet a boost for a little town to have a winning team.

  4. I agree with Liz G. This is a great example of sportsmanship . . . humanity & compassion for another person taking precedence over the desire to win. Thanks for the story, Joy.

  5. This story sure has perfect timing with March Madness going on. The school closest to me, FAU, is the Cinderella team this year too!!

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