In 1960, Raymond “Chub” Ohleyer, Pop’s boss at Bojock Lumber Company, Manchester, California, took the Point Arena High School basketball team to the 1960 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship Playoffs in the Cow Palace, San Francisco. Mr. Ohleyer’s treat included buying the tickets for us and our coaching staff, and paying for all our meals and rooms. We traveled in a school bus driven by our coach, Leland Stanford III, but I bet Mr. Ohleyer also paid for the gas.
The Championship Playoffs were held in the Cow Palace because the University of California won the national championship the previous year and was the host. Besides California with star center Darrall Imhoff, the tournament featured Ohio State with Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek, the University of Cincinnati with Oscar “the Big O” Roberson and Paul Hogue, and New York University with Tom “Satch” Sanders. Of the four games we watched during the two-day tournament, and as excited as we were about every moment of every game, only one game was close, the California-Cincinnati game the first day. As Cal won 77-69, we were uncharitably and unfairly calling the great Oscar Robertson “the Big Nothing.” The next night the “Super Sophomores” of Ohio State easily beat Cal 75-55 for the championship title. Everyone predicted that Ohio State would win three in a row, but everyone was wrong. The next two years, without Oscar Robertson, the University of Cincinnati beat Ohio State each year.
Be that as it may, we still enjoyed the basketball immensely, including and perhaps even particularly, the pregame warm-ups, where even the shorter players dunked the ball with gusto.
Our downtown hotel was very nice, just off Union Square. We dined in first class restaurants, like Original Joe’s, still a San Francisco favorite. Mr. Ohleyer and Coach Stanford were used to such surroundings, but I think I can speak for the guys on the team that it all seemed like something that happens after you rub a magic lamp.
Because, as a very special bonus to the basketball, San Francisco was magical then, its streets and shops full of well dressed men and glamorous women. Unlike today’s dowdy and scruffy look, standing on a street corner then seemed like watching an unending Easter Parade. The women in particular were stunning – their trim figures in suits and dresses, high heels, hats and gloves, perfect hair and makeup – they seemed to occupy a much higher step on the evolutionary ladder. They moved quickly, confidently, gracefully. I’m sure they all smelled of expensive, seductive perfumes, except I never got close enough to even one of them to find out.
In addition to noting how awed we were then by the whole experience, I think I can also speak for my teammates and express our thanks to the memory Mr. Ohleyer for his generosity and consideration towards us. He gave us a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and his only reward was seeing us getting a big kick out of it all.
He is not gone, because he is not forgotten.