Leaving South Carolina early on Thursday, December 15, we drove for 9+ hours in the rain! After spending the night in Chillicothe, Ohio, we knew we had time to stop at a spot we had bypassed several times in the past on our way to and from my daughter Kelsey’s home. On Friday, with the grandkids still in school, we took a slight detour to visit the Hoosier Gym, the actual gymnasium in Knightstown, Indiana, where the movie Hoosiers, was filmed – the home of the 1952 State Champion Hickory Huskers!
In 1986, the town of Knightstown was disrupted for three weeks while Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Hershey, and a cast of characters filmed all of the gym scenes included in Hoosiers. The actual location immediately became famous and today it is maintained by volunteers and is open six days a week.
The gym was built in 1921, with the present floor being laid in 1934. During production, Gene Hackman would often borrow a young child’s bicycle to tour around the area and was often seen shooting hoops with the local kids. When the production staff had touble securing enough people to serve as extras – spectators at the basketball games – no worries – the local townspeople filled the stands at every opportunity. In fact, Roger, a young local boy seen at the very end of the movie shooting baskets, actually still lives in Knightstown and frequents the “Hoosier Gym!”
Did we learn all of this information from reading about it? Oh no, a self-proclaimed docent named Don, spent close to an hour with us, relating all of these interesting bits of movie trivia. He posed us for pictures, took us down into the locker room, and with his partner, Bill, explained everything there was to know about the gym. It is truly a revered landmark and is a place that high school basketball teams from around the country – both girls and boys – travel to for games. With the movie being released in 1986, most teams that come to play in the gym view the movie ahead of their journey, since the players were not even born when the movie came out! Visitors can also purchase a wide array of Hickory Huskers clothing and memorabilia – which of course we did!
Over 90 games are played in the Hoosier Gym each year and our guides estimate that 60,000 people visit annually. There has also been an annual All-Star Game played at the gym for over 25 years, many players making it into the NBA. In fact, Don, who is in charge of the game this year, is already recruiting high school players to participate in this year’s game in late April.
In addition to hosting basketball games, the gym is also the community center in Knightstown, and on inclement weather days, the neighborhood kids are welcome to come inside and shoot hoops. You know, as a child spending summers in Indiana with family, I always wondered why they loved basketball and talked about it incessantly. Well, now I know…and as one of the T-shirts we purchased says on its back – WELCOME TO INDIANA BASKETBALL! It was a wonderful stop!
Stay Calm ans Travel on…