Growing up in Lawrenceville, Georgia consisted of fall and winter Saturday mornings that started early at 8:00 with the sounds of whistles blowing, fans cheering and feet sliding and squeaking on the old wood floor of Hooper Renwick gymnasium.
Friendships were made and competition thrived and cultivated the love of basketball that laid the foundation for some collegiate athletes who excelled in the game, but the greatest thing that evolved was an incredible sense of small-town community.
I was fortunate to start playing at Hooper when I was 8 years old in 1980 and my memories of playing with Jennifer and Jacquelyn Cheek, Taffy Pinion, Kathy Hamilton, and others as we won the state eight-year-old championship still lives in my mind as our parents traveled the Georgia roads with us.
We continued to thrive in middle school and high school at Lawrenceville Middle and Central Gwinnett High School. The sweetest part is that we still keep in touch with each other at 46 years old.
Yes, it may be through Facebook at times, but we still keep track of each other. The other folks that I remember are those volunteer coaches like Margaret Wages Hamilton and Margie Ross who also still check in on me and my family.
Those games and skills we learned at Hooper Renwick gym began a family who cared about each other; it began a family who would be connected forever. On Friday, June 29, 2018, Mayor Judy Johnson opened the doors to Hooper Renwick Gymnasium one last time before the gym is torn down to become a part of a green space for the downtown area. Former men and women who played there as boys and girls showed up to take their final shots and dribble down memory lane one last time. The floor is being disassembled for preservation, and those who attended had the opportunity to cut the net and keep a piece of their history.
As things change around us and progress naturally occurs, it is so nice to take time to appreciate our past and remember the moments that help build where we are and what we’ve become.
For me, Hooper may be going away, but I am forever thankful for the bond it created in my family. I will never forget the moments of shooting hoops on our driveway on Friday nights before those Saturday morning games with mom, dad, and my sister.
I’ll always appreciate the sacrifices and efforts of my parents to pay for us to play, send us to basketball camps to develop our skills and to move things around on the family schedule to get us to practices and games. I am grateful for friendships that survive the test of time and volunteers who work together for the good of a community. These types of things are everyday matters that are important because every day matters. Thanks for the memories, Hooper! We’ll never forget you.