I recently ran across a column written in January of 1950 by Bernie Kooser, sports editor of the Ames Tribune. The column is especially interesting because it refers to the first time the Slater girls’ basketball team wore their new midriff suits that still have some people talking nearly 70 years later. The team went on to win the state tournament that year.

Pacemakers of Story County

Slater fans of Coach Andy Butt’s powerful girls’ basketball team have worded it: “Blessed are the pacemakers,” as the queens of Story County basketball continue to pick up momentum. The Slater club displayed once again here last night that it’s going to take something special to beat them and there probably isn’t a team in this area now able to do the trick, though a fighting Napier team accomplished it earlier in the season.

Which brings us down to the “pacemaker” angle. Coach Butt scanned the won-lost record last night after his team had defeated Huxley 43 to 25. It was the 18th game for the club, and the victory was the 14th as compared to 4 defeats.

“We’re not going to try to carry an unbeaten streak up to the start of the state tournament this season,” Coach Butt said at the start of the schedule.

In the past Slater teams have done just that, or at the most have lost but one or two over a 25 game schedule up to the start of the sectional tournament. “This year we’re going to pace ourselves, come along a little more slowly. It won’t hurt us to lose some games.”

Last night, as Slater continued to pick up, Slater fans seemed satisfied with that arrangement. If the Slater club does move once more into the big state tournament in Des Moines, some of the credit may go to the team’s experiment with what might be called “The cautious fast break.” Those teams who have seen fast-breaking teams in action know there’s a helter-skelter aspect to that attack. They may wonder how anything about fire wagon basketball can be cautious.

But they wouldn’t wonder if they saw Slater’s small gym. About the time a fast break gets underway, the players have to put on the brakes – or crash into the wall. “But we try some careful experiments with it,” Coach Butt says. “And it paid off for us against Prairie City.”

Slater opened the season with its old style of play, banking on ball control and a post performer. But it wasn’t working up to expectations and the fast-break was worked on.

Against Prairie City, one of the tough teams of the state, that team put two guards on Middents, one on Ersland and allowed Nettie Hammond to roam around almost at will. Nettie showed her appreciation of the way things were being conducted by popping in seven goals. At that point, PC changed its strategy, shifting to man-to-man defense. Coach Butt then pulled Middents to the center line and Slater started fast-breaking.

The Slater club returned from that game high in its praise of PC forward Mona Van Steensbergen, first all-state selection last season. “We used three girls on her and she still got 23 points,” Coach Butt said. “The next night, against Knoxville, they apparently decided to let just two gals do the guarding and she got 50 points. We thought we were doing a swell job in holding her to 23.”

In the game against Huxley last night, the Slater girls wore some new midriff suits. That they were able to wear them last night instead of their old ones came about through Chuck Ferguson, the Huxley mentor. Chuck was in Ames yesterday, checking on suits for his own club, found those for Slater had arrived and delivered them to Slater for the game.

For awhile it appeared that Ferguson’s delivery might have been a master stroke. Appearing in the midriffs for the first time, the Slater gals appeared to be suffering from “suititis,” but they recovered in time.

The new suits were earned by the girls running the concession stand at the state high school baseball tournament held in Slater last fall.

The gals and boys sold lots of pop and “Slaterburgers” and the money they earned was enough to buy the new suits, and also to buy some new baseball suits for the Slater boys.

Coach Butt and the girls had first considered making new suits out of war surplus nylon parachutes. As a matter of fact, Andy bought some of the parachutes, but it was decided they were too sheer for really good suits. But Andy had purchased some B-17 bomber wing covering, from which the Slater home ec classes are making new dresses.

Bernie’s article concludes with another mention of the new suits – Marjorie Ross, a member of the Slater team, popped into Coach Butt’s office just before the game to report that she was so excited over the new midriff suits that she immediately donned hers and ran to several of the neighbor homes to conduct her own style show.

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.