Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


March 23, 2014

It was a game for the history books

ASHLAND — I’ve just returned from a trip to Bowling Green to watch the Ashland Kittens make history. The ladies made it to the semi-finals in the state tournament. According to the record books, it’s the first time in 83 years; I do believe that is an accomplishment.  I attended the event to watch and support my wife’s niece, Josie Roberts, a senior with the Kittens. 

As I drove with the family to Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, I began to think about the other years the Kittens went to the state level tournament. This was the third year in a row, but I knew there were others.

I began to research some of the earlier years of the Kittens’ history. Just so happens, I work at a perfect place to do that sort of research — the genealogy department at Boyd County Public Library. Looking through the materials we have here I see the Kittens won the state Title in 1921. (See the team photo). The early yearbooks have photos of the teams and information about them.

The 1921 Ashland High School Yearbook, “Footprints ’21” says this about the 1921 Kittens Team: “The fact alone that the silver loving cup, the first to be offered in the state wearing the Maroon and White, found an honored home in Ashland High, proves the tremendous success of the basketball season. This was accomplished after the Kittens had played 19 games with 12 different teams, the last games being in the tournament at Winchester. At a luncheon given in their honor at the Ventura, the president of the Kiwanis Club, Mr. Mathewson, paid a glowing tribute to the Kittens by saying that they had done more to put Ashland on the map than any or all of the city clubs. Coach Jackson stated early in the fall, and with the aid of a strong second string it was soon evident that the Kittens were going to shine before the season was fairly commenced. Every game on the home floor was patronized well, and as Melvin Keil’s reputation as cheer leader spread, the crowds came not only to see but to hear. The girls easily won every game played. No team had so fine a reputation for achievements. Height or weight made no difference, and no floor was too rough or too far distant to cool the ardor of the Kittens. They only clamored for new fields. Two of the team, Miss Nalle and Miss Riggs, are seniors and will not be with the squad next year, but their mantels will fall upon worthy successors who will continue to work for the honor of keeping the “State Trophy.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the 1921 team or some of the other teams that played or went to state, stop by the library. Thanks to some caring and kind souls, some of those early photos have survived.  The late Ernest Worley, an avid Ashland sports fan, compiled statistics and photos of the Kittens (and Tomcats, too). We also have early sports photographs in the Arnold Hanners collection, the Ernest Worley sports collection and the Bo McMillan sports negatives, as well as the Ashland newspaper on microfilm. It was all reported in The Daily Independent.

So were you (or your mother or grandmother) a Kitten?  Do you have photos, programs, scrapbooks etc. related to your basketball years? I would like the opportunity to look at them and possibly copy them for our collections and others’ use. You can call me at (606) 329-0518, ext. 1510, or email me at jkettel@thebookplace.org.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you to come down to library and visit the Minnie C Winder Genealogy and Local History Room. You’ll be amazed at what you can find.

JIM KETTEL is genealogy supervisor for Boyd County Public Library.

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