The APHS Gym
A Mystery Solved


As mentioned on the "Murder Ball" page, the Pennings Gym was small, but it contained an abbreviated basketball court.  The top of the key nearly touched the center circle.  The baselines were touching the brick wall, and there were pillars along the side.  But if you spent a little time in the gym or in the rooms built around its balconies, you would have noticed some peculiar features.

If you look at the picture above, a few of these oddities are visible.  There is a scoreboard on the wall, though I'm not sure it was ever used when I was there.  There are those boarded up windows above the basket that look like a pressbox of some sort.  If you visited the football locker room (behind the balcony wall on the left) or visited the storage area on the balcony to the right, you would have noticed concrete tiers rising to the outside, as if there were once benches or seats for watching a game.

All of this begs the questions:  Did Abbot Pennings High School play any official games in this gym?  Did anyone ever play real games here?  Small as it was, it appears to be designed for official games.  What's the story?

I posed this question on facebook in Spring of 2012, and I am happy to say that several alumni rose to the challenge and the mysteries are solved!

First, Abbot Pennings never played official games here.  Phil Danen APHS '85, checked with his father, Dan Danen APHS '63.  As Phil recounts, "Checked with my father (Class of '63) who was at APHS when it started in 1959. He says they played all their games at Van Dyke gym."

However, the Pennings building housed DePere's Nicolet High School before West DePere opened.  According to Tim Kolb APHS '82, "My dad said he recalls watching Arnie Herber play basketball games in that gym. This was when it was Nicolet HS, long before it was APHS."  I had to lookup Arnie Herber.  Arnie was a Packer in the Don Hutson era.  One of the first big passers in the NFL.  He grew up in Green Bay and went to Green Bay West according to Wikipedia.  As Tim concludes, "My dad must have seen Herber as a visiting player. He recalls Herber hitting half court shots like they were nothing (of course half court in that gym was pretty short.)"  Indeed!

And so we have the answers.  Nicolet High School built that gym as an official home court and played on it in spite of its size.  Arnie Herber took advantage of this to drain 3-pointers (I know they didn't have them back then) all night long.  By the time we all arrived at Pennings, it was a suitable venue for pick-up games, murder ball and the occasional book sale, but St. Norbert College let us host our games at their Van Dyke Gym, (now the SNC Campus Center) and then the Schuldes Sports Center when it was finished in 1979.

Eric Elfner
April 2012

 

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Contact Eric Elfner at elf(at)abbotpennings.com with additions, corrections or comments on this site.