Ken Harrod doesn’t run the basketball floor like he did 77 years ago, but he is still in remarkably good shape for his age. He attributes his health to the decision to become involved in athletics (football, basketball and tennis) as a young man. “Athletics taught me to be active, and I’ve stayed active my entire life,” he said.
At 94 years young, Harrod still volunteers at St. Rita’s Medical Center and plays golf twice a week, when weather permits. “I’ve shot my age a couple times and when you’re as old as I am, it gets a little easier every year,” he joked.
Harrod’s participation in athletics also provided him with the opportunity to be a part of the 1943 Lima Central High School basketball team that advanced to play in the state tournament in the midst of World War II.
His eyes light up with the memory.
Central began the basketball season that year with modest expectations. It did return seven seniors, some of whom had played on the Central team that made it to state two years previous. The Dragons were coached by Rex Settlemire, who later generations will remember as Lima’s long-time director of parks and recreation.
High school sports in that era did not dominate the sports scene as it does today. The attention of the public in 1943 was clearly focused on the war in Europe and in the Pacific, and it impacted every aspect of life in this country. “Of course, everyone was much more interested in the war effort at that time,” Harrod remembered.
“I grew up in a different age,” he recalled. “Basketball wasn’t as big a deal as it is today and didn’t get the attention, but it was a big deal to us,” he added.
Harrod, who is the last surviving member of the team, recalls that Central was a very talented and unselfish squad. “Most of us had been playing together since junior high, and we knew what to expect from each other,” he said.
An 11-5 regular season gave Central fans optimism heading into the postseason. Success in the tournament is often written by teams who find their groove late in the year. The Dragons were just beginning to hit their stride.
Central’s first opponent in the Class A tournament was Findlay, which as early as 1943 was described by The Lima News as a “long-time rival.” Bill Brinkmeyer, a transfer from Elida, scored the winning basket with 10 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Dragons a one-point victory.
Following wins against Fostoria and Celina, Central found itself in the district final against long-time rival Lima South High School, a team still savoring its one-point victory against the Dragons in the last game of the regular season. It also marked the first time in history that both Class A and Class B district finalists were all Lima schools. (Class A final: Lima Central vs. Lima South. Class B final: Lima St. Rose vs. Lima St. Gerard).
Central beat South 44-33. Curly Bratton led South with 11 points and Jack Maisch scored 18 for the victorious Dragons. Maisch, a legendary athlete in that era, was the second leading scorer in the Greater Ohio League that season and earned all-state honors. Upon graduation, he, along with almost all of his teammates, joined the war effort. Post war, Maisch signed a baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox, rising to the highest level in the minor leagues before returning to Lima, marrying, and raising a family.
Central earned a trip to Columbus by beating Toledo Woodward and Port Clinton to capture the Class A regional crown. Bill Kohler and Maisch led the Dragons in scoring and The Lima News showered praise on Ken Harrod for ‘breaking up the passing attack of their opponents and stealing the ball from bigger foes.” Both games were played on the same day, a common practice during World War II, in an effort to save on gasoline and rubber, both of which were rationed.
Central’s regional win won it a front-page story in The Lima News the next day but the headlines at the top of the page blared, “Nazi Plunges Repulsed.”
It marked the fourth time Central High School’s basketball team had earned a trip to state. Their first two trips (1931 and 1935) were coached by H.L. “Cappy” Sheuerman, who later became a memorable administrator at Lima Senior High School.
Central’s opponent at state was Canton McKinley, a powerful program making its 11th appearance in Columbus. The Bulldogs were an offensive juggernaut, averaging 50 points a game, an impressive stat in that era. The Dragons, by comparison, averaged 34 points a game.
The games were played at the Public Auditorium in downtown Columbus, a location that later became the site of Lazarus Department Store.
Central lost the state semifinal game to McKinley 44-40 in a game described by a Columbus newspaper as “one of the most exciting games ever played in the school boy classic.” The Dragons were led in scoring that day by John Reed, whose father, J. McClain Reed, was the principal of Central High School and later a driving force in bringing a branch campus of Ohio State University to Lima.
Ken Harrod remembered little fanfare for the Central team upon its return to Lima. The war news still dominated everyone’s daily lives. “When I turned 18, I went right down to the recruiting station to get into the military but I was turned down because of a heart murmur,” he said.
Harrod, who was president of his senior class at Central, elected to attend Ohio State University where he tried out for the Buckeye basketball squad. “I made it past the first cut, but that was the end of my basketball career,” he recalled.
Upon earning his degree from OSU, Harrod returned to Lima, married his childhood sweetheart, Corrine Keze, and began working at Randall Bearing Inc., where he eventually rose to the position as executive vice president.
Today, as he leans toward 95 years of age, Harrod basks in memories of a time gone by. “I’ve been blessed with a great life, a wonderful wife and family and good health,” he said. “Sometimes I just wonder how I was able to do all that.”
Reach Bob Seggerson at email@example.com.