My name is Joyce Kite. I was a Flying Queen from 1955-59 and I coached the Queen Bees from 1959-61.
I was born and raised in Craig, a small town in Northwest Missouri. I’m an only child. My mother worked in the public schools as the head cook in the school’s hot lunch program. My daddy started teaching when I started first grade. He also drove the school bus and coached all boys’ sports. In those days, kids didn’t have cars, so Daddy had to take the boys home after practice and away games. I got to ride the bus to all of the varsity games.
When I started school, girls played volleyball and competitive opportunities for them were totally different than it is today. I was a “tomboy” and enjoyed playing football, baseball and basketball with the boys. I wished all through grade school girls would play basketball. When I was a freshman, girls’ basketball was introduced in Missouri and my daddy, who no longer had to coach boys’ sports, coached girls’ basketball. We didn’t have District, Regional or State championships like the boys, only Conference play. As a freshman, I started on both the varsity and freshmen teams. We won all of the freshmen games. Our varsity won Conference three, perhaps all four, of my high school years. Mother and Daddy were both sports fans. The National Women’s AAU Women’s
Basketball Tournament was always held in St. Joseph, Missouri, which was 60 miles away. I got to see the women play several times while I was in grade and high school.
When my folks talked about school, it was understood I was going to college. I rebelled about that when I was a junior. My folks were great psychologists and didn’t get upset when I said I wasn’t going, in fact, they didn’t discuss it. However, when I was a senior I decided to go to college and become a teacher and coach. I had a job at a college close to home and a good friend and I were going to be roommates. However, during my senior year, I was selected to play on an area high school team, and we played in the 1955 National AAU Women’s Basketball in St. Joseph. After that experience, my college plans changed. I was interviewed on the local TV station and said I planned to go to Wayland. All of my friends were surprised.
Getting to play in the national tournament was the highlight of my senior year. The tournament was the two weeks prior to our senior play. I had a leading role, and no one was allowed to miss practice. However, my English teacher excused me provided I knew all of my lines when I came back. I was fortunate that three of my aunts and uncles lived in St. Joseph. I spent the week with my Aunt Connie and Uncle Denzil. Daddy came down each time we played. I was selected to compete in the Free Throw Contest. It was very intimidating to perform before the large crowd; plus, against and in front of the best women in the tournament. Two of those women were AAU legends Alline Banks of the Atlanta Blues and Lurlyne Greer of Cook’s Goldblumes. If memory serves me correctly, Wayland’s Ruth Cannon won the national free-throw championship for the second year in a row and the Flying Queens won their second consecutive National Tournament. I got to see the game. After the game and ensuing festivities, Daddy took me to meet Coach Caddo Mathews, the Queen’s coach.
Daddy asked Coach Matthews what the procedure was to qualify to play for the Queens. He told us about the spring tryouts. A friend, who played with me on our area team, and I went to Wayland to try out. We were booked on a train from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Plainview, Texas, but our train was late getting to Amarillo, so we missed our connection. We then caught a bus and arrived in Plainview that evening.
There were so many of us at tryouts that we were split into two groups. One of the girls trying out said, “If we stay in our group, we’ll have a chance because we’re in the best group.” She told me that Kay Williams, one of the best players in the state, was in our group. There were five of us selected to receive athletic scholarships. Coach Redin, who was replacing Caddo Matthews as Queens’ coach, said if two of the five were either Valedictorians or Salutatorians we would also qualify for an academic scholarship and thus we would all have full scholarships. We did!
My freshman year there were too many of us to make the traveling team. Since I was from Missouri, I got to make that regular season trip to Missouri, but I did not make the team that played in the 1956 National AAU Tournament in St. Joseph. That spring, Coach Redin told me that he was not renewing my basketball scholarship but that he would give me a scholarship to work in his office. I told him that if I couldn’t play for the Queen’s, I would go back home and attend Northwest Missouri State College. I had planned to go there, and had job there, before I received my initial scholarship to play for the Queens. Coach Redin later decided that he would have two weeks of spring training and that he would make final scholarship decisions after it ended. He divided us into two groups, then gave the names to Dr. Dorothy McCoy, Head of the Mathematics Department. She devised a two-week rotation system, during which each one of us played with and against the others. After spring training concluded, Coach gave out the scholarships. He said that I was the most improved player and I received a scholarship not only for my sophomore year but for each year thereafter.
My senior year was very special. During Thanksgiving vacation, we played five games in Mexico: three games in Mexico City and two games in Monterrey. We got to take tours of Mexico City and the University. We played men’s international rules. It was the first time any of us had played full-court yet we managed to win four of the five contests. The games were rougher than we were used to because the officiating was much more lenient. At each game, there were fans who wanted our autographs. One time, I was surrounded by so many fans that I couldn’t see anyone I knew. Then all of a sudden, there was an arm reaching out for me. It was my roommate, Carolyn Miller. I don’t think I’d ever been that glad to see her! In Monterrey, an unusual cold front came through. We were playing in a brick arena and it was not solid—there was spaces between the bricks and it was cold. We had taken blankets from our hotel, but even wrapped in them, it was still cold. Naturally, we were complaining but Coach took a very dim view of that. He called us together and said, “I know it’s cold and you know it’s cold, but I don’t want to hear that word again.” We continued to warm up, but when we passed each other we would very quietly say, “It sure is that word.”
The 1959 National AAU Tournament was again held in St. Joseph, Missouri, and we won! Because we won the championship, the Queens were chosen to make up the nucleus of the USA Pan American team. I was one of six Queens who represented the USA in the Games which were held in Chicago. August in Chicago is very hot and very humid. The Opening Ceremonies were held in Soldiers Field on August 27th. Several athletes fainted from the heat. Evidently, whoever ordered our uniforms forgot where and when the Games were to be played. Our uniforms for the Opening Ceremonies were navy-blue wool blazers, white sleeveless blouses, and wool pleated reversible white skirts. Our warmups for the games were made of navy-blue wool fleece. When you put on the pants the fleece stuck to your legs, so we didn’t wear them. We played a round robin tournament and went undefeated.
After graduating, Coach hired me to coach the Queen Bees. We played against area teams and always went to their schools to play. I had a great team my first year. All of the players had good altitudes, were good students, and worked hard in practices.
They were a joy to coach. Shortly after we started practicing, Coach moved two of my girls up to the Queens. Several of the others eventually earned scholarships and played all four years. The following year was totally different. Most of the girls weren’t nearly as dedicated, and very few earned basketball scholarships.
Rather than continue coaching the Queen Bees, I decided to teach in high school. I taught the first year in Jal, New Mexico. However, at that time New Mexico had only sports days for girls. Therefore, the next year I returned to Texas and coached girls’ basketball at Lockney four years. My teams did well, but Lockney only had one gym. My girls could only work out after school during football season. When the boys’ basketball team began practicing after school, I had only the 3rd period of the day for my girls. I knew there was no way Lockney would build another gym, so I left and moved to Plainview. I taught Health, Physical Education, and directed a dance drill team. When the drill team dissolved, I coached girls’ track. When Ruth Griffin, Head of the Physical Education Department retired, I became the Department Head and a full-time physical education teacher. I retired from Plainview in 1995 and moved to the island of Hawaii—a dream that had been developing for a number of years.
In 1988, I found a summer job working for Liberty House which was a department store chain in the Hawaiian Islands. I worked there eight summers and moved permanently the end of May 1995. One of the first things I did was get my diving certification. I safely dived with Sandwich Isle Divers. Steve, the owner, only took six people. I was the first in and last out of the water. I had many humorous diving incidents. One day I told Steve I felt like a cowboy in that I spent my entire time trying to corral folks. One of my most exciting experiences involved a whale shark. When we saw it, we all got out our snorkels and jumped in. It was awesome! I was close enough to it at one point to reach out and touch it, but I didn’t. I thought, “I’m a visitor in your world and don’t want to disturb you.”
I also learned to play ukulele and played with three different groups for a while. We had a group which practiced here at the Casa once a week. We performed at The Regency, a very nice retirement apartment complex, which also has assisted living and an Alzheimer’s unit. We also played for various other events. We even got paid a few times.
If I could speak to the present Queens, I would tell them to work hard, give their best effort and then put forth a little extra effort, and above all never give up! I’d also tell them not to get upset when your coach gives you instructions. If your coach didn’t think you could be a much better player s/he wouldn’t say anything.
Probably my lowest time was when I was a senior, and Daddy passed away on December 28th. As a child, I went with him everywhere—in fact, people called me “little Tom.” Coach Redin, knowing Daddy probably wouldn’t make it, wrote him a letter. He was so surprised and pleased. Mother was as well, and I was so very appreciative of Coach Redin’s thoughtfulness!
Through the years, I’ve been able to keep up with of my teammates, though distance has kept us from seeing each other as often as we’d like. I was fortunate that Mona Poff Biscoe lived in Oklahoma. Thus, I was able to stop and spend some time with her on my way to and from visiting my mother in Missouri. Among the highlights of both of our lives was when the Queens were inducted into the National Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in June of 2013. I went to Garland, Texas, and visited with Mona and she and I flew to Knoxville together. When we arrived, we met Margaret Odom Parks and shared a cab to the hotel. Previous to that, Wayland hosted a reception for us in Waco. Once again, I flew to Garland, where Rita Alexander Colman picked Mona and me up and the three of us drove to Waco. There we got to visit and renew friendships with Cookie Barron, Kaye Garms, Louise Short and other team members. Each year thereafter, I’ve visited and stayed with Rita and, until Mona’s passing this past spring, Rita and I would visit and have lunch with her.
Playing basketball helped prepare me for all the “ups and downs” I’ve encountered during my life. I learned that you need to be adaptable and to make the best of each situation in which you find yourself. I found that you need to learn how to get along with all of various personalities you encounter. I learned that one of the most important things is to be humble—to remember you are not the most important and many times you are the least important person. Personally, I believe my strong faith in God and the knowledge He’s always with me has enabled me to get through all of life’s challenges.
I look forward to reconnecting with other Queens and supporters!
Wayland Grad 1959
Flying Queens Forever!