I’m Lana Graf Ballou and I played for the Flying Queens from 1966-69.
I am the second of eight children and oldest daughter born to Allen and Marieta Graf in the small rural town of Olin, Iowa. Dad owned and operated the school buses (before buses became state owned) and Mother stayed at home to care for all of us. During my elementary years, we vacationed the country in a station wagon during the month of June. We slept in the car and cooked on a Coleman camp stove. I was programed for adventure.
Dad had been a good basketball player and he taught me basketball fundamentals starting in the third grade. With a hoop above the garage door, Dad poured the cement driveway to the exact specifications of a half-court basketball court. Free throw and lane lines were measured and put in as section dividers in the cement. We shot or played basketball year-round by sweeping off leaves or rain puddles, shoveling off snow, or chipping the ice off the court. In the winter we cut the fingertips out of my gloves so I could shoot and dribble. I learned a quick-release jump shot and a long two-hand set shot that enabled me to shoot over the high school boys and girls who gathered regularly at our court in town. In Iowa, girls played three-on-three rules with limited two dribbles, but on our court, everyone played unlimited dribbles no matter their age or gender or the number of players. No one sat out.
When I entered junior high, my family bought a “drive-in.” Mom was the cook and we kids were the car hops, serving burgers and ice cream. It helped pay for our college educations. Through junior high and high school, I started every game, except for the two when I had the flu. I averaged around 35 points per game during three of my years in high school. My sophomore year I averaged forty-eight- points and was ranked 5th in the state. This was without the advantage of three-point shots since there were no three-point shots back then. My last three years of high school I made the All-State Honorable Mention team and qualified for the state free throw contest. My high school team played in regionals and districts, but we never made it to the state tournament. There were no classifications based on school size back then and the big schools didn’t even compete until 1972.
My senior year I was invited to play in the state East/West All-Star game. I was recommended by a very respected state coach from our conference, Bob Mullin of Monticello Sacred Heart High School. Gene Klinge, the coach of our East team, was a great coach. He took West Central of Maynard to the state tournament numerous times and still holds the record as the winningest girls’ coach in Iowa history. Coach Klinge taught us patterned offenses, which I was not used to since at Olin we mainly set screens and rolls or tried to beat our guard one on one. My East team lost the first night’s game and was behind by fifteen points to start the fourth quarter the next night when coach Klinge “cleared the bench” of the non-starters so we would get an opportunity to play. Unbeknownst to me, Coach Harley Redin was at that All-Star game and had observed me during warm-ups. Coach Redin had seen enough by the end of that third quarter and left to fly back to Texas. I got to start the fourth quarter and went on to score twenty-two points to give us the win. Coach Redin never got to see me in action!
Thus, it was a complete surprise when he called and offered me a scholarship to play for the Flying Queens (of whom I had never heard) at Wayland College in Plainview, Texas. I was already registered at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and planned to play basketball there but was informed they were dropping their AAU status the following year. Two weeks later my parents dropped me off at the Wayland campus 1000 miles from home. I was excited to have a chance play for the Flying Queens and I am proud to be one of three Iowa girls who were privileged to do so. Anita Sanky (1965-66) and Brenda Moeller (1972-75) were the other two.
One of my first impressions when I arrived on campus was that I should probably buy some cowboy boots if I wanted to fit in. 😊 I was also surprised at the size of the antiquated gym in which the Queens practiced. It was so small that we had to play our games in the Plainview High School gym. Linda Pickens (Price), an aspiring Queen from rural Oklahoma, was my roommate in Mays Hall and it was soon a case of BFF. Adhering to the strict Wayland campus rules created challenges. These included: having to wear a skirt or a wrap-around skirt over our shorts, after a long sweaty practice, so we could eat in the cafeteria; mandatory chapel three days a week; no dances (we loved to dance!); and getting demerits if our beds weren’t made, But in spite of rules that we considered ridiculous, the Wayland experience contributed positively in many different ways to later life decisions and beliefs.
I have many good memories of my days at Wayland. Unforgettable ones for me are: Dr. McCoy’s calculus class, playing saxophone in the Wayland band, being on the campus student council when we got Neil Diamond to give a concert on the chapel stage, going to a mental health institute with Linda’s psych class, dissecting fetal pigs in Dr. Bower’s science labs, and studying genetics. Also, rubbing elbows with cowboys/cowgirls, ministers, athletes and students from all around the country and the world was an education in diversity for this girl from rural Iowa back in the ‘60s.
I only played in a few tournament games with the Queen Bees before Coach Redin moved me up to the varsity. He also had Linda and me move over to Owen Hall so we would be in the same dorm with the other Flying Queens. Flying Queen, Barbara McAninch, was our suitemate and floor monitor. I think Harley wanted her to keep an eye on us, though that was really unnecessary because we were both model citizens and serious students. 😊
To illustrate, I remember a general psych unit that taught us how to study using self-hypnosis. Of course, Linda and I took it a step further and tried to hypnotize each other! We stopped doing that after I managed to get Linda to do whatever I told her to do. That scared me to death and really scared Linda when she realized I had control of her (even if for only a few minutes)! Another time we procrastinated studying for an English lit test until late the night before the test, so we took “No-Doze” to enable us to stay up all night studying. It knocked me out immediately and I slept until it was time to go to class the next morning! Needless to say, Linda did better on that test than me. Some of our other antics were documented in Linda’s story.
Regarding basketball, the four-on-four game that the AAU was playing when I arrived at Wayland was very unique and quite an adjustment for me. However, I loved the strategy involved and playing the rover position was great fun as well as challenging. This rover-rules game served only as a transition between the three-on-three girls’ basketball that I played in high school to the five-on-five game which came into effect for colleges in 1971. Coach Redin was a strong proponent of the five-on-five game and worked tirelessly for that rule change. The rest of the world was playing five-on-five so for the USA teams and the Queens to be competitive internationally, they needed to play the five-on-five game full time. Coach knew women were strong and that running up and down the court would not affect their fertility, contrary to many social beliefs. We endured tenacious workouts, ferocious competition and an unwavering devotion to our teammates. Coach was calm, confident and encouraging. Winning wasn’t something we hoped for, it was what we totally believed in and strived for, thus helping us become strong, confident and achieving women. I loved playing with such outstanding players and amazing individuals who hailed from Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee.
Flying in four-seater airplanes to away games was incredible though sometimes a scary and/or sickly experience for me. I remember once riding with Claude when he put the plane on auto pilot while he trimmed his little mustache. Another time when I was flying with Coach, the plane suddenly just quit running in mid- air. My life flashed before me for what seemed liked forever and then Harley reached over and switched to the other gas tank!
I’ll also never forget the incredible generosity of Claude and Wilda Hutcherson, who truly treated us like queens both at home and in the many cities to which we flew. By far, my most notable trip was to Mexico City to play the Mexican National Team. We were given the red-carpet treatment with a Latin flourish. When we ate in a café, we were vigorously serenaded. In our hotel, we were served a seven-course meal where the main course was a plate-sized slab of meat that most of us couldn’t eat. It wasn’t that we were too full. It was because our hosts had taken us to a bull fight that afternoon and we couldn’t face that meat after seeing the matadors kill the bulls. Barbara McAninch was in tears and most of us were upset so we left early. I remember getting a lot of attention where ever I went because the Mexican people weren’t used to seeing blondes. I also remember being warned not to eat street food or drink the water. Linda Tucker must not have been paying attention because she snagged a street taco and paid dearly. To avoid the water, we drank Coke. We even brushed our teeth with it (decay on the way).
Other fun trips were flying Gallup, New Mexico to play in the National AAU tournament and going to Nashville to compete against our rivals, Nashville Business College whose star player was Nera White. Nera was an amazing athlete! She led NBC to 10 national AAU championships was named the Most Outstanding Player in the AAU national tournament 10 times and was an AAU All-American 15 years in a row. She was also the first woman inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame (1992). I remember actually winning a jump ball against her— once!
It was also exciting to play in front of Iowa friends and family when we played the Piperettes in Kansas City, Missouri, Look Magazine in Des Moines, Iowa, Midwestern College in Denison, Iowa, and John F. Kennedy College in Wahoo Nebraska—a team that lost the National Championships to the Queens in 1972, 1973 and 1974. I didn’t realize until many years later that Coach Redin and E. Wayne Cooley, Executive Secretary of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union for 48 years, were the best of friends. Both served on several basketball boards together and both were inducted into the National Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee for their contributions to women’s basketball. I am grateful for, and a beneficiary of, that connection.
My sophomore year It was devastating when, in a game, I came down on another player’s foot and fractured my ankle. I was in a cast for six weeks. Watching, instead of playing, for the rest of the season was incredibly hard. During my junior year at Wayland, I decided to major in physical education. This brought the realization that it was probably in my best interest to transfer to the University of Iowa, a leading program in the nation in women’s physical education. I left Wayland with science and math minors and incredible memories of playing for the Flying Queens. My decision proved to be a good one for my career, but I truly missed the Flying Queens and opportunities that might have been. Once a Queen, always a Queen. (I was asked to try out for the first women’s Hawkeye basketball team.)
Attending the University of Iowa was a life-changing experience for me. I went from a sheltered environment to being very aware of what was going on in the world. The Vietnam war protests dominated college campuses that year and the Kent State shooting occurred. The Title IX debate was raging, and the feminist movement brought about a mind change I had never experienced before.
I graduated from the University of Iowa with teaching degrees in physical education and science and married my high school sweetheart, Jim, upon his return from the Vietnam war. For the next forty years I taught physical education and science at the junior high and high school levels and coached basketball, softball, volleyball and track.
I taught all-girl classes for a several years before co-ed classes were mandated. Tipton High School required physical education for every student, and we offered over forty different units. We introduced students to dance, individual and lifetime activities, and to traditional sports. The students also experienced the how-tos and whys of wellness and ran a mile at the beginning of each class. It was very gratifying when the school board voted to give equal graduation credit for physical education and to count its grade into the students’ GPA for graduation. Our program at Tipton was unique in the state of Iowa.
In 1992, I was honored to be named Secondary Physical Education Teacher of the Year (a combined effort with my physical education and health colleagues at Tipton, with our supportive administration, and our awesome students.) I felt fortunate to represent the state of Iowa at the Midwest Regional convention in Wyoming and Nationals in Portland, Oregon. During those years, I served on the state board of the Physical Education Association as vice president of secondary physical education. In 2010, I retired from teaching and coaching but continue to officiate high school volleyball matches and was excited to be invited to officiate at the State Tournament in 2011.
Jim, after returning from Vietnam, graduated from Mt. Mercy College with a degree in social work. We moved back to Olin to a family farm and had two daughters (Rhonda and Jaimie) and fed cattle and hogs along with growing corn and soybeans. When Jim took a social work job in Cedar Rapids, we quit the hog business (which I was happy to do). We were fortunate that both sets of grandparents lived in Olin. They helped us tremendously.
During the late ‘70s and ‘80s most communication with former Queens and Wayland friends ceased while family and career obligations took my time. In 1990, upon receiving an invitation to attend a Flying Queens reunion, I reconnected with many teammates and continue close ties today. I am currently on the board of the Hutcherson Flying Queens Foundation.
Today Jim and I are retired and living on the family farm. Jim still farms part-time (crops only). We keep busy following our four granddaughters’ sports and school activities (sometimes coaching with/without their approval). 😊 I continue to officiate volleyball and am active in my church.
For many years my hobbies have included: running road races (30 years), playing my sax in a polka band, playing adult fast pitch softball and coaching my daughters’ softball teams. I continue to do stained glass and wood craft projects, garden and go kayaking with the “sisterhood.” A week-long fishing trip in Minnesota, with the extended Ballou family, has continued for over forty years. We also spend time at our cabin on the Mississippi river throughout the year. For the past seven years Jim and I have spent February in South Padre, Texas to escape the worst of Iowa winters. We are good friends with my college roommate’s (Linda Price) family and visit them in Oklahoma a couple times a year as well. We are avid fans of the Hawkeyes and are always looking for an excuse to travel. Following the Queens to Las Vegas and to Nationals in Kansas City was a great thrill and we hope to continue doing that for many more years. Nationals are in Sioux City, Iowa starting in 2021. I hope to see many of you there!
Lana Graf Ballou
Wayland Grad 1969
Flying Queens Forever!