Former Annandale High School basketball coach Jim Donaldson is inviting all his former players to a reunion he is organizing at The Carriage Hall, 25 Brock Street West, Tillsonburg, on Saturday, April 29.
Social time starts at 1 p.m. followed by a buffet supper later in the day.
"With some special speeches, and plenty of stories," said Donaldson, who would like to reflect on some of the players they have lost as a memorial. " There are a number of former players who have passed away and we want to remember them."
The informal Annandale basketball get-together started fairly small and grew into something much larger.
"If you were a Marauder, and played for me anywhere from 1969-1980, then you're invited. We had to expand it. We wanted to open it up to all the guys who played."
Donaldson will be bringing his extensive collection of memorabilia and photos.
"And the guys, who knows what they have? But apparently 'the bench' will not be there.
April 15th is a key date, he noted. Anyone who would like to attend needs to contact Donaldson for accurate caterer numbers.
"I think I have almost all the names," said Donaldson, who went through his yearbooks, photographs and articles to compile a list of 81 names.
Contacting the former players, however, has been a challenge.
"It's so hard, so many people have cell phones. So where do you go to get their number if you don't have it? You don't. So I've been phoning relatives, or at least people I think are relatives."
If you're one of the 80-plus who hasn't been contacted, contact Donaldson at firstname.lastname@example.org (or call 519-842-2753).
"I talked to a few guys, and they said 'it would be nice to get together.' From that idea I thought it 'well, maybe it's time.' We could share stories, see each other, socialize and just have a good time. So we decided to do it."
He considered inviting the 1976-77 OFSAA team, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
And then the last Marauder senior boys basketball team from 1979-80.
"It was a weird year because the midget and juniors were already Gemini."
As well as Donaldson's first Annandale basketball team from 1969-70. And then it just grew. He didn't want to leave anyone out.
"I did the juniors that first year. It was a case of coming to this town, not knowing the players, not knowing about Glendale - well, not much. I did know who the Tillsonburg Livvies were, but what I didn't know is that their offspring was going to school now."
The Junior Marauders improved from 1-11 the year before to playing at the Oxford-Elgin championship in 1970, which they lost by one point.
"We lost a semifinal by one point, then we had a playoff to see who was going (WOSSA) A, and we lost that by one point. The thing is with that group of guys, there really wasn't an emphasis on basketball at the school. It was a football school - we did all kinds of things in football. We had some good athletes. I tried to get volleyball going at junior. Had a nice little team and was bringing the whole bunch up to senior... and I thought we're going to have a good team. I lost four of the starting six to the football program that fall. A couple of them were big, tall strapping kids and," Donaldson laughed, "all of sudden they're gone - and I don't have much of a volleyball team. That happened two or three years in a row. That's just the way it went. I can't blame them, but it was frustrating."
The biggest struggle for Annandale basketball, said Donaldson, was trying to achieve a form of parity with Glendale.
"In '73 we didn't have a senior team. The year we came back, we didn't have a great record but the kids tried hard."
Annandale and Glendale had 'loose' geographic catchment areas for students, but in general Annandale was more of a business/academic school, while Glendale, when it opened in 1960, went with a more technical route, which included machine shop, woodworking and drafting type courses, rather than language and business courses.
"The ratio was kind of interesting because our school, Annandale, was roughly four girls for every boy. So the odds were really good... for the guys. And then Glendale was the opposite, four to one for the boys.
"So when you're talking about a population of 700 people, we were looking at less than 200 boys, and that's all you have to choose from. As a result, you had a lot of athletes who did two or three sports. The good athletes went from one season to another. It was kind of fun to have that situation."
Annandale had good basketball coaches, said Donaldson, at each level, including Bob Burleigh and Fred DeVriendt.
"Eventually, the last three years, we reached parity with Glendale. They won some big games, and we did too. It was like we had arrived."
In 76-77, Annandale played East Elgin in the Oxford-Elgin semifinals.
"They were tough, it was a very physical, draining game, but we won down there. They (Glendale) played Arthur Voaden at Glendale and beat them pretty easily, so we played Glendale the next day in the final. The score at half-time was 19-17. It was really close but no one was really doing much. We were really beat, tired. And they (Glendale) were just missing shots. And then in the second half, David Coulthard, the future All-Canadian and should have played on the Olympic team - that David - he had a couple threes from..." Donaldson smiled, "the stands somewhere. So they ended up beating us by 10, but we played well and they played well. It was a good match."
Donaldson recalls beating the Griffins at Glendale the year they retired Coulthard's number.
"The place went nuts."
The green-and-gold vs black-and-gold rivalry was real, and sometimes even involved related players.
"We had a few cases where we had a kid who played for us early, then they ended up going across town. That didn't go over well sometimes, but it happened."
Annandale went on to win WOSSA A three times, making three trips to OFSAA as Marauders.
"It was a rivalry with Glendale, and very competitive, but it was a good rivalry because we pushed each other. And they were friends with each other - it is a small town."
Donaldson and Glendale coach Brian O'Rourke went on to coach the first Gemini senior boys basketball team together.
"With the two groups of guys we had, coming together? Hello! Everybody was like 'what?' It was a great year. We had a great time and I thoroughly enjoyed it."