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Basketball Hall, built from the ground up

By G. Michael Dobbs, Managing Editor
I was at my favorite watering hole last week when the Basketball Hall of Fame induction was being televised by ESPN. One woman looked up at a television screen and expressed her approval practically glee that Springfield was on national television.
The shot that impressed her and me as well was a beautifully composed shot of the exterior of Symphony Hall with the campanile at the side. The interior shots of the hall were also impressive.
I couldn't help but wonder what the late Lee Williams would have thought of all this.
I bet you haven't heard of Williams, but he played a crucial role in what happened last week he made the Hall of Fame happen in the first place.
Williams was the executive director of the Hall of Fame who actually built the first museum. A basketball coach at Colby College, he came to Springfield with the daunting task of filling a hole literally. The foundation for the first building on the Springfield College campus had been dug out in 1962, but the funding wasn't complete to finish the building.
Williams did that and the hall opened in 1968 and I don't think any public money was involved.
I worked at that incarnation of the Hall of Fame from my junior year of high school through college and a little beyond. It was a surreal job. Most of the time you tried to make sure overzealous fans didn't try to steal someone's shirt and direct people to the restrooms. Everyone wanted to take a photo of Bob Lanier's size 21 sneakers, so hoisting a shoe out of its display area was also commonplace.
But then sometimes, Dave Cowens, for example, was standing before you wanting to buy admission for himself and his two nephews. I let him in for free. Or Red Auerbach was sitting on a couch in the entrance area watching a game on television and swearing at the top of his lungs
Sorry, but younger readers may need to Google these names. It was the 1970s.
Now, Williams was a slightly larger than life guy who seemed to enjoy the role of rooting for the Yankees here in the middle of Red Sox Nation. He could be a demanding guy and a difficult boss, but he and I got along well enough.
He was the director when the second Hall of Fame was built and retired after it was opened.
I have to give the devil his due, though. He made the Hall of Fame a reality after people had been talking about it for about 30 years. It would be great if occasionally someone gave him a nod.

***
People in both Chicopee and Springfield expressed concern about the lackluster turnout for the primary election last week, especially in Springfield where the election noted the return of ward representation on the City Council and School Committee.
I think there is a steep learning curve for Springfield residents when it comes to this new way to have your voice heard. An election is a two-way street. The candidates and voters both have to work.
Now that the candidates have been selected, I certainly expect to see a lively race.

***
The superintendent of Longmeadow's school offered a reply to my column last week, which is in our letters section. I think readers throughout our region will find it interesting.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to news@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St.,East Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.


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