School Gymnasiums Were A Place For Sports But Also Community

In “Historic Texas Gyms,” Jackie McBroom profiles several school gymnasiums built in the 1930s and ’40s that are windows to midcentury life.

By Savana DunningDecember 13, 2019 3:05 pm, ,

There was a time when school gymnasiums served as cultural hubs in small Texas towns. People would gather at these halls of athletic showmanship even if their child wasn’t playing in a game.

But that golden age is gone. Many gyms built during the middle of the 20th century are mere shells of what they once were. But Jackie McBroom wanted to keep their history alive, so he gathered stories about old gyms in his book “Historic Texas Gyms: A Tribute to Vanishing Traditions.”

“The book, it’s not about great basketball games or great volleyball games,” McBroom says. “It’s about things that happened in the gym or around the gym that had an impact on the folks in that community.”

Some of these gyms were built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and ‘40s. That federal agency put millions of Americans to work on public projects to help the country recover from the Great Depression.  

McBroom says there’s value in remembering the stories of those who experienced the gyms at their peak because it offers a window to the struggles of past generations.

“There’s a real feeling of nostalgia. As you read the book, we are hearkened back to ‘better’ times,” McBroom says. “But they really weren’t better; they were very hard times. Stories of our Greatest Generation.”


Written by Antonio Cueto.