If you attend tonight’s reunion of the “Jolly Green Giants” at Parkview High School, and you want to greet the mid-1960s iconic basketball team, you better get it right.
The catch phrase is “Ho! Ho! Ho!” and said in a baritone, deep voice, just like in the canned vegetable commercials from yesteryear. Because, the last time someone got it wrong, they paid the price.
Gail Fredrick, a Springfield attorney and former All-Ozarks player for the group, remembers walking into a gym in Jefferson City for a state quarterfinal game against Columbia Hickman. There, Hickman students had posted a sign mocking the Vikings: “Jolly Green Giants: Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“The game was over then,” Fredrick said this week. “Because, when we looked at that sign, we said, ‘You want to see the Jolly Green Giants? You’re going to see them tonight.'”
Predictably, coach Bill Harding’s team rolled to a 61-40 win against Hickman en route to a state title.
The “Jolly Green Giants” make their grand return tonight as three seasons of legendary mid-1960s high school basketball will be celebrated before the home varsity game against Glendale. The reunion begins at 6:30 p.m.
Parkview also invited players from other successful eras, and more than 50 former players are expected, with the program hosting a reception after the varsity game.
But the focus will be on the “Jolly Green Giants,” whose 1964-65 team was voted by News-Leader readers in 1999 as the Ozarks high school boys basketball “Team of the Century.”
Local stockbroker Steve Hutchinson, a leader of that Parkview era, said nearly 20 of the players from the three teams are expected to attend. John Weston, who joined Fredrick on the ’65 All-Ozarks team, lives in Florida and will not be able to attend. Gail Fredrick’s brother, Virgle, another standout, is coming up from Texas for the reunion.
All five starters are expected in attendance from the first team in the stretch, when the Vikings won the 1964-1965 Class L (Large) state tournament championship – a title flanked the year before and the year after with second-place finishes. In a three-year span, Parkview finished with an 81-4 record.
“It’ll be a really neat event, not only for the players but for some of the students and residents,” Fredrick said. “There will be guys coming from out of town who weren’t able to make it for the last reunion (in 1999).”
The Vikings lost one game in the 1964-65 championship season, its fourth game against Fort Smith Northside. The hosts and eventual Arkansas state champion Grizzlies stalled throughout and beat Parkview 34-32.
“Not that we remember that or anything,” joked Hutchinson after he and Fredrick bitterly relived detail after detail of that loss.
Hutchinson was a junior on the team.
Fredrick added: “That loss sort of caused us to refocus, and realize that it can happen, and we’re not going to let that happen again.”
Parkview did not lose again for a long time, running off 54 consecutive wins over two seasons. It included a 67-50 win in the state championship game against previously unbeaten Kansas City Center.
Harding surprised the team by announcing his resignation in the locker room following the state championship victory at the Kiel Auditorium in 1965, becoming basketball coach and athletic director at then-Drury College.
Bob Brown then took over, guiding the team to the second-place finish a year later.
Current Parkview coach Bill Brown, Bob’s son, organized the reunion in part because this season is a celebration of Glendale’s 50th season of basketball. He wanted to add his own taste of history to the rivalry game against the Falcons.
“This is an honor for me because I’ve heard about these players for so long,” Brown said. “But to see them now, and how successful they are, and how involved in the community they are, that’s what I like about it.”
The coach has told his Vikings (17-5) not to be nervous about the game but to enjoy the atmosphere and picture what it must have been like during the “Jolly Green Giant” glory days.
“It gives them a sense of what history was, to know this gym was packed with every game and the doors locked at 6 p.m.,” Brown said. “As a coach, thinking about that just sticks the hair up on my arm.”
Jolly Green Giants
27-2, Class L second place
Team: David Callaway, Larry Carpenter, Steve Cash, Jack Cox, Gail Fredrick, Virgle Fredrick, Steve Grace, Kenny Morris (manager), Jim McAlear, Larry O’Reilly, Bret Park, David Wade and John Weston
Coach: Bill Harding
27-1, Class L champions
Team: Tom Bollinger, Larry Carpenter, Jack Cox, Rick Davis, Gail Fredrick, Virgle Fredrick, Steve Hutchinson, Tom Moore (manager), Kenny Morris (manager), Larry O’Reilly, Bret Park, Neil Pittman, Larry Shertz, Ray Snelling, David Wade, K.G. Wells and John Weston
Coach: Bill Harding
27-1, Class L second place
Team: Doug Block, Tom Bollinger, Richard Cunningham, David Finley (manager), Virgle Fredrick, Rusty Hale, Bob Hurt, Steve Hutchinson, Greg Nicholson, David O’Reilly, Mike Potenger, Bud Rice, Kenny Smith (manager), Ray Snelling, K.G. Wells and Brent Wilson
Coach: Bob Brown
Click here for movie: Memories from the “Jolly Green Giants”