Cuffless trousers, narrower lapels, the proverbial cup,'and one cup only,'of rationed coffee and military commitment.
Well-worn leather basketballs, too. Rubber then was a more precious commodity than gold and couldn’t be wasted frivolously on a silly game. And thousands of boys and girls “over there’’ needed wool overcoats and cotton clothes.
Those were the days, truly dollar-a-days, for those working their way through college. Brother could you spare a dime sometimes meant you were flush even if you were on the receiving end of the deal.
Such was the life and times dictated by the Great Depression and World War II.
At 87 years of youthful exuberance, Holstein, Iowa,'native Ray Wehde, newly inducted into the Iowa State University Athletic Hall of Fame for wonderful basketball exploits, vividly recalls coming of age in no ordinary time.
“We lived on 11 acres on the edge of Holstein and my father had a creamery business that we lost because of the Depression so we grew up poor,’’ said Wehde after a recent turn on the tennis courts near his retirement home in Palm Desert, Calif. “When you had to work hard for anything and everything it made you that much more appreciative when you got the opportunity to experience the finer things of life, you might say.’’
Even though Ray and younger twin brother Roy grew up poor they did experience the finer things of athletic life at Holstein High School.
“I’m two hours older than Roy and you probably wonder about that, but were the last two of nine brothers and sisters,’’ said Ray. “We got involved in sports of all kinds and that really made high school fun.
“Back in those days, the doctors, I guess, weren’t all that aware about the possibility of twins and after I was born my mother wasn’t feeling too well, we were later told, and two hours later out comes Roy.
“We had basketball, especially, at the center of our lives.
“Verdean Goettsch lived about two blocks from us and the three of us were inseparable growing up.’’
The Wehde twins, whose parents were both born in Germany, and Goettsch wound up being all-state basketball players, leading Holstein High to its two greatest seasons of basketball and football.
As juniors, the Black Pirates won all of their football games without giving up a single point. As seniors, the football team was again undefeated, giving up two points on a lone safety.
“We’re remembered more for basketball, but we played football, too, and ran track,’’ admits Wehde, “and that’s only natural.’’
In the 1939-40 season, Holstein defeated Humeston and Diagonal in the state tournament before a 29-game winning streak was severed by Ames in the state semifinals, then trimmed Muscatine in the consolation tussle to finish 30-1.
More and greater things were in store in ‘40-41.
The postseason tournament format called for competition in Class A and Class B and everyone was thrown into the mix for the one-class state tournament at Drake Fieldhouse in Des Moines.
After beating Storm Lake and Sioux City Central in substate squabbles, the Black Pirates of Coach A.J. Van Citters roared into Des Moines with 32-0 record and whipped Iowa City St. Mary’s and Mason City before losing to mighty Davenport High in the title game, 31-26, closing 34-1.
“Those things happen,’’ sighed Wehde, “but we picked that game to have our worst of the season.
“Oh, Davenport was good, but we could have been a lot better. We had'100 boys in school and Davenport was the biggest school in the state with something like 2,000 or more kids.
“Confidence was our thing. We ran what we called a criss-cross offense and didn’t pass very much. ‘Deanie’ (Goettsch) was 6-foot-5 or so and dominated the boards and the center jump.”
In 1941, Ray Wehde was named to the Iowa Daily Press Association all-state basketball first team, while Roy Wehde and Goettsch were named to the second team. As a junior, Goettsch, who passed away a few years ago, was named to the third all-state team.
Goettsch remained a Holstein resident as a small businessman and also served in the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Department.
He was also a football standout, earning first-team all-state honors as a lineman in 1940. That first team also included Fairfield’s Ronnie Norman, later a basketball teammate of the Wehdes at Iowa State.
The Holstein athletes from the school’s largest graduating class (at that time) of 30 boys and 15 girls were named to one-class all-state squads in both sports.
The Wehdes grew up in an athletic environment.
Older brother Wilber “Biggs’’ Wehde pitched for the old Sioux City minor league Cowboys on his way to a short stay with the Chicago White Sox in the American League.
Biggs, who came by the nickname for obvious reasons, passed away in Sioux Falls in 1970. He was 17 years older than the twins and appeared in four games with the White Sox in 1930, then posted a 1-0 record in eight relief appearances with the Pale Hose in 1931, striking out three and allowing 19 hits in 16 innings.
“Biggs was someone we all looked up to,’’said Ray, whose brother Roy lives in retirement in Greeley, Colo. “Gosh, he was in the Major Leagues. That’s quite an accomplishment.
“Roy and I try to stay active, too. We get together to play 80-over doubles in (tennis)'tournaments. We might not win, but we’re competitive.’’
The twins each stood a shade under 6-foot-2 in their playing days.
Ray was inducted into the Iowa High School basketball Hall of Fame in 1971 and Goettsch, for football and basketball prowess, in 1985.
Never awed or awestruck in high school competition, the Wehdes experienced that on there first trip to Iowa State.
“Enrolling as freshmen and going onto that beautiful campus with its buildings and everything, now that was awe-inspiring for a couple of country boys,’’ said Ray.
By the time the Wehdes concluded their stay in Ames they drew the awe of others, however.
“We didn’t have scholarships so we had to work jobs to pay for our tuition and board and books,’’ said the former dairyman and insurance executive (State Farm regional director living for a time in Lincoln), “but as freshmen we weren’t eligible for the varsity and didn’t even practice with them.
“I remember the freshman team was open to anyone and sometimes there were 90 kids there trying to catch the coach’s eye.’’
The twins, though, made a big splash, winding up as four-year lettermen and All-Big Six selections.
The Iowa State basketball media guide lists the twins as freshmen in 1942-43 when Ray paced the 7-9 Cyclones with a 7.8 scoring average.
The next season came the hallowed 1944 NCAA tournament campaign when Ray averaged 7.7 points and Roy 6.5 to rank second and fourth for the co-Big Six champs (with Oklahoma).
It was a ‘‘do we or don’t we’’ accept an invitation to what, in those days, was more of a Little Dance (The NIT was the big deal).
After a confusing hubbub that saw Iowa State accept, then decline, then accept the invitation, the Cyclones wound up in the Western Regional in Kansas City, Mo.,'beating Pepperdine (in what was ostensibly the Final Four) then losing to eventual champ Utah.
The ‘44 team also included Sioux Cityan James Myers.
Ray Wehde fouled out (only'four allowed) in the first half of the loss to Utah and scoring leader Price Brookfield, a 23-year-old (11.6 ppg) who had enlisted in the Navy and was enrolled in ISU’s officer training program, went 1-for-12 from the field.
At the conclusion of the ‘44 tournament the Wehdes went on active duty with the U.S. Navy (they’d been enrolled in the V-12 officer training program at ISU after their first varsity season), as had several of their teammates, and spent almost two years in the service, each leaving military duty as ensigns.
They could have stayed on active duty but chose to return to Iowa State.
Missing the ‘44-45 and ‘45-46, Ray averaged 8.3 points to lead the team in 1946-47 and collected an even nine points a game in his final season in 1947-48 when Roy averaged 4.9 points.
“The Iowa State press guide says I was the first freshman to lead the team in scoring, but that’s not true,’’ says Ray, who went into partnership with his brother in the purchase of a dairy business in Wray, Colo., after they graduated.
Rules during the war also allowed a graduate of one college to enroll at another and be eligible to play one season.
Those rules eventually allowed the Wehdes and hundreds of other ex-GIs all around the country play four varsity seasons even though they hadn’t been eligible for varsity during their freshman college year.
Consequently, Iowa State, for the glorious Big Six championship season of 1943-44, acquired the services of the 6-foot-4 Price Brookfield, a smooth and classy cager who had already graduated from West Texas State, earning All-America plaudits and played in some fledgling pro leagues, including the Waterloo Pro Hawks of the Professional Basketball League of America.
ISU went on to a 14-4 overall record, going 9-1 in the Big Six. The other regular-season losses were to Iowa Pre-Flight and Oklahoma, but the Cyclones also beat the Sooners to split the title.
Before going back to civilian life, Ray Wehde had one final fling with basketball.
The Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association, which played its first season in 1946-47, selected Ray and 10 others in the league’s 1948 draft.
“The NBA was pretty new and I didn’t know much about it or the Celtics,’’ recalls Wehde. “I was married and I took my wife Virginia, we’ve been married 62 years now, with me to the tryout camp.
“Well, that was taboo I soon learned.
“I just decided after some time there that pro basketball wasn’t me. I had a $5,000 contract, not guaranteed, but Walter Brown was the owner and he allowed me to break the contract and he was even good enough to give me $300 for travel for us to go back to Iowa.’’
While Brookfield became the first Cyclone to play in the NBA, averaging 8.2 point in 54 games for the old Indianapolis Jets in 1948-49 and 4.9 points in seven games with the Rochester Royals in ‘49-50, Ray is considered Iowa State’s first NBA draftee.