Toys in the Attic . . .

A Tale of the Grail –
Dr. John Nicholson, Bobby Arndt and Rufus Jones proudly show off the Ridgeway High School state championship trophy that the school’s 6-man basketball team brought home in 1935. The trophy was recently found after it went missing in 1960. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

Title Trophy Turns Up After 54 Years in Exile

RIDGEWAY – The Ridgeway Cardinals, the former Ridgeway High School’s 6-man basketball team, made their town proud in 1935 when they brought home the state championship trophy for Class C schools.

“It was the only time Ridgeway High School had ever won a state championship and the whole town was proud,” recalled Rufus Jones whose dad, Rufus Baxter Jones, played guard on the team.

Indeed, the folks in Ridgeway were proud of their boys. And the sports reporter for the Winnsboro newspaper at that time, A. B. Fennell, was euphoric in his story about the game.

“Displaying a brilliant-brand of basketball, the Ridgeway class C basketball team defeated Mt. Croghan at the University of South Carolina annual high school basketball tournament. The score was 39 to 23. The Ridgeway floor game was superior to that displayed by the Mt. Croghan team, and this was the biggest factor in their favor,” Fennell wrote.

But when the Fairfield County schools were consolidated in 1960, and all the county’s students were sent to the new Winnsboro High School (now Fairfield Central High School), the prized trophy went missing and was never seen again, until recently when Ridgeway resident Sarah Arndt was cleaning out her attic searching for treasures to sell in the Big Grab Yard Sale this weekend.

“She brought down this trophy and showed it to me and said, ‘What is this?’” her husband, Bobby Arndt, told The Voice.

After examining the slightly battered pewter trophy, Arndt realized it was the missing 1935 championship trophy. His mother, Frances Arndt, a first-grade teacher in the Ridgeway School for over 30 years, had apparently saved it from being discarded when the school was abandoned after the consolidation and eventually packed it away. Upon her death, the trophy passed to her daughter Sarah among boxes of household items.

Arndt immediately contacted Ridgeway brothers Rufus and Minor Jones to tell them that he had their dad’s trophy. Then he contacted retired Ridgeway dentist, Dr. John Nicholson, whose grandfather, A. R. Nicholson, had been both coach of the championship team and principal of the school in 1935.

The players’ names were engraved on the trophy: brothers Lawton and Billy Harley, Robert Hinnant, Rufus Baxter Jones, W. D. Watson, Arthur Heins and coach A. R. Nicholson.

Billy Harley, a cousin of Rufus and Miner Jones, is the only member of the team still living. He moved to Clemson several years ago where he lives with his son, Little Billy.

Arndt, Nicholson and Rufus Jones recently met at Ridgeway’s City Gas & Oil Café (formerly Stevie D’s) to pose for pictures with the trophy and make plans for its future safekeeping.

“As soon as the story about the trophy comes out in the paper,” Jones said, “Little Billy is going to drive down here and pick up the trophy and the newspaper and take them back to Clemson for his dad to see. Then he’ll return it and we’re going to put it in the Ridgeway Museum in The Century House where it can stay on display.”

“It has a few dents in it,” Jones said, examining the trophy closely, “but otherwise it’s in good shape to be 79 years old.”

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