Feb. 21, 2019
By David Nordby The Brillion News
REEDSVILLE – Reedsville in 1946 wasn’t the same place as it is today.
It was home to 617 people, eight taverns, four grocery stores, two meat markets, a shoe store and a jewelry store.
“It was a little self-sufficient town,” 90-year-old Bernard Kubale says. “It was a very, very different community.”
It was that year when Kubale and his teammates at Reedsville High School earned a state basketball championship – the one that’s commemorated on the village’s welcome sign on Highway 10. Back then, there was only one division for the entire state.
“If you’ve seen the movie Hoosiers, that’s us in Wisconsin,” Kubale said.
Kubale was one of the five starters along with Karl “Keg” Maertz, Roman “Buster” Kugle, Eddie Shimon and Hank Behnke. They were coached by John Gable.
Kubale grew up on the same block as Kugle and Shimon. There wasn’t a football team in Reedsville back in those days; there were 87 kids at the high school.
“Basketball was our sport and Brillion was our archrival,” Kubale said.
The five starters typically played an entire game, a drastic change from the sport today.
“We had visions of winning the Little Nine Conference, as it was known in those days. We were hopeful we would get to the state tournament sometime,” Kubale said.
They thought their year was in 1945, during Kubale’s junior season. They went undefeated in the regular season. Then they hit a roadblock.
“Brillion of all people beat us, and we just beat them a week before in a regular conference game … To say we were cocky was an understatement,” Kubale said.
The following year is when the Panthers broke through.
“The next year we were lucky enough to do it, but when you’re a little school playing the big schools, you have to be very, very lucky and hot at the right time,” Kubale said.
In the state tournament in Madison they defeated Racine Park 30-28, Wisconsin Rapids 47-43 and Eau Claire 48-39.
The official WIAA records from that season reads: Few gave the boys from the small village a second thought when they qualified for the State Meet … The boys from Reedsville when the pressure was on. One remark after the meet by a veteran coach is significant – “We never really found out how good Reedsville was. They produced when needed and then played good enough ball to win.”
To say basketball was different then is another understatement. There were no jump shots, no dunks, no 3-point line, no 3-point attempts, no possession arrow, free throws were shot underhand and a player who was fouled could elect to take the ball out of bounds.
Kubale says that growing up in Reedsville was great, though he never lived there again after high school graduation.
“I loved it. It was great. It was a time when with eight kids, our mother just turned us loose at the beginning of the morning,” Kubale said.
The family would come home for meals throughout the day.
“In between you did whatever you wanted to do and tried to stay out of trouble or if you got in trouble you didn’t let your mother know about it,” Kubale said.
Kubale’s father’s bar isn’t there anymore, but it was on 6th Street and Menasha.
“My father spent all of his time at the tavern, unfortunately,” Kubale said. He helped with the family business cleaning spittoons and doing other tasks.
Kubale says that nobody in the village had a lot of money, but everyone stuck together without a lot of cliques.
His father was one of the people who didn’t make the trip to Madison to see Reedsville win the state championship. When they returned to the village, it was a festive day.
“They met us on the outskirts of the town with the fire truck and the sirens blowing … It was really something and a big welcoming party,” Kubale said.
They wore the championship on their sleeves – literally.
“Of course, we capitalized on it,” Kubale jokes. “I think I wore my letter sweater every day. Any girl you met you told, if she didn’t know it already because you’re wearing a letter sweater, that you played on the team.”
There were stories written in state newspapers and they were invited to area Lion’s Club group meetings.
“We milked it pretty well,” Kubale said.
Please see the complete story in the Feb. 7, 2019 edition of The Brillion News. Photos are credit of the Kubale family.