Whenever the Olympics come round my husband, Grit, reminisces about the time in 1956 that as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Australia North Mission, he and other elders played a game against the Australian Olympic team, which the missionaries won.
We have a picture of them after the game all tired but happy.
The missionaries in the Australia South Mission in Melbourne, where the 1956 Olympics were held, were heavily involved with practicing with the Olympic team. They were dubbed “The Mormon Yankees” and were featured in the book “Mormon Yankees: Giants On and Off the Court,” and a movie titled "Spirit of the Game" (see "The spirit of the Mormon Yankees basketball team is portrayed in new movie ‘Spirit of the Game’" on deseretnews.com).
The impact of the teams had a positive effect. "As a result, good things happened for the LDS Church over the next two and a half decades," according to "'Mormon Yankees' is story of hoops and missionary work in Australia," published on deseretnews.com about the book. "Several positive articles were published that dispelled myths about the church. During the peak of the Mormon Yankees’ popularity, 1955-1960, the LDS Church in Australia tripled in size. The Yankees were especially influential among athletes as examples in living the of the Word of Wisdom."
Likely, that was why my husband and the elders serving in New South Wales and Queensland had the opportunity to also play the Olympic team. These young men had no uniforms, but did have a good time, albeit a sweaty one, and some memories.
For our family, that’s enough, especially for our grandson Cade, who served a Mandarin speaking mission in the same area as his grandfather. They all enjoy seeing the picture of their 20-year-old dad and grandpa.
The memory of the game is there, too, but Grit could recall only one of the names of the other players, an Elder Smith who is on his left in the picture. Friends who also served in Australia, John Covey and Cecil Clark, came up with another name. The tall elder on the right is Jerry I. John.
If a picture is important enough to keep, as in this case, having names would be nice. If anyone out there reading this article recognizes someone, please relay it back to me.
Thinking about how names and events disappear from our lives, I began going through the pictures I’ve collected and scanned on my computer, putting names on some of them. It’s an arduous task, but may help someday, if not me, our kids or friends who need to know who people are. Plus, it was a great mind exercise to try to remember names and places.
I also took the time to purge some duplicated or poor quality pictures that were of no importance. Seriously, with this digital ability to use a phone to take any and all pictures that at the moment suit your fancy, it’s easy to have pictures that can be deleted, like blurry or redundant pictures of the last family reunion.
There are still boxes of pictures that need scanning into my computer. That’s another “to do” on my list of way too many “to do’s.” I admit to taking the easy way out by passing on to my children the boxes of their pictures that I had at least separated so it wasn’t just one huge box of mixed up pictures.3 comments on this story
If there is one thing I have learned after all these years of living, it is when I prioritize, organize and declutter my living spaces, I also prioritize, organize and declutter my brain.
That said, I’m sure glad I didn’t purge too much, and I kept the photos of the sweaty missionaries, and also the few others from that time. It seems the older a picture gets, the more we treasure it. It proves truth to the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” especially as it gets handed down from generation to generation.