How can you not want to stop?
Holyoke is buttressed against the Connecticut river next to Springfield, Mass; the home to the Basketball Hall of Fame, a free standing building with three floors of inductees, interactive exhibits and memorabilia for the old and young fan alike. In the middle is a court with 8 baskets and from the moment the doors open, the courts are filled with kids, parents and grandparents shooting hoops. Exiting through the busy gift shop you feel like you have a better grasp of the sport and the people who made it great.
The Volleyball Hall is, much like our sport, in modest surroundings. It is being temporarily housed in the green belt of the Holyoke Heritage State Park. The Volleyball Hall shares a building, fittingly, with the Children’s Museum off of Dwight Street next to a canal that was once used to haul lumber and cotton.
When you enter you are greeted with huge pictures of Karch and Flo Hymen on the front windows. You walk into the foyer and see the flags of the world above you and two glass cases celebrating the women in our sport and the Collegiate champions of the past decades. The three dollar entry fee seemed like a steal for a volleyball fan. Upon entering, the one level one room space is packed with exhibits and in looking around in offices and storage, one would think the need to find bigger quarters is upon them faster then they may have thought.
There is a half a volleyball court with a net against the wall for photo opportunities and a Gold Medal visitors can have their picture taken with. On the left of the entry is all the inductees’ plaques. You can see our history in these inductees, since the Hall was founded in 1978, there are over 120 and their stories and contributions fill the air and trickle over into the other exhibits. The inductees are listed in four categories: players, coaches, officials and leaders.
William G. Morgan was the first inductee since he invented the sport in 1895 IN Holyoke and he has an entire section of photos and memorabilia given to that historic moment. Reading the early rules of the game called Mintonette is funny when you look at where the game is today.
There are several beach volleyball exhibits and pictures but something that could catch the eye was this exhibit: The spectacle of beach volleyball that we know today, started with a kiss 57 years ago.
While there are several Americans inducted into the Hall, it is very much an international offering. Signed volleyballs from historic matches in college and the Olympics are around the room and a small gift shop, with just a few shirts and trinkets are there for modest prices as you leave.
If you are a volleyball fan you will enjoy your time at the Hall. If you are a fanatic you will revel in the history and memorabilia throughout the room. It’s well work the time and the three dollars and hey, help them out with a donation as you leave or click on their website and donate at www.volleyhall.org
Oh yea, the kiss! Almost forgot…
On the beaches of Santa Monica August 10-11th of 1957, the game of beach volleyball became big time. The top two players at that time, Gene Selznick and Bernie Holtzman saw that they needed to promote their sport in order to see the sport AND the prize money and participation grow. The game itself had very few big hitters or blockers like today, so points were long and drawn out, pass after pass after pass. The two knew they needed something.
Enter a friend of theirs, promoter Jack Backer who had discovered and was promoting a blonde bombshell of an actress named Greta Thyssen and asked her to come to the tournament to be the Queen of the beach and give a kiss to the winners.
Selznick and Holtzman continued to build the model for what would become the AVP later on. They enlisted volunteers to work the tournament; they put up a sound system and an announcer who would break up long rallies with announcements and anecdotes about the players on the other 26 teams in the tournament, anecdotes supplied by Holtzman. The tournament was a rousing success and in the end, Greta Thyssen gave a kiss to the champions, Selznick and Holtzman that was covered by newspapers and magazines alike. Beach volleyball was born.
You can find this and many more stories of the pioneers and the best our sport has to offer at the Hall. Check out their website or plan a trip to visit. Chances are you won’t be disappointed.