Scrapbook kept by Ruby and Joe Slayman details history of Manchester basketball's finest era.
We all leave legacies.
Most times, those legacies are done being written at the same time as our obituaries. One is the other. They run concurrently.
But every once in a while, that final chapter of our legacy remains open even after we’re gone. Those who are left behind don’t realize it at first, then they discover a part, or parts, of the departed they never knew existed.
Such is the case with Ruby and Joe Slayman.
Ruby passed away in 2006, followed by her husband this past June.
The two really were Mr. and Mrs. Manchester. They began dating as students at the original Manchester High School, located on Manchester Road in the big brick building that now houses the Manchester Schools Administration Offices along with various businesses.
Not long after graduating, they were married, settled in Manchester and lived their lives there. They were so happy there that they never left – Manchester people through and through.
They also spent 37 years working together at Manchester High boys basketball games, Ruby as the official scorekeeper and Joe as the scoreboard operator. Players and coaches came and went, but the Slaymans remained, fixtures at the scorer’s table.
The Slaymans’ only child, Valerie Slayman, a 1975 Manchester graduate, knew her parents – specifically, Ruby – had kept a huge scrapbook from the early 1970s, with the emphasis being on the school’s 1973-1974 title season. In it are all kinds of artifacts, from souvenir programs to newspaper articles to the original statistical sheets.
As the years go by – the 40th anniversary of that season will come this winter – the more important and historical those artificats become. That’s especially true for Valerie, who has some of her parents’ finest handiwork.
When her dad passed away, Valerie began the arduous task of going through her parents’ home – the home in which she grew up – sorting through about 60 years’ worth of stuff, figuring out what she wanted to keep and what she wanted to give away or discard. She thought she knew everything she would find as she prepared to sell the house.
But she realized that was only mostly true.
Valerie happened upon a pile of glossy photographs – the originals from the championship season.
“I had no idea these existed,” Valerie said recently, a bunch of photos in each hand. “And I have no idea where they came from, who took them or how my parents ended up with them.”
As much as that scrapbook is a postcard of that time so long ago, these photos provide an even clearer look.
There are photos of several games in the title season including road games against Northwest and Suburban League foe Hudson and photos from senior night. Pictures of the student statisticians and post-game interviews with the media.
There are also photos of the team departing for the state tournament and returning – victorious – to a community celebration.
Who are the people in those non-game photos?
How many of them still live in Manchester?
How many of them are still alive?
And of them, how much of that season do they remember decades later?
Those photos are historical. Every community has its signature moment, and this is Manchester’s.
The photos capture the title season as it played out. The fact that they’re black and white is truly appropitate. Much of that time is recalled now in black and white as long-ago times should be recalled.
All of this exists because of Ruby and Joe Slayman.
The Slaymans were ahead of the curve in realizing that what they were keeping would be more than just valuable. The items would be cherished heirlooms.
And they were right.
That the photos appeared seemingly out of nowhere, tucked inside that scrapbook, with all the other heirlooms, makes it just that much more special.
Ruby and Joe Slayman are gone, but they’ve left behind something extra-special.
We knew their passion. Now we just know it more and in a more tangible way.