Due to motion pictures and television, we grew up with preconceived images of detectives and sleuth types. I cut my teeth on Dick Tracy, graduating to Dragnet's Joe Friday, The Untouchables, Rockford Files, McCloud, and my all-time disheveled favorite Columbo.
Unexpected application of their investigative skills came to the fore through a recent photo session at the computer. While cold winds swirled outside the office window, I was hunkered down before the digital scanner and glowing PC monitor. Reproduction of old photo negatives was the goal.
No rhyme or reason guided the chosen images, that is, until magnifying glass employment revealed some young folks proudly displaying just-earned trophies. What was the event? Where was it, and who were these kids? I set about to solve the mystery.
A significant clue came in the clothing worn by the trophy holders. T-shirts bearing the words “Kokomo” (that was a biggie), together with “Elks,” “hoop,” and “shoot.” “11-1982” was written on the envelope containing the negs. Awesome!
Armed with these pearls of information and laptop computer, I made my way to the genealogy center gold mine beneath the downtown Kokomo-Howard County Public Library. Slowly the layers of time were peeled away through the reservoir of assorted printed and electronic archives. Aha, at last! A breakthrough.
Local online news media sources revealed the event as occurring on Nov. 20, 1982, at Memorial Gym. The local Elks lodge, together with the Kokomo Parks and Recreation Dept., sponsored their portion of the Elks National Hoop Shoot held across the nation. In total, 125 youth participated in the Kokomo event.
Winners were listed as follows: Division I, Greg Walden and Nicole Croddy (8-9 yrs.), Division II, Jeff Callane and Holly Ashburn (10-11 yrs.), Division III, Don Lauderbaugh and Meridith Burt (12-13 yrs.). The case was coming together nicely.
The next step involved location of the aforementioned champs. That nut proved a bit harder to crack. Forget the phone book. It has gone the way of pterodactyls and Hupmobiles. Of course Google was deployed next. No luck. At last a Howard County freedom of information source provide one contact, Don Lauderbaugh.
With no cellphone contact number, I traipsed out to the Lauderbaugh home in my trusty pick-up. With no advance warning of my arrival, I gambled the possibility of being reported to KPD gendarmes as a prowler and thereby suffering related consequences.
When pulling up to the proper address, a female was entering a Jeep in the driveway. Hurrying up with gathered courage, I hollered, “Hello. Do you live here?”
“Why, yes, I do,” was the friendly reply.
Good, no screaming. With as much diplomacy as could be mustered, I explained my strange mission.
Chuckling a bit she confirmed, “Yes, Don Lauderbaugh lives here. I'm his wife, Tonya.”
Hallelujah! My investigation was paying off. Her husband had not yet returned home from his Chrysler employ so cellphone numbers were swapped with a meeting time up in the air.
Anxiously wishing a conclusion to my quest, I could wait less than 90 minutes. I called and spoke with Don Lauderbaugh himself. Without hesitation he invited me back to his residence. I was there in a flash.
Tonya was present as was his son, Tyler. Never having met Don, I quickly became aware he was a 1988 Kokomo High School alumnus and Tonya (Van Zant) in 1989. Don said he was a proud to have played basketball for KHS coaches Charlie Hall and Basil Mawbey during his successful high school career.
Addressing the Elks Hoop Shoot, Don said he participated in the “shoot” in 1981 and '82. The competition was but a portion of his preparation for improved basketball play which dovetailed with endless hours of shooting baskets with his dad, Bob, and learned footwork playing KHS tennis at the urging of Coach Hall.
Free throw shooting was the only portion of diverse basketball skills tested in the Elks competition. In '82 Lauderbaugh sunk 22 of 25 shots, taking first place and advancing to the state meet in Shelbyville.
Wow! What a great visit. I was vindicated through detective work that paid off, plus there was a golden lining which yielded new friendships in the Lauderbaugh tribe. Here's a case of the negative becoming a positive.