Schoen recounts his farm boy childhood and college basketball career in this debut memoir.
Born in 1941, the oldest son in a family that would eventually include 13 children, Schoen grew up in rural western Ohio in a community of German Catholics who, despite having lived in the United States for more than a century, had only recently transitioned to speaking primarily in English. Modernization was slow to come to the family farm, which was not yet connected to the electrical grid when Schoen was born. As a boy, he learned to hitch workhorses to the plow and the hayfork. “When I was very young,” Schoen remembers, “the rare appearance of an airplane in the sky prompted a yell to others in the family not to miss the sight.” Horses were eventually replaced by machinery. Likewise, Schoen broke with the tradition of earlier generations of his family by graduating from high school and going on to the University of Dayton on a basketball scholarship. He played starting forward for the UD Flyers, who would eventually win the 1962 National Invitation Tournament championship. Throughout his memoir, Schoen illustrates the importance of work, play, education, and evolving with the times. The prose is cleareyed, and Schoen capably renders the particulars of his youth. The frequent photographs that accompany the text are redolent of rural life in postwar Midwestern America, and even readers with no connection to that time or place will be charmed by this account. The only problem is that Schoen’s life is not especially momentous. Even his basketball accomplishments read as rather unremarkable all these decades later. The book is a very pleasant document of farm life in the 1940s and 1950s, but it is difficult to imagine the memoir being of interest to many people who aren’t directly connected to either the Schoen family or Mercer County, Ohio.
A charming, but ultimately low-stakes, memoir of childhood and basketball.