By Kelly Martin
In the desolate days of the 1930s, the residents of Waterloo, Ohio, had little reason to celebrate -- until the Waterloo Wonders came along.
Located 20 miles northeast of Ironton, the town was hit hard by job losses, and residents did whatever they could to make a living. The Depression was on everyone's minds.
The boys of Waterloo provided a welcome diversion.
They tied rags together to make a basketball, hung bushel baskets in a barn and learned to play basketball -- with a ball that wouldn't bounce. The boys learned how to pass the ball so proficiently that no opponent could stop them. Individually, they were good basketball players, but together they made history, becoming the Class B state champions in 1934 and 1935.
Their story is the focus of a new documentary, "The Eighth Wonder: The Waterloo Wonders," produced by WOUB and premiering tonight at Ohio University's Southern campus in Ironton. A reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Riffe Center's rotunda, and the screening will follow at 6:30 p.m. in Bowman Auditorium. The events are free and open to the public.
The documentary will air at 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, and 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 26, on WOUB-TV.
Documentary producer and director Cheri Russo, managing editor of WOUB News, learned of the story from a co-worker whose father grew up in the Ironton area.
"I hadn't heard of the Waterloo Wonders before, and I thought others could benefit from hearing the story," she said. "This program illustrates the grit of the people from southeastern Ohio. It's inspiring and shows with hard work and determination you can accomplish anything."
Because all members of the championship Waterloo Wonders team are now deceased, Russo was concerned she wouldn't find people who could help tell the story. She found the legacy had lived on, though, and descendents and other residents shared stories and memorabilia.
A video clip of "The Eighth Wonder: The Waterloo Wonders" is available at www.youtube.com/woubpbs.