Kinleyside left his mark
Last of a series...
Although it's been almost exactly 40 years since his death, E.J. Kinleyside's legacy to Ashtabula County basketball lives on.
Who is E.J. Kinleyside? There are no official statistics of his playing the game anywhere in the county. There are no records detailing any coaching exploits in which he was involved.
So it would be left up to players and coaches who were on the court not much later than the early 1960s to tell you what he meant to the game. Especially for those who came from the tiny schools in Ashtabula County in the first days of consolidated school systems and before, E.J. Kinleyside was almost synonymous with basketball in those areas.
When he was in the beginning of his educational career in the early 1920s, Kinleyside made it possible for boys and, yes, girls to have the opportunity to play organized basketball at the long-defunct Lenox Centralized School. That was in the days before the Ohio High School Athletic Association took the right to play interscholastic athletics from girls.
When he moved over to old Richmond High School in 1938, his influence really took root. Until he retired from Richmond in 1963 after 44 years as a teacher and principal, he made sure children in the school, which housed students from first through eighth grades, had the opportunity to engage in all kinds of sports, especially basketball.
Out of that school in the late 1950s came the great teams that represented the newly formed Pymatuning Valley High School so well in the early 1960s. For instance, four of the boys who started on PV's regional qualifying team in 1961-62 — Roy Brown, Paul Freeman, Bob Hitchcock and Gordon Hitchcock — honed their basketball skills at lunchtime and on many days after school in the little gymnasium Kinleyside tended to so lovingly for a quarter of a century. Freeman and Bob Hitchcock are now members of the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame.
But it wasn't just about the kids at Richmond for Kinleyside. For more than 30 years, he served as secretary of the Ashtabula County Athletic Association, which also oversaw affairs for outstanding small schools like Rowe, Spencer, Williamsfield, Pierpont and New Lyme Deming. Players and coaches like Jim Dodd of Grand Valley, Jim Dolan and Harvey Hunt of Williamsfield, Bob Fenton of Pierpont, Fred Hirsimaki, Charles Hirshey and Robert Puffer of Rowe and Richard Scribben and Frank Zeman of New Lyme Deming, ACBF Hall of Famers all, came from that background.
Kinleyside's particular passion was serving as one of the chief organizers for the county basketball tournament that was held each year at what is now Braden Junior High School. He made sure ticket sales to the tournament were handled for what most nights was a packed house. He took equal pride in keeping the scorebook and was the guardian of all the records for the tournament. Many a winter night, he would pack his wife, Beulah, and daughter Elynne, into their 1942 DeSoto or their 1949 Dodge and make the daunting trek to what was then Edgewood High School for his duties at the tournament.
To the players and coaches that came out of that background, there is no doubt Kinleyside deserves a place in the ACBF Hall of Fame as a contributor. That will happen Sunday when he is one of the 15 latest inductees into that organization. If he were still alive, he would be the oldest member of the ACBF Hall of Fame, since his 110th birthday just passed.
Kinleyside even served as a life model to two of his prize students. Hitchcock was a long-time teacher and outstanding basketball coach at PV.
"He was one person who instilled the competitive edge in me," Hitchcock said. "He taught us all how to win and lose with class.
"People always knew when he was involved, he knew how to get things done, and he knew how to get them done right. He was so important to the Bakers, the Browns, the Freemans, the Halls and the Hitchcocks."
Freeman even followed Kinleyside's lead a step farther, coaching with ACBF Hall of Famers Andy Garcia and Harry Fails at Conneaut, then becoming head coach at Conneaut before moving into administration in both school systems.
"Mr. Kinleyside certainly implanted the love of the game and good sportsmanship in me," he said. "There was never any doubt about any of that. You would never do anything that was considered out of line. None of the Richmond boys, as we were known, ever did anything out of line.
"He was a very prideful man. He taught me to love history and math. He taught me a lot."
Joe Shantz, who coached those great early PV teams and will join Kinleyside in this year's hall of fame class, arrived in Andover too late to get to know him. Still, he acknowledges his debt to Kinleyside's work with his key players.
"I never got to meet him, but I certainly owe him a lot for allowing those kids to develop their abilities the way they did," he said. "He certainly helped mold quality kids, ones that were willing to trust a green coach like me."
The roots of Kinleyside's family have always run, and still remain, deep within the soil of Ashtabula County. In fact, the 163-acre farm where he was born and on which he grew up in Wayne Township is still in the possession of his grandson, Douglas Shilling. The family still refers to it as the Kinleyside Farm.
His daughter, now Elynne Slater, followed in the footsteps of her parents in education. After graduation from Andover High School in 1953, she eventually served as treasurer of the Pymatuning Valley Local School district. She still lives in Andover, as does her daughter, Jackie Miranda, and her family, which includes Kinleyside's great-granddaughters, Alisha and Anissa Miranda.
She is bursting with pride over her father's distinction, even so many years after his passing on May 1, 1968.
"He would be very honored and very proud," Slater said. "My father was a very public man who was involved in a lot of other things besides teaching. He was a very proud man."
Kinleyside would also be very proud to be connected again to so many fine players that he helped.
"He was so proud of all those kids, especially those boys from Richmond," Slater said. "He never would have said it publicly, but he felt he helped those boys with his feeder system. He went to Canton when they went to regional. He was so proud to see them succeed."
Elwyn John Kinleyside was born Feb. 24, 1898 in Wayne Township and grew up on the farm that still remains in his family, a tall, spindly lad in his youth.
There is little evidence that he participated in sports. The only indication is a faded photograph Elynne Slater owns of him dressed in what appears to be a makeshift basketball uniform. Somehow, it seems he developed a real passion for all things athletic, particularly basketball and baseball.
When he graduated from Wayne High School in 1916, he went off to Mount Union College for training. In those days, teachers didn't have to earn a license, but taught "under certificate," which meant that an individual could teach at almost any age as long as they showed an aptitude for instruction. He spent 1917-18 at Mount Union, but gained employment almost immediately at Cherry Valley.
"My father taught school when he was 18," Slater said. "His oldest pupil was 16."
Eventually, he wound up at Lenox Centralized School, returning periodically for college training to Mount Union in 1921-22 and eventually engaging in studies from 1927-33 at Kent State University, which was then called Kent State Normal College. His career at Lenox ran from 1923-38.
Kinleyside spent most of the first 18 years of his instructional career at Lenox, becoming a permanent fixture there from 1923-38, and lived in Jefferson on South Market Street, eventually doing enough scholastic work to be qualified as a principal. While at Lenox, he became acquainted with Beulah Fobes, who was also teacher.
"My father courted my mother for 13 years," Elynne Slater said. "She also went to Kent Normal College. That was back in the days when it wasn't considered proper for a married woman to be a teacher, and she wanted to teach badly, so they waited all that time. They finally were married in 1934."
Kinleyside was already very much into athletic organization. Slater has pictures from 1936 with her father in team pictures with the boys and girls basketball teams.
"My father was very much into equal opportunities for women," she said. "He'd have been pleased to see Title IX enacted."
The Kinleysides had hoped to have a large family, "at least four children," Elynne said. But her birth in 1935 was so difficult for her mother that she became the only child.
"My father wanted a child with his initials, so he sat out in the car at the Ashtabula hospital trying to decide what name would be suitable," she said. "He finally decided to use his first initial, E, and combined it with the last name of the doctor who delivered me, Dr. Harry K. Lynne of Jefferson. I'm Elynne Jane to my father's Elwyn John."
Charging to Richmond
Finally, when his daughter was 3, Kinleyside got his first chance at administration in 1938 at Richmond. The Kinleysides moved to a home just a short distance from the school up Route 7 in Richmond Center.
"Our house is still there, right behind the new Richmond Township Center," Slater said.
Not only did Kinleyside have duties as school principal, where he was the only male member of the staff, but he also taught the seventh and eighth graders.
One of the things he always did was make sure the students had access to the gym when the weather was bad or to the baseball diamond in better conditions.
"He gave you the opportunity almost daily," Hitchcock said. "He never denied us use of the gym. You could play during the day and after school.
"It was always open at lunch time, and he was always organizing games that involved all the kids. He even had the scoreboard operating and someone keeping score. It was very structured. He'd organize games after school, too."
Slater remembers those occasions, too.
"Very rarely was the gym closed," she said. "I used to sit on the floor and watch the games going on. If the ball got loose, I'd go chase it.
"He'd ref all the kids' games. When he was younger, he ran right along with them."
The Richmond kids also got the chance to play against other schools that Kinleyside organized.
"He'd take the team around to various other elementary schools," Freeman said. "He coached the team in that way."
The gym was Kinleyside's baby.
"One of his summer projects was always to refinish the gym floor at the school," Slater said. "Every summer, he sanded and coated the floor himself. He'd paint new lines on the court every third year."
No foolishness was ever brooked in Kinleyside's presence.
"He was a strict disciplinarian," Freeman said. "At the same time, he was very fair."
His love for sports spilled over into his teaching, too.
"He would use sports statistics in teaching math," Hitchcock said. "He'd tell you what players at the county tournament shot in a game and teach you to figure out their percentages or their scoring average. For English, he'd have you read an article and write a paragraph about your impressions of what that player had done."
"I remember one year when Ted Williams and Pete Runnels were battling for the American League batting championship," Freeman said. "He had us sit and figure out in long division who was ahead. We had to figure it out to 13 places, and they were still tied."
By the time Elynne was in elementary school, her mother was back in the classroom, too.
"It was during World War II, and the board sent my father home to tell her she was needed to teach again because all the men were off at war," she said. "She taught first and second grade. She ended up with 35 years in teaching."
The county tournament
Kinleyside's work at the county tournament was always a family adventure.
"My father was involved with men like L.M. Finley, who was the county superintendent, William Searcy, who was the superintendent at Jefferson and Orwell and later the county superintendent, Paul Koeppe, the superintendent at Andover, Charles Watson, the superintendent at Jefferson, Wallace Braden, who was at Edgewood, Robert Shoaf, who taught and coached at Jefferson and (ACBF Hall of Famer) Ange Candela in running the county tournament," Slater said. "He knew the OHSAA rulebook by heart and was always referred to for that. He always kept the scorebook at the tournament."
She remembers some wild rides to Edgewood. But there were other perks.
"My father, mother and I used to go, no matter what the weather was," Slater said. "We always had to hurry.
"I remember when I was young, I used to say that I'd never had a Coca-Cola until I went to the county tournament. I remember walking into that building and smelling the popcorn. I've been a big fan of Coke and popcorn ever since."
Her father could always be found at the end of the tournament, too, handing out the championship trophies.
Occasions like the county tournament allowed Kinleyside to show a more relaxed side. It caught some people by surprise.
"My grandparents and Mr. and Mrs. Kinleyside became great friends," Hitchcock said. "I was able to get a different read on him over the years. They used to come over and play cards. He always joked and laughed with everybody."
Freeman found that side, too.
"When we were still at Richmond, Mr. Kinleyside took me and, I think, Rollin Spellman to Kent State with another adult to see Harvey Hunt play," he said. "That was a big event for the two of us because you just didn't get away from home very much back then.
"I remember sitting in the back seat and listening to him telling stories, laughing and joking. He even stopped at a restaurant and fed us. I remember sitting in the back seat, drinking it all in like a sponge. It was a great childhood memory."
Slater appreciated her father's other side, too.
"He was a very sociable man," she said. "You wouldn't know it at school, but he loved to get involved in a lot of things in the community. He was in the Andover Rotary and was Sunday School superintendent of the Richmond Methodist Church.
"My father was a snappy dresser. He always wore a dress hat. He was an old-time gentleman. He was always willing to shake hands, but he always tipped his hat to anyone he met, even if he didn't shake their hand.
"I used to love to dance with him. Whenever we did, it felt like we were gliding."
Thinking of others
There is strong evidence Kinleyside put the interests of others, especially children, so much ahead of his own that he literally worked himself to death, for he lived less than five years after he retired in 1963. Beulah Kinleyside was a widow for 22 years before her death in 1990.
"There were many times when I'd come downstairs early in the morning and find him all dressed ready for school, sitting in a chair asleep with his hat in his hand," Elynne Slater said. "I'm sure there were many times he only slept three or four hours a night. I think he ruined his health helping others, but he loved people, especially children."
But they were all the better for Kinleyside's sacrifice, which will be recognized on Sunday night.