UA Journey

Excerpt from "My Life Story"

The original full house. From left are Robert McCombe, Art Loftus, Ted Loftus, Jule Loftus and John McCombe.

This excerpt from "My Life Story," by Ted Loftus, was written around 1978.

The "full house" to which Loftus refers is the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines' basketball team, which he, his brothers, and another set of brothers were a part of in the first years of the school.

It was the best full house with which I had ever played. Even the news media called it such. Three of a kind plus a pair—a full house. With less than a dozen male students from which to choose, the Alaska Agricultural College had a difficult time to put a basketball team together. Fortunately, it had five of the roughest and possibly toughest men to be found anywhere; three Loftuses and two McCombes. Art, Jule, and Ted were farm boys who had played the game in high school and were all six feet or better in height, which in those days was considered tall and of some advantage.

The McCombe brothers were twins and, while not quite as tall, were a pair to be reckoned with in any competition. Both were previous Canadian hockey and rugby players who, when placed on the basketball court, had some difficulty exercising sufficient restraint. It therefore took them a little time to learn that there were other ways to guard an opponent than to knock him down.

These two sets of brothers were the nucleus of the team and it was our badge for the next two years to be known as the "full house." Rules of play were much less stringent than they are today and a personal foul had to be almost deliberate before it caught the eye of the referee. I was chosen to be center with my two brothers as forwards, which left the two McCombes as guards. They took their positions seriously and soon, by their rugged play, earned a reputation which had a considerable demeaning effect on timid forwards. We were assigned to a coach who was one of our mining professors, not because of his basketball ability, but mostly to see that our team conducted itself in a manner to reflect credit to the school. There were a number of teams in and around Fairbanks at that time, consisting of a city team, a firehall team, one from the army signal core, and the local high school.

Since there were no facilities as yet at the College, all our games were played in the small high school gym or in the town auditorium. Not having any radio or TV at this early stage, winter entertainment in the town was rather sketchy, so it was natural that a good enthusiastic crowd could be depended on. A game in the auditorium, which was built primarily for a skating rink, was always an adventure.

It was an immense barnlike structure made of single boards and warmed by a large drum heater in each end. At 50 below, the place never warmed up very much, except close by the stove, and these areas always enjoyed a good crowd. We put on our uniforms at the local bath house about a block away and then ran for the gym with an overcoat on. Somehow, we usually won, but winning was not always easy because we were usually considered the visitor and had to overcome the crowd's favoritism for the local team.

The most enthusiasm, however, was usually shown when we played the high school. Excitement was especially high when scores were close. I recall one night when I unintentionally bumped into a Gibbs boy, knocking him to the floor. Immediately, his father, who was chief of police, came on to the floor and took me by the arm and threatened to "run me in," so he declared, but the crowd soon booed him down. It was always fun, especially when one of the McCombes was called for a foul. Everyone had trouble telling the twins apart, so they would quickly stand close together, and whoever had the fewer fouls would raise his arm to claim it was he. This usually resulted in their being able to stay in the game until both reached the limit of fouls allowed.

The full house lasted for almost two years before it was challenged by some new students having more skill and less brawn. I was fortunate to remain a starter during my entire college years.