10 Country: Worth the wait
November 12, 2002
Irwinville- The fall brings out many parades and shows of community pride. A small community that doesn’t even have a traffic light had a small parade recently for a long- lost reason.
The tiny community of Irwinville has a rare quality. They continue to show their appreciation for their former basketball coach, 82-year-old Wallace Childs.
“This is a great community. A great, great community,” said Childs. In the late 40s and 50s, he took a group of farm boys who had nothing but determination, and made legendary basketball teams out of them.
“Wallace told us to bring in our bathing suits to use for basketball trunks. Our response was, ‘We don’t have basketball trunks because we all went skinny dipping in the creeks,'” said former player Legette Zorn.
The Irwinville Farmers won three state championships, had a winning streak of 78 games. They gather every five years to reminisce, like they did at their 55th reunion recently. The former players credit their coach with more than teaching them how to play the game of basketball.
“You are not going to lose if you get out there and work hard,” said former player Rudene Gentry. The coach retired in the 70s, but the former Irwinville players didn’t. They wanted their coach in the Georgia Sports hall of Fame.
“There’s people up there who don’t have the record Wallace has. They are in there,” said former player W. L. Taylor.
The team was down to its last chance to get its beloved coach re-nominated and they only had five days to do it in. “We got busy and I got the resumes and everything, and sent them to all of them,” Childs said.
And they waited– like they had for more than 10 years. Now they have just learned that Wallace will be inducted in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. They had won again!
“Everybody who has had anything to do with this, thank you so very much,” said Childs.
Coach Wallace Childs opened doors for the players, and in the end, they opened a door for him to walk into the basketball record books, too. Coach Wallace Childs gets formally inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in February.
This story was shared by Tommy Gentry, whose grandfather, the late Rudene Gentry, was a member of this legendary team. Rudene Gentry was later known for his long service as Superintendent of Irwin County Schools. Stay tuned for more updates and stories of the Irwinville Farmers in the coming months.