King Boring and the Detroit Gems

On July 13, 2017 · 0 Comments

The story of King Boring kept playing in my head. I imagined that longtime Twelve Mile Circle readers probably already knew I’d have to revisit it in more detail. Plenty of extra information revealed itself on the Intertubes and in genealogy resources. To quickly recap, King Boring and his partner once owned the Detroit Gems, a precursor of the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Los Angeles Lakers


lakers game @ staples center
lakers game @ staples center. Photo by woolennium on Flickr (cc)

The Los Angeles Lakers currently play in the Staples Center (map), a venue they’ve occupied since 1999. This multi-purpose arena includes enough space for nearly twenty thousand fans when configured for basketball. Games frequently sell-out due to the success of the team. The Lakers have captured sixteen championships during their storied history. I could go on and on, however that would take us down a tangent.


Detroit Gems


Detroit Gems Stadium
Detroit Gems Home Court
via Google Street View, November 2016

The Lakers began in much more humble circumstances as the Detroit Gems of the National Basketball League (NBL). The Gems played only a single season and performed horribly by all accounts. The team finished 4-40. They used the Ferndale High School gymnasium as their home court as the season began. Sparse attendance forced them to move to a smaller venue later in the season, to Holy Redeemer High School with a 1,000 person capacity. They didn’t have to worry about selling out even with tickets costing only $1.50.

The original Ferndale High School does not appear to exist anymore. A more contemporary structure bears that name now. However, Holy Redeemer survived the last several decades in Detroit (map) in a neighborhood now known as Mexicantown. The arena at Holy Redeemer provided an interesting contrast to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The precursor of the Lakers began with humble roots.

King Boring and his partner Maury Winston made a bad investment with the Gems. They sold the team for $15,000 after their initial and disastrous 1946 season. The new owner moved the team to Minneapolis where it became the Lakers, named for Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." A later owner moved them to Los Angeles.


The Years Before the Gems


Boring Residence
1020 N. Mildred Street, Dearborn, Michigan
via Google Street View, October 2016

King Boring (1903-1996) left a long paper trail in his wake, and I found a lot more about him on Ancestry.com. I mentioned the "King" nickname in the previous article. He began his life as Cleo Siple Boring, the son of Illinois farmers Willis Otto Boring and Linna B. Siple. Later, he legally changed his middle name to King (according to the Michigan Death Index) although people generally referred to him as King rather than Cleo. The Boring surname traced back at least to Ralph Bowring of Devon, England (1570-1609).

Forbes listed the value of the Los Angeles Lakers as $2.6 billion. Only the most wealthy individuals could afford to own an NBA team today. King Boring did not fit that description. He was just a regular middle-class guy. He worked as an accountant for the City of Dearborn when he formed the Gems and for most of his professional life. Six years earlier the 1940 Census recorded his salary as $2,300 (adjusted for inflation = $40,500). According to the Dearborn Directory, he lived in a modest home at 1020 N. Mildred Street (map) the year the Gems played.

His partner, Maury Winston, also came from a middle-class background. He owned Winston Jewelers located at 13502 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. Winston provided the team its name. He was a jeweler so the team became the Gems.


Boring Legacy


dearborn, mi
dearborn, mi. Photo by Heather Phillips on Flickr (cc)

Boring became a beloved figure in Dearborn both for his years of service to the city and for his passion to sports. I already mentioned the King Boring Park and Field named in his honor in the previous article. Back in his original hometown in Illinois he became a member of the Salem Community High School Hall of Fame. He also had a Testimonial Dinner in his honor at the Fairlane Club in Dearborn in 1978. The program from that dinner included much more biographical information about the anything-other-than-boring life of King Boring, including his later sports escapades. Clearly people liked and respected him.

If only he’d held onto that team.

Simply Boring

On July 9, 2017 · 0 Comments

Speaking of boring places, the phenomenon didn’t confine itself exclusively to Oregon. Sure, the largest Boring town existed just outside of Portland. However, because Boring was also a surname, it spread to other locations as one might expect. Residents tended to have the same sense of humor about living in Boring places everywhere. The same bad puns, the same entertainingly-named public institutions and businesses, the same frequently-photographed road signs formed a common bond. The repetition became, well, boring. Fortunately the stories found just below the surface offered better entertainment.

Boring, Maryland


This church is BORING
This church is BORING. Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr (cc)

What Maryland’s Boring lacked in population it gained in recognition through the U.S. Postal Service (map). Boring, Maryland 21020 didn’t have the same cachet as Beverly Hills 90210, although it still existed as a physical place. Other than that, the hamlet consisted primarily of a few homes along the intersection of Old Hanover and Pleasant Grove Roads. The Boring Post Office along with a Boring Fire Hall and a Boring Methodist Church also offered popular photo opportunities to outsiders passing through.

The Washington Post featured a Boring article back in 1984.

The origin of its name is somewhat less boring than the name itself. The town originally was called Fairview, but according to folks hereabouts, when the post office was established in 1880, postal authorities ordered the town renamed, apparently to avoid confusion with all the other Fairviews in the United States. "So it was named by the townspeople after the first postmaster here, David J. Boring, in 1880," explained Cullison, himself a postmaster of Boring from 1950 to 1976.

It served as yet another example of a town changing its name because of the railroads, a common condition in the late 19th Century. We’ve seen that happen many times on Twelve Mile Circle although the results were not usually so Boring.


Boring, Tennessee



Boring, Tennessee

I found very little information about Boring, Tennessee. It registered a level of boring so extreme that nobody bothered to publicize it. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I’m sure people who lived there liked it just fine. It didn’t even make the list of Top 10 most boring places in Tennessee. That honor went to Forest Hills near Nashville. I don’t know why. Maybe Boring’s placement at the end of a runway at Tri-Cities Airport made the difference. Jet traffic wouldn’t be boring; more annoying than anything, really.

The author of Tennessee Place-names pretty much phoned it in when explaining Boring.

Boring Sullivan County. The only individual with the Boring surname who could be placed in this locality was Elizabeth Boring, in 1870. She was 46 years of age at the time. Possibly she, or her family, gave this place its name.

Way to go out on a limb.


King Boring Park and Field


dearborn, mi
dearborn, mi. Photo by Heather Phillips on Flickr (cc)

Honestly I didn’t expect to find anything on King Boring Park. I spotted the name and fell in love with it. What could be better than King Boring? Truly, the King of Boring (let’s pause and savor that for a moment).

A Yelp page, yes a Yelp page of all things, offered an explanation. The great-grandson of King Boring — King Boring was an actual person — provided a fairly complete biography. I assumed a level of accuracy. Who would make up something about an obscure ball field (map) in Dearborn, Michigan? It could be fake. Who knows? Let’s assume it’s real and move along.

Apparently Mr. Boring earned the nickname King as a child after he beat-up a bully. Later he legally changed his actual name to King Boring. He owned a basketball team called the Detroit Gems and later sold it. The new owners moved the team to Minneapolis and changed the name to the Lakers. That team eventually became the Los Angeles Lakers. Right, those Lakers. Boring also coached a Single-A baseball team in Dearborn and participated in lots of other local sports-related stuff. He died in 1996.

I found some corroborating evidence. The Gems played only a single season, posting a 4-40 record before King Boring and his partner sold the team in 1947. Oof! He later lamented that he should have retained a percentage instead of selling it outright.


Boring Homestead, South Australia


Wog Palace Road
Boring Homestead
via Google Maps

Why should the United States get all the boring places? I turned to the Gazetteer of Australian Place Names and found the Boring Homestead in South Australia (map). It sat about 550 kilometres (340 miles) due north of Adelaide. I wouldn’t expect to find any additional information about a single homestead, and I didn’t. However, I noticed the name of the road — a dirt track really — that led to the structure. Google called it Wog Palace Road, which seemed really odd. It seemed even stranger when I checked its etymology. I found an enlightening entry in Global English Slang: Methodologies and Perspectives.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in Australia wog came to be used to describe migrants of southern European origin, especially those from Italy or Greece. Later, the usage expanded to include migrants of Middle Eastern origin…a wog mansion or wog palace is a large and vulgar house, often using southern European architectural features such as elaborate columns.

The word wog didn’t mean anything to me. However, and apparently, it could be considered offensive in Australia and perhaps even more so in the UK. For that, I apologize in advance, especially to 12MC’s Australian and UK audience. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. A wog palace would be like a McMansion in the United States with an added twist of racial spite thrown in for good measure.

I took an actual screen print of the homestead and street name which I’ve reproduced above. That’s because I expected it will be changed or removed someday. I wondered if that was really its name or if a vandal placed it there as digital graffiti, expecting nobody to find it.

Of Of

On August 19, 2015 · 8 Comments

Mouth of Wilson. I used it as a waypoint during my recent county counting quest and otherwise put it out of mind as I drove through an expansive rural corner of Virginia. It came to mind once again as I passed a sign for another town about an hour farther north and east, Meadows of Dan. How unusual, I thought, to encounter two locations in relatively close proximity to each other with the word "of" embedded in their names. I remembered a similarly concocted town a few miles away from my childhood home called Point of Rocks, sitting just across the Potomac River in Maryland. I tucked the notion away until my return. Interestingly, all of them became known predominantly for something other than the piece-parts of their oddly constructed names.

Mouth of Wilson


Waterfall in Mouth of Wilson Virginia
Waterfall in Mouth of Wilson Virginia by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)

Mouth of Wilson presented a couple of obvious questions. Who was Wilson and why the preoccupation with his mouth? Fortunately answers revealed themselves quite conveniently in Grayson County: A History in Words and Pictures.

When the Frye [sic.]-Jefferson party surveyed the line between Virginia and North Carolina in 1749, a young surveyor named Wilson died. His body was carried to the bank of a nearby creek for burial, hence the name Wilson’s Creek.

Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson surveyed uncharted corners of Virginia including its border with North Carolina, resulting in the definitive map of the colony from that era. Apparently Wilson, whoever he was, never got to see the fruits of his labor. He lived-on in a way many years later when a town grew at the confluence of Wilson’s Creek and the New River. That spot marked the mouth of Wilson’s Creek and the name shortened nicely to Mouth of Wilson.

Nobody much remembered Fry or Jefferson or especially Wilson, although maybe some people had heard of Peter’s son Thomas Jefferson. If by chance people ever caught wind of Mouth of Wilson it had nothing to do with 18th century cartographers. It was for basketball. Here, nearby Oak Hill Academy (map) built a basketball dynasty over three decades. The school never had more than about 150 students at a time and yet it produced a crazy number of professional basketball players. The school’s utter domination of the sport at the high school level continues today (e.g., "The Middle of Nowhere: Oak Hill Academy, the Best Basketball Program on the Planet").


Meadows of Dan


Mabry Mill in Winter
Mabry Mill in Winter by Sheila C. on Flickr (cc)

Flowing waters also underpinned the etymology of Meadows of Dan although there wasn’t ever some guy named Dan to serve as an inspiration. There were beautiful meadows however, and they were found near the upper reaches of the Dan River. One part of the name derived from a 1728 expedition mapping the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina (prior to Fry and Jefferson who improved and extended the line) led by William Byrd. According to the Danville Historical Society,

The surveying party began marking the line at the mouth of the Currituck River on the coast of Virginia, and went westward toward the mountains. When they reached this area, Colonel Byrd and his party encountered "the South Branch of the Roanoak River the first time, which we call’d the Dan."… Colonel Byrd never explained his choice of name for the river. However, the biblical limits of Canaan were "From the Dan to Beersheba." Because the northern limit of North Carolina was in question, "Dan" seemed to be an appropriate name for the river which at that time fixed the boundary in this area between the two colonies.

That likely explained Dan. The meadows portion joined the name much later, as explained by the community of Meadows of Dan,

This broad high mountainous area was settled in the early 1800s, mostly by German and Scotch-Irish settlers that traveled down from Pennsylvania… The Langhorne family, one of the few of English descent in the community, held a land grant that contained much of what is now considered Meadows of Dan… The Langhorne patriarch is credited with giving the area the name "Meadows of Dan". He settled on the headwaters of the Dan River, and grist mills in the Langhorne name were built along the stream.

Few people would know much about Meadows of Dan if it weren’t for two fortunate happenstances. First, Edwin Boston Mabry, a local resident built a wonderfully iconic mill in 1903 (map). Second, the Blue Ridge Parkway ran directly past the mill after its construction as a Depression-era jobs project in the 1930’s. Maybry’s Mill quickly became one of the most heavily visited and photographed spots along the entire parkway.


Point of Rocks


Point of Rocks, Maryland
Point of Rocks, Maryland by Bob Wilcox, on Flickr (cc)

I didn’t need to conduct any research to determine the source of the rocky point inspiring a town called Point of Rocks in Maryland. Literally, just west of town stood a point of rocks that I’d seen many times with my own eyes. The cliff might be a notable landmark for bikers on the C&O Canal trail, or to boaters on the Potomac River. Most everyone else would remember Point of Rocks for its nostalgic train station (map), built in 1873 at an important junction where trains routed either to Baltimore or Washington. Of course I’ll always remember Point of Rocks more for the drive-through liquor store of my youth.


Upon Further Consideration

It occurred to me that there may be many more "of" towns. Yet, I couldn’t find them using my usual search techniques and I couldn’t recall any others from memory. Sure, there were a billion examples tied to geographic units, for instance the City of London, District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Virginia, United States of America and the like. Those were all too mundane even to mention. I wasn’t interested in finding more of those. I wanted additional mouths and meadows and points and other strange yet appropriate descriptions of things. I imagined there were probably many very obvious instance that somehow fell into my mental blind spot. What am I missing?

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Subscribe
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Categories
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
July 2017
S M T W T F S
« Jun    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031