Catoosa Life Magazine

June - July 2016

Dalton Daily CItizen, Catoosa Life Magazine

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The early 1940s were hardly a carefree time in the world, but for Johnnie Cain Lancaster, a thick mitt and a leather-covered ball provided at least a momentary escape. Lancaster, who had ties to what is now Fort Oglethorpe, would find at least local and regional fame as she joined the Woolenettes girls softball team, representing the Peerless Woolen Mills community in Rossville. The Woolenettes were "Chattanooga's state championship softball team," according to era newspaper articles, and they trav- eled to meet other teams on the road, including teams in Memphis, Atlanta and even some farther away in North Carolina and Ohio. Lancaster is among dozens of athletes whose stories are being told at the Hometown Teams exhibit at the 6th Cavalry Museum. The display, an interactive project of the Smithsonian Institution, is free to the public and will remain at the museum through June 18 before making stops in 10 other Georgia cities. Hometown Teams uses videos, 3-D displays and other media to tell the story of "How Sports Shape America." Each host location adds addi- tional displays to tell its own local stories. In about 1943, a stout, dark-haired Johnnie Cain lived with her mother — Mrs. Lurey Cain — at 501 Spears Ave., in Chattanooga, according to documents from the time. She had attended Chattanooga High School and played with "city softball teams for eight years," newspaper clippings show, before going on to become a star catcher for the Woolenettes. As she grew up, she became a shipping clerk for the Samuel Stamping and Enameling Co. in Chattanooga. The com- pany joined the ranks of other manufac- turers whose facilities were transformed into defense plants during World War II. On April 23, 1943, The Peerless News ran a black and white photo of its girls team — which included Cain — and promised $25 to the "employee who turns in best name" for the newly-formed team. The athletes wore shapeless jerseys with blousy, elbow-length sleeves. Tall socks met the bottoms of their high-waisted trousers, and the girls sat with ankles crossed, knees slightly apart. Their games draw crowds by the thou- sands — 14,000 over 17 games, by one estimate. There were no admission fees. One newspaper journalist wrote of girls' athletics that the heavy attendance indi- cates girls sports should "boom as a wartime spectator sport. Its drawing power already stands out clearly while some other spectator sports lag in atten- dance." The women spent many weekends on Catoosa Life Magazine / JUNE / JULY 2016 15 By Rachel Brown Kirkland

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