BRUNO — A host of memories and remarkable stories exist within the hearts and minds of those acquainted with Aggie Hall on the old campus of Bruno in Marion County. Few basketball gymnasiums from the early 1900’s are still standing in such remarkable shape while remaining fully functioning as a structure.
Aggie Hall was built in 1926 by the hands and strong backs of the student members of the Lincoln Aggie Club under the supervision of the visionary J.B. “Pap” Ewart and federal aid in accordance to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917.
The historic gym stands as a testament to the craftsmanship and meticulous labor involved in the construction. All the rocks used to build the gymnasium came from the local area including many that students carried to school from their own family farms.
In 1992, Aggie Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and restoration efforts have the gymnasium in impressive condition.
“Royce Jones has been a wonderful steward of the school over the past 17 years and the new owner, Buddy Bebout, will continue to honor the integrity of the campus,” 1963 Bruno graduate Paul Ray Hudson commented.
Many things about the gymnasium are as in tact as they were the day the school consolidated with Pyatt to a new school building at Eros back in 1974.
The red oak hardwood used as the flooring of the gym has been widely considered as one of the best basketball playing surfaces anywhere without a single “dead spot” anywhere on the court.
Jimmy Joe Sasser, 1953 graduate of Bruno, recalls loading into a truck with a bunch of other boys and heading to Arkansas Products in Harrison to get new flooring for the gym. Upon returning to Bruno, the “Aggie Boys” laid down the floor, then sanded and prepared the hardwood before allowing the new stripes for the basketball floor to be applied.
The gymnasium was originally built to the specifications of a college-sized basketball court and was reduced in the early 1950’s to high school regulations in order to accomodate a new classroom, a principal’s office and extend the cafeteria. At that time a balcony was implemented over the new rooms for more spectators to watch the ballgames.
During the 1959-1960 basketball season, Bruno and Jasper were both highly-touted teams with state championship aspirations. The first regular season matchup between the Aggies and Pirates grew heavy attention from the area including a radio broadcast. The matchup at Aggie Hall was viewed by a standing-room only crowd heated by three pot-belly stoves. Bruno came away with a 61-56 victory in front of the home crowd under the leadership of coach John Taylor. The rematch victory went to Jasper and the Pirates went on to win the state championship that year.
Many games had that atmosphere in the old gymnasium as Pyatt, Flippin and Yellville were always competitive rivals.
Aggie Hall was also busy with events apart from the basketball activities. The Halloween Carnival supported the PTA and was always a popular attraction leading up to the announcing of the King and Queen. The FFA highlighted a Father/Son Banquet every year. School fairs in the fall kept the school busy along with donkey basketball games and school plays on the stage located on the south end of the gym.
Many students considered the campus and the gym a “home away from home.”
The gymnasium was ahead of it’s time with a power plant in the basement. History tells that if the generator ever ran out of gas during a ballgame, the spectators and teams would sit in the dark until more gas could be retrieved to turn the lights back on.
Even after the consolidation moved the schooling to Eros, the gym stayed busy.
In the fall of the first year at Bruno-Pyatt, its new gymnasium was yet to be completed. Players would run from Eros to Aggie Hall after school, have practice and then run back to Eros with the coaches following in a car.
The gymnasium has since been a woodworking shop, boat manufacturer, shirt factory, fishing lure distributor and a warehouse for many different things.
Restoration of Aggie Hall is an ongoing process and just like the senior walkway between the buildings, is a testament to the strength of history’s past.