Duncanville Trailblazer Gale Sliger

Duncanville Trailblazer Gale Sliger
Pantherette courtesy photo 1st row L-R: Nancy Nance, Raye Wilson, Faye Wilson, Gale Harrill, Janice Hall, Johnnie Beth Roper. 2nd Row L-R: Martha Miller, Sharon Donovan, Hazel Tanner, Unknown, Coach Bill Ground, Peggy Higgins, Jeanie Serafino, Edwina Berlin, Rita Jean Sealey.

Duncanville ISD has a proud history of winning, and earned its city the title “City of Champions” some time ago. Students from Duncanville schools have won trophies for games played on baseball fields, football fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, and at track and swim meets. Many other students have won trophies for technology, speech, drama, Band tournaments, and choral events.

It was an honor and privilege to spend time recently with Gale (Harrill) Sliger, a Duncanville HS girls’ basketball player from 1949-1953. She was a guard on Duncanville HS girls’ basketball team when their winning tradition first started. The Pantherettes won their B District in 1951 and 1952. Their Coach Bill Ground also coached boys’ basketball, football, and most other sports.

Gale (Harrill) Sliger Moves to Duncanville

The Harrill family moved to Duncanville in 1947, and Gale (Harrill) Sliger still lives on that acreage. She lives in the lovely home her talented engineer husband Gerald Sliger designed and built for their own family in 1959. Because she grew up playing sports with the neighborhood boys, Sliger says she developed a strong competitive streak that carried over to the basketball court. A guard, she was named to the all-tournament team her junior year (1951-52) at the S.W.A.A.U. Tournament (forerunner of the Sandra Meadows tournament).

The S.W.A.A.U. Tournament was played in the Automobile Building at Fair Park until the 1951-52 tournament moved to Duncanville HS gym. At that time, all grades (1-12), and the gym were in the Central Elementary School building. The tournament featured 16 teams at that time.

Pantherettes Go to State

Coach Ground and his girls’ basketball team went to state in March of 1951 and 1952. Sliger says it was a very exciting time for the girls on the team and for everyone back home in Duncanville. She remembers the team received numerous telegrams cheering them on. Telegrams came from teachers and other faculty members at Duncanville ISD and even from other schools in their district like Cedar Hill.

“The town pretty much shut down when we went to state,” she recalled, “and a lot of the people from Duncanville and Cedar Hill followed us down for the UIL tournament. We played in Gregory Gym on the UT campus, and it was a great experience.”

The Pantherettes competed for the state title in 50/51 and 51/52, losing to Claude both times in overtime. It would be 1976, and in a much bigger district, before the Pantherettes started their long winning streak as state champions in girls’ basketball with legendary Coach Sandra Meadows.

Pantherettes at State
Pantherettes go to State, courtesy photo.

Sliger says she tried to organize a reunion of her teammates during the Sandra Meadows tournament a few years ago, but it never materialized. She stays in touch with some of her teammates, including one of their most celebrated members, Faye Wilson (Gould). The Wilson Twins (Raye Wilson, now deceased, and Faye Wilson) became star players for Plainview’s Wayland Baptist and the Flying Queens team. They won the 1954 National AAU Women’s Basketball championship game where Faye’s free throws clinched the title. They were called Hutcherson Flying Queens because local businessman Claude Hutcherson chartered planes to take them to games across the country. The Flying Queens won three more (consecutive) national titles and were honored in 2013 as Trailblazers of the Game by the Women’s National Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, TN.

Rule for Success

The most important thing she learned playing on the girls’ basketball team, Sliger says, was “You handle your responsibilities first, and then help your teammates.”

She found this rule to be equally useful in the business world, a world she entered at the early age of 17 right after high school. Sliger became a secretary for the Regional Sales Manager of Wilson Supply, an oil supply company. Her first task was to set up their downtown Dallas offices—purchasing equipment and overseeing installation– by herself. She married her high school sweetheart, Gerald Sliger, that September and helped put him through SMU for an engineering degree. The Sligers had been married 68 years when Gerald died last January.

Gale Sliger Productions

After holding progressively responsible positions for other companies, Sliger started her own extremely successful business, Gale Sliger Productions, in 1984. The company designed and executed such elaborate events as the Mayor’s International Ball, numerous debutante balls, and many other VIP social events. They also designed and built numerous Petro Stopping Center Truck Stops around the country. The company grew so large and in demand that Sliger employed 15 or more people. Sliger says her husband and0 his engineering expertise was a big asset to the production company. After the first year he sold his interest in the engineering firm to work full time for the production company.

Although she’s retired from the business world, Sliger is still very involved in the community she’s called home for 75 years now. Over the years she’s volunteered for a number of charities and won many honors and awards. She’s met everyone from movie and TV stars to presidents and diplomats, but that’s a whole other story for another time. Just know that anytime you hear about a big social event taking place in Duncanville, Gale Sliger is probably involved in it, and you don’t want to miss it.

Sandra Meadows Classic

This year the 72nd annual Sandra Meadows Classic Girls Varsity Basketball Tournament will be held at the Sandra Meadows Memorial Arena at Duncanville High School Dec. 28-30. The tournament features 32 teams from all over the country, and is sponsored by Duncanville Lions Club, the City of Duncanville, Duncanville ISD, and Duncanville Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President Steve Martin is Director of the tournament. For information, please visit sandrameadowsclassic.com.

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Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.