Blanche Smith Ganues has been selected as a member of the 2017 class of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame. She becomes the fourth member of the Fannin County High School girls basketball teams of the mid to late 1940s to be so elected. When one considers that Clyde Henry, the coach of the Fannin County girls from 1945 through 1948 is also a member of the FCSHOF, one gets an idea of just how powerful those teams were.
Blanche grew up in the Loving community in the eastern part of Fannin County. Her parents were Reverend Walter and Sadie Smith. Walter was a Baptist minister who was quite well known throughout the area for many years. At various times during his ministry he served as pastor of several country churches in Fannin County including Salem Number One, Hemptown, Friendship, Pleasant Hill, Hot House, Maple Grove and Mineral Bluff and he was in great demand to preach revivals at other churches in North Georgia and Western North Carolina.
There were seven children in the Smith family, Blanche coming along as number six. They were an active group with Blanche and one of her older sisters, Genova, exhibiting a particular interest in and talent for the game of basketball. Blanche excelled at the game and won a starting position as a guard, or defensive player under the rules of the day, on the 1945-46 team at Fannin County High in Morganton. Genova, a year older than Blanche, was a substitute on that team.
Little did the Smith sisters realize when they began basketball practice in the fall of 1945 that they were to be a part of something very special in the history of athletics in Fannin County. The 1945-46 girls team won 27 consecutive games before finally losing in the Class B State Championship game in early March of 1946.
Blanche went on to start for the Fannin County girls in each of the next two seasons. The 1946-47 team, Blanche’s junior season, saw the girls once again advance to the state title game in Macon. After dispatching Ellijay, Jasper, Cumming and Winder in District 9 competition, the Fannin girls marched on to the state tourney where they defeated Hawkinsville, Soperton and Colquitt before finally falling to a powerful team from Baxley High in the finals of the state tournament.
Even though the Fannin girls did not win the state title in 1947, however, the coaches and officials recognized the outstanding play of several of the Morganton girls by electing them to the Class B All-State team for the year. Young Blanche Smith was one of the girls so honored.
Blanche played her final season at Fannin High in 1947-48 and turned in another stellar performance. That team only lost 2 games during the entire season but, unfortunately, one of those losses game in the finals of the District Tournament, denying the girls a third consecutive trip to state competition. The three year run led by Blanche Smith and her teammates, however, is one of the most glorious periods of excellence ever experienced by any team in the history of Fannin County sports.
According to her husband Fred Ganues, Blanche was one of the young ladies on the radar of some of the amateur teams of the day including the Sports Arena Blues and the Lorelei Ladies of Atlanta. Something else happened to Blanche during the 1947-48 school year, however, that would decide her fate for the remainder of her life.
One day late in that school year, Blanche entered the L&N railroad depot in Mineral Bluff to purchase a 10 cent ticket to travel to Blue Ridge. The young agent who sold her the ticket was Fred Ganues, a 1947 graduate of Copperhill High School. Fred was a basketball standout at Copperhill and, according to all accounts, a rather popular young man with the ladies. Fred and Blanche took a shine to each other and before long Blanche Smith found herself with the new surname of Ganues. The two were married in April, 1948 and remained together for the next 60 years.
After high school, Blanche devoted her life to her home and family. She and Fred welcomed a son, Fred Jr., in 1949 and Blanche went about the business of caring for the home and young Freddy. She did, however, occasionally compete in local amateur basketball from time to time. In the late 1950s husband Fred organized an amateur team that he named the Black Knights. One season he expanded the team to include a ladies teams appropriately called the Lady Black Knights. Blanche played with that team along with several local standouts including Jackie Hartness, Mary Lou Fowler and Peggy Thompson, all of whom had played at West Fannin High School.
In the mid-1960s, with young Fred Jr. in high school and nearing adulthood, Blanche decided to apply for the position School Secretary at East Fannin High School. She got the job and stayed at the High School until 1976. After East and West Fannin High Schools were consolidated in 1976, Blanche remained at East Fannin Junior High for an additional 20 years, retiring in the mid-1990s.
Blanche and Fred were happily married from 1948 until her death in 2008, a period of 60 years. Fred was inducted into the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and died in March of that year. Blanche Smith Ganues now joins Fred as a member of that elite group.