Fred Ganues entered Copperhill High School as a freshman in 1943. He tried out for and made the High School basketball team that year. Little did he know that he was beginning an odyssey that would see him become a consistent and important part of the tapestry of sports in Fannin County and the Copper Basin for over 70 years. In recognition of his many and varied contributions to sports in this part of the country , the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is honored to welcome Fred Ganues, Sr. to its induction class of 2015.
As a basketball player, Fred was not too shabby. Slightly built, he was a quick and deadly shooting guard. He was the captain of the Copperhill High team in 1945-46 and was named to the all Bi-State Tournament team that same season. Copperhill’s boys basketball teams would finish with 16-6 and 17-6 records during his junior and senior seasons.
After graduation, Fred went to work for the L&N Railroad. Initially, he was a telegraph operator and worked his way up to Depot Manager. His assignments took him all over North Georgia and Southeastern Tennessee — Copperhill, Etowah, Mineral Bluff, Blue Ridge, Canton, Ellijay, Chatsworth, you name it and Fred worked there.
It was early in his career with the railroad that Fred, working at the Mineral Bluff depot, sold a ten cent ticket from Mineral Bluff to Copperhill to a young girl named Blanche Smith. Blanche was in her senior year at Fannin County High School in Morganton. Among the many things that Fred and Blanche had in common was a love of sports. Blanche was an outstanding guard on the Fannin County High teams of 1945-46 through 1947-48, and was named to the Class B all-state team in 1946-47. Fred and Blanche were married in April, 1948.
Fred began coaching and organizing independent sports teams before the ink was dry on his diploma. For his first coaching gig, he organized and coached a ladies basketball team at Friendship Church. He coached and pitched for a local fast-pitch softball team, sponsored for a few years by the C (Crumley) and M (Mason) Dairy. When the sponsorship ran out, Fred kept the team going on his own and scheduled games with teams from East Tennessee, North Georgia and Western North Carolina. He even persuaded the Chattanooga Combustion team from Chattanooga to make the 69 mile trip up the River Road to take on the locals. Combustion was a world class team with a world class pitcher named Wes Ivy. To say that the Copperhill lads had trouble hitting Ivy would be an understatement, but the game was fairly close.
Fred became a hard-to-hit pitcher himself, learning everything himself. He says that he ‘fooled around’ with different grips and types of release until he had built up a number of pitches that would make the ball curve to the left (a regular curve ball), drop, curve to the right (a screwball in the lexicon of soft-ballists), rise, flutter and do numerous unimaginable tricks.
In his down time from softball, Fred found lots of other sports activities to keep him busy. He organized many independent basketball teams over a 35-40 year period. His Black Knights and Lady Black Knights teams of the 50s and early 60s enjoyed a great deal of success. Led by such local notables as Earl Satterfield, Buster Fowler, Earl and Jackie Townsend, Blanche Ganues, Peggy Thompson, Mary Lou Fowler, Jackie Hartness and many others, these teams were forces to be reckoned with.
Fred takes personal pride, however, in talking about his favorite Independent basketball team. His 1973 Morganton team competed in the Ellijay Jaycee League and put up a lusty record of 47 victories against only one defeat. One of the stars of the team was Fred’s son, Fred Ganues, Jr. who had grown to a height of 6 feet, 8 inches. Other notables on the team included 6” 7” Danny Aaron from Blairsville and former East Fannin aces Tim Smith, Ricky Ballew, Tommy Jones and Ricky Beavers.
When East Fannin High School fielded its first football team in 1956, the school needed a PA announcer. Who volunteered for the job? If you answered Fred Ganues, you are correct. The school did not have a band so Fred played a tape of the National Anthem played by the University of Tennessee band before each game and then went about the business of concisely reporting the action on the field to the fans in the stands. He did this on a volunteer basis until the school closed in 1976.
Who was called upon to coach young men in Babe Ruth, Connie Mack and Dixie Youth Leagues in the eastern part of the county every year? If you answered Fred Ganues you are correct.
Who officiated local basketball teams, first at the old Fannin County High in Morganton, then at Copper Basin and numerous elementary schools in the area for 40 years? If you answered Fred Ganues you are correct.
When he was not busy in sports as a participant or coach, Fred, usually with his son and other youngsters in tow, made the trek to various venues to watch sporting events. Football, basketball and, more recently, women’s softball games at the University of Tennessee often found Fred Ganues in the stands. He remembers Lady Vols pitcher Monica Abbott with admiration. He remembers heading for Knoxville early one Saturday morning and seeing a young Benny Griffith of Copperhill hitchhiking. He stopped and asked Benny where he was headed. Benny replied that he thought he would try to make it up to Knoxville to see if he could hustle a ticket for game that day. So Benny piled in Fred’s car and off they went. And everybody was able to find a ticket. In those days, it was commonplace to see young men who could not afford the luxury of owning a car, making their way from place to place on the strength of a strong thumb.
Fred Ganues can regale an audience for hours with stories about sports in Fannin County and the Copper Basin. He is an endless source of information about the games and the people who have played them in this area for the last 70 years. He remains active by walking and maybe shooting a few hoops at the Fannin County Recreation Center each day. He never misses a Fannin County basketball game. He is one of Fannin County’s most valuable treasures.
By the way, Fred remained with L&N for 42 years. Fred and Blanche remained together until her passing in 2008. They were married for 60 years. Fred Ganues is a loyal man who sticks with good things when they come his way.
Mr. Ancil Fred Ganues, Sr., age 86, of Morganton, GA passed away Thursday, March 12, 2015 in the Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, TN. He was born on June 14, 1928 in Pickens County, GA. He was retired from L&N Railroad after 42 years of service as an agent/operator and was a member of Morganton Baptist Church. Mr. Ganues loved all sports, especially the youth and men’s teams that he coached and played on. He was preceded in death by his wife, Blanche Smith Ganues; son, Lyndale Ganues; mother and father,, Les and Minnie Ganues; sister, Irene Ray; and brothers, John Ganues, Frank Ganues, J.T. Ganues, L.C. Ganues, Bernard Ganues and Jack Ganues. He is survived by a son and daughter-in-law, Freddy and Jenny Ganues of Morganton; sister, Billie Davis of East Ridge, TN; sister-in-law, Ruth Ganues of Maryville, TN; special friend, Reathel Amburn; grandson and his wife, Greg and Rachel Ganues of Knoxville, TN; great grandchildren, Henry Ganues and Elizabeth Marie Ganues; and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. from the Akins of Blue Ridge Chapel with Rev. Danny Parris officiating. Music will be by Keith Barnes. Interment will follow in Barnes Chapel Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the funeral home Saturday from 12 noon until the funeral hour.