Red Heads survive as family

Thursday, December 19, 2002

(Editor's Note: The following is the second of a three-part series on the All-American Redheads, an all-female traveling basketball team that, from 1955 to 1986, was owned and coached by Caraway native, Orwell Moore.)

CARAWAY The love of the game of basketball is what kept Caraway's Famous Red Heads on the road for 50 years showcasing their basketball skills across the country, however, although the team had some luxuries such as traveling in their 31-foot stretch limosine the life of a Red Head was not always as fun as the proverbial barrel of monkeys.

"We were a family," former Red Head coach and owner Orwell Moore of Caraway said. "And families have their differences. We all lived, traveled and worked together all year long, so, of course we had some disagreements, but we always worked through them."

Practices and workouts for the barnstorming Red Heads were also known to be grueling.

Said Lavella Polston McWilliams of Manila who played for coach Moore on the 1965-66 Red Head team, "I was asked by coach Moore to try out for the team and I was very excited, but I tell you, the tryout I had to go through was one of the hardest things I've ever had to endure."

Once McWilliams made the team, things didn't get any easier.

"Everyday while on the road traveling to our next performance, we would have to run one mile behind the limo in a defensive stance," she said. "We would have to run forwards, backwards and shuffle sideways in all kinds of weather!"

McWilliams added that although the team members were constantly going through rigorous training, she holds the memory of being one of Moore's Red Heads as a very special part of her life.

"It was one of the most memorable things of my life," she said. "It was not just the ball playing but the whole experience we were really a traveling family. We went through everything together and I mean everything."

Lights Out

"One of the reasons I wanted to join the team was to get a chance to do some traveling," McWilliams said. "Growing up in Manila and going to school at ASU in Jonesboro, I hardly ever got out of Arkansas I wanted to see the country."

One Red Head experience that McWilliams will not soon forget is her first trip to New York City.

"We were in Central Park in November of 1965," she said. "Seven redheaded females in a limosine in New York City is scary enough at that, but we got the scare of our life late in the afternoon."

At 5:30 p.m. on November 9, 1965, the entire northeast area of the United States including Central Park in NYC suddenly went black.

A sudden, unexpected power outage had struck affecting 80,000 square miles and over 30 million people.

"We were absolutely scared to death," recalled McWilliams.

"For three days we didn't know what was going on. Luckily, nothing happened to us. We all made it through together."


The Red Heads, whose name was eventually changed to the All-American Red Heads, survived many other ordeals while on the road including the elements.

"We traveled through all kinds of weather; rain, snow, hurricanes, blizzards, sand name it," coach Moore recalled." Over the years we traveled over 2.5 million miles by car, bus, ship, train and air. What is most fascinating is the fact that during all that traveling, we never suffered any serious accidents. We may have had a fender bender or two, but that was the extent of it.

"We've been very fortunate in many ways."

(Next week: Coach Moore assesses today's world of professional basketball )

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