Taylor Trunks, a legendary women’s amateur and semi-professional team that competed in Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s. They were the most famous women's team to play in Chicago, and competed regularly for national and international championships.
The Trunks were founded in the fall of 1921 as the Lake View Community Girls at the Lake View Community House. The original team were from 14 to 16 years old, and consisted of Sylvia Bloom, Rose Jensen, Hattie Olson, Dena Schaper, Marie Curtin, Kitty Miller, Elizabeth Falbisanor, and Dorothy Stock. The first year they won 11 games and lost 2, both to the Brownies. The following season, 1922-23, the team garnered a 15-2 record.
While still called the Lake View Community Girls, they won the Central AAU Women's Basketball Championships in 1924 and 1925, along the way beating an earlier team called the Taylor Trunks, sponsored by the T.J. Taylor company, a trunk manufacturer. After winning the Central AAU in 1924, the Lake View girls traveled to Edmonton to play the famous Edmonton Grads for the Underwood Trophy, emblematic of the North American championship. They were humiliated in two games, 44-10 and 40-11. The following year the Lake View team had improved so the winning margins by Edmonton were narrower, 29-14 and 22-13.
In the 1925-26 season, under the name Tri-Chi Girls, they took their third Central AAU title. During this time, the team retained most of their original players. In April 1926 the Tri-Chis narrowly lost to the Edmonton Grads in a non-championship game in Chicago, 19-17.
Becoming the Taylor Trunks Tri-Chi Girls
In the fall of 1926, the T.J. Taylor company began sponsoring the Tri-Chi Girls, and the new name of the team became the Taylor Trunks Tri-Chis. Members from the original team included Kitty Miller Boecker, Marie Curtin, Elizabeth Falbisanor, and Dena Schaper Wilson. New members included Lillian Anderson, Dorothy Benoit, and three 16-year old girls — Marian Ryan, Mary Balash, and Ella Smith. The team that fall lost two games to the Edmonton Grads, 35-12 and 34-8.
In a write-up on the team in the Chicago Tribune from January 1, 1927, the Taylor Trunks Tri-Chis had already won three games against women’s teams by unheard of scores (defeating the Sparrows twice, 60-2 and 44- 4, and the Pilgrims 59-5), and lost to a men’s team, the Pullman Company, 21-2. The paper reported that their record in the previous six years was 150 games won and four lost, all to the world champion Edmonton Grads. In actuality, since the team was the Lake View Community Girls, the team lost seven games to the Edmonton team.
In mid-February, 1927, the Taylor Trunks strengthened their lineup with the addition of center Violet Krubaeck, who had already made a name for herself playing for the Welles Park Royal Arrows. A couple of days later, however, Krubaeck as the new center was not enough fot the Tri-Chis to keep from losing the "national championship" to the Cleveland Aces. In April, the Taylor Trunks Tri-Chis hosted the Edmonton Grads in a non-championship game, and lost 23-17.
Taylor Trunks Deemed Professionals
By the fall of 1927, the Taylor Trunks was no longer considered an amateur team by the AAU and were barred from playing AAU teams. The Taylor Trunks claimed that the AAU barred them because they were too good and because two of their members, Marie Curtin and Elizabeth Falbisanor, were playground instructors. That October, the Taylor Trunks traveled to Edmonton and played the Grads for the Underwood Trophy, and were crushed in two games, 27-19 and 39-8. The remainder of the 1927-28 season was spectacular as they proceeded to win 35 games in a row.
In 1928 and 1929, the Taylor Trunks, as they were now simply known, won the "national" women’s championship, defeating the same Cleveland team both times, 1928 in Cleveland (when the opponent was called the Aces), and 1929 in Chicago (when the opponent had changed the name to the Allerton Aces). The Taylor Trunks still had original members Kitty Miller Boecker, Marie Curtin, Dena Schaper Wilson, and Elizabeth Falbisanor, playing on the team, and was under the expert coaching of Harry Wilson. It was common for players to marry their coaches during this era, and Dena Schaper Wilson was probably married to Harry Wilson. In January of 1929, the team boasted of having won 157 games of the 165 it played.
The 1929-30 season saw the addition of two forwards, Cassie Martin, who had ten years of experience playing in Danville, and a Chicago high school girl, Hazel Kelfstrom. Martin made an immediate impact and entered the starting lineup immediately. Kelfstrom worked a year or so as a reserve.
In January of 1930, the Taylor Trunks were being hailed in the press as national champions. An AP report from that month said that the Trunks since their founding in 1921 had won 194 victories and suffered only eight defeats. The AP noted that the girls were all working girls and that Violet Krubaeck, a stenographer, was "probably the best girl player in the United States." The AP report exclaimed to its national audience on the virtues of the Chicago game: "The basketball that the Trunks, Brownies, and Malones play is not the timid, ladylike kind of the bloomer age. It is fast and rough, and the girls wear boys' equipment."
In February 1930, the Taylor Trunks met the London Ontario team in the Broadway Armory, and narrowly prevailed, 23-22. In January and March, Trunks again met the Allerton Aces, in four games for the national championship, the total point total for all the games determining the title. The first two games, curiously, were played in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in late January. The Trunks won both games in Fort Wayne, 15-8 and 11-9. The next two games were played in Chicago in early March as warm-up games in to the men's ABA games. Again, the Trunks won both, 20-16 and 25-15. Theoretically, the two teams were suppose to play two more games, but no results have been found and the games may not have been played.
In May of 1930, the Taylor Trunks traveled to Edmonton, and before 7,000 fans, beat the Grads in the first game, 34-24, but lost the second game, 40-13. The win was a tremendous victory for the Trunks, but they lost the Underwood Trophy under a bizarre rule that the winner of the trophy was determined by the two-game score total. So the Trunks lost the match, 64-47.
In 1931, the Taylor Trunks included Elizabeth Falby (who shortened her name from Falbisanor), Hazel Kelfstrom, Violet Krubaeck, Marie Curtin, Dorothy Benoit, Ella Smith, and Cassie Martin. The team reportedly had won 157 games out of the last 163 it had played.
In the 1931-32 season, the Taylor Trunks lost a great player, Violet Krubaeck, as well as long-time starters Ella Smith and original player Elizabeth Falby. The team's greatest days were behind it. The team continued with Helen Teague playing center, and Cassie Martin, Marie Curtin, Marie Teichman, Dorothy Benoit, Hazel Kelfstrom, Kilens, and Barrett rounding out the lineup. Romances were not unknown in women's amateur basketball. At the end of the 1931-32 season there was a report of Marie Teichman eloping with the Trunks' manager, Kenneth A. Anderson.
In the 1932-33 season, the Taylor Trunks lost the great Cassie Martin. The team played mostly semi-pro basketball in its last years, competing throughout the Midwest against other women’s teams and against such men’s teams as the House of David and the Wishbone Athletic Club. In December 1932 Chicago Tribune item reported that, “The Trunks have been forced to play men’s teams to find competition.” In January of that year, an earlier report said that they had suffered 38 defeats in the previous two years to men’s teams. The Taylor Trunks total record at that point was 242 wins and 46 defeats since their founding in 1920. The 1933 team featured at least one original member of the team, Marie Curtin, who in a January 29 game led the scoring in a swamping of the Davenport Superiors, 30 to 13.
The Chicago Tribune posted a small story in January 1934 mentioning that the Taylor Trunks were going to play the Dundee Merchants. That appears to be the last mention of the great Taylor Trunks. By March of that year it is clear that the Trunks had disbanded. A number of Taylor Trunks were competing on a new amateur team, the Great Northern Debutantes (notably Cassie Martin, Helen Teague, Inza Teague, Hazel Kelfstrom), which competed in the American Tournament and the Central AAU tournament. Long-time Trunks star, Marie Curtin, was playing with the rival Empire Sportsverein.
Revival of the Taylor Trunks Name
A new Taylor Trunks team appeared five years later, in the 1938-39 season, when they were one of the teams in the women's division of the Windy City League. The coach of the team, Mark Singer, had been coaching women teams since the early 1930s, notably the Spencer Coals, T. J. Bowlers, and Turner Clothiers. But after the Clothiers finished their 1937-38 season, he reorganized them and took the legendary name of the Taylor Trunks. The members of this new Trunks team were Lillian Rozhon, Millie De Lord, Dorothy Dennison, Ione Murphey, Mary Graven, Bee Zoller, and Miller, players who had experience with earlier Singer teams.
The 1938-39 season thus saw many mentions of the Taylor Trunks in a heavy schedule of games, January and February, all as preliminary games before the men's Windy City League contests. They played against such opponents as the Bill Rand Girls, Queen Anne Aces (which included former Trunk Violet Krubaeck, Sappano Paints, and I. C. Co-Eds. The Trunks, Queen Annes, and Bill Rands were evenly matched and most of their matches were closely contested with all three trading wins.
The Taylor Trunks on January 17 beat the Bill Rand Girls, 24-17, for the first round Windy City League title, but in March, the they received their last mention when they lost to the Bill Rand Girls in the Central AAU tournament, 25-23, in which the winner was determined to be the Windy City League champion. Singer at the end of the season dropped the Taylor Trunks name, and for the next season adopted the Spencer Coals name, thus ending a glorious 19-year history of the Taylor Trunks, and last year merely serving as a brand of for a top.
- Dorothy Benoit
- Marie Curtin
- Elizabeth Falbisanor
- Hazel Kelfstrom
- Violet Krubaeck
- Cassie Martin
- Kitty Miller
- Dena Schaper