Marcia Raymer had never dribbled a basketball.
But on a fall day in 1975, the 5-foot 9-inch South Dakota farm girl received an invite from a coach at her high school to try out for the girls team.
She was Marcia Johnson in those days, and went on to become a member of the first-ever state-sanctioned girls basketball team at her tiny 65-student school.
And her team qualified for the state tournament sponsored by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
Raymer, now a 53-year-old Omaha-area elementary school counselor, still holds news clipping, a varsity letter and other reminders of her years as a forward who wore her hairs in braids, and was known for a tough hook shot and calm nerves at the foul line.
One of her favorite reminders is a white cotton T-shirt she received for playing in the tourney, a shirt that carries in red letters the words: “South Dakota Girls State Basketball.”
“It brings back good memories, a feeling of home, of being part of something,'' said Raymer.
T-shirts have been around for decades, and this year marks a big milestone — kind of a 100th birthday — for the simple piece of clothing. In 1913 the white cotton T-shirt was adopted as official underwear for sailors in the U.S. Navy, according to the Berg Companion to Fashion. The military's use of T-shirts helped popularize the garment, which today shows up on everyone from kids and grandmas to sports heroes and fashion models.
Clothing doesn't get much more basic than a T-shirt, but they can carry significance for those who wear them. T-shirts proclaim a person's love and allegiance to sports teams like the Huskers, musicians like Bruce Springsteen, for high schools, colleges, vacation spots and brands of beer.
But T-shirts also can carry significance that is deeply personal, taking us back to a certain point in our lives in a powerful way.
“They can become a vessel for memories,'' said Jennifer Baumgartner, a clinical psychologist in Maryland and author of the new book “You Are What You Wear.”
Baumgartner, whose book examines the psychological reasons behind our clothing choices, said that's why people keep certain shirts for decades. A T-shirt, she said, can become like a treasured family photo, something you will not part with, no matter how full your closet gets.
Raymer keeps her basketball T-shirt tucked in a drawer at home.
The first sanctioned girls basketball season and tournament in South Dakota came three years after the federal Title IX regulation that expanded athletic opportunities for women. She said playing on her school team and in the tournament taught her that she could achieve anything if she worked hard.
Her Canova High School Eagles played in the Class B state tournament in December 1975 at the Huron (S.D.) Arena. She was a sophomore, and will never forget how huge the 6,000-seat arena looked compared to the tiny high school gyms where her team usually played.
Her team also qualified for the tourney in 1976 and 1977.
A South Dakota newspaper said the crowd went crazy when Raymer drained a “big hook,” breaking a 21-all third-quarter tie during the 1976 tournament.
She still remembers the crowd jumping up when she sunk the shot from just inside the foul line, the cheers, and her coach's wide eyes and “oh-wow” look.
“It was,” she said, “a big moment for me.”
We asked readers to tell us about their favorite T-shirts and the stories behind them. Here are a few:
Hinky Dinky grocery store T-shirt
Neal Obermeyer was a teenager working at the Hinky Dinky grocery store in Auburn, Neb., in 1995.
In the store's back room a T-shirt with the Hinky Dinky logo hung by the loading dock doors.
Obermeyer always admired the shirt. He liked the bright blue color, and had never seen a Hinky Dinky shirt before.
He thought it would be a fun shirt to wear, but never touched it.
Hinky Dinky, known by local teens at “the Dink,” was considered a cool job for high school kids. It was the biggest grocery store in town, and a great place to see friends as they came in to buy snacks.
Obermeyer, who's now 35 and lives in Omaha, also had a family connection with the Dink. His grandfather had managed a Hinky Dinky in Council Bluffs, and Auburn long before Obermeyer was around.
On Obermeyer's last day of work he built up the courage to ask his manager about the shirt and why it was always hanging by the loading dock. Obermeyer thought his manager might know if a Hinky Dinky shirt could be ordered through a catalog.
The manager walked to the back room to look at the shirt, and said he had no idea why it was there or who it belonged to.
The manager grabbed the shirt, handed it to Obermeyer and then walked away.
Obermeyer still has the shirt, and wears it about once a month to a party or some other special place.
“If I'm going to wear it, it's going to get shown off,” he said.
'Life is Good!' t-shirt
Picking a favorite T-shirt is tough for Kurt Kline. He has more than a 100.
His shirts reflect his interests and personality.
He's a big Boston Celtics basketball fan, so one of his favorite T's proclaims the team's 1986 NBA championship.
Another shirt touts Local H, a Chicago-area alternative rock band that Kline loves and has seen live at least 10 times.
Kline's daughter was a competitive swimmer, so another favorite T is from a meet at the University of Maryland. The meet was about a decade ago, and his daughter warmed up in the same lane as a swimmer who's done pretty well in the years since — Michael Phelps.
Kline, who's 56 and lives in Omaha, doesn't just keep his T's in a box. He wears most of them, whether it's a trip to the gym, the grocery store or around the house.
He admits that his wife probably wishes he'd dress up a little more, but overall she's just fine with his collection.
If Kline had to pick a favorite T, it would be a grey one he received as a gift about four years ago.
The shirt shows a cartoon golfer taking a swing, and carries the words, “Life is good!” Kline, who loves hitting the links, says the shirt sums him up.
“I enjoy life,'' he said.
Batchelor Beach Bash t-shirt
Every summer Brenda and Charlie Batchelor of Bellevue gather for a reunion with his side of the family on a beach in North Carolina.
For each reunion, family members create a design for T-shirts that display the Batchelor family name. All the family members wear the shirts during the reunions, and over the years Brenda and Charlie have accumulated a collection.
The shirt from the 2011 reunion is a special one for Brenda and Charlie because it commemorates their daughter, Janessa, who died from leukemia about two years ago at age 23.
The shirt is orange, and the design incorporates cancer awareness ribbons.
“It's a memory of her,'' Brenda said.
Sue and Nolan Novotny
Sue Novotny's husband, Joe, loved his grandson and NASCAR.
So when Joe died four years ago, Sue knew she had to come up with a special gift for his grandson, Nolan Kelt, a racing fan just like his grandpa.
Sue gathered up Joe's NASCAR T-shirts and had them made into a quilt that she gave to Nolan a year ago on his 11th birthday.
Nolan called his grandfather, “bapa,” and sleeps with the quilt made of his shirts every night.
Stadium Usher t-shirt
Toby Johansen has been hitting the College World Series for 25 years, and always buys a couple T-shirts of the teams that play.
So far he has more than 50 CWS shirts from such teams as LSU, Creighton, North Carolina, Texas and Florida.
Johansen, who's 44 and lives in Osceola, Neb., takes his kids to the CWS.
He said even though he's got a good collection of team T's, his favorite CWS shirt doesn't carry the name of any school.
About 15 years ago, he was sitting in the stands and spotted an usher wearing a grey T-shirt that simply said: Stadium Usher.
Johansen, who grew up playing baseball, thought it was a cool shirt, and offered the usher $20 for it.
The usher thought about it, and said sure. The usher was wearing a second shirt underneath, so pulled off the usher T and handed it to Johansen.
He likes the shirt because it's a rare one, and because it reminds him of two of his loves: family and baseball.
Sometimes people wear shirts with names of places that they'd like to visit.
Not Gil Hill of Omaha.
His T-shirt collection represents a bunch of countries, and he's been to them all.
Back in 2001 he was a dance host on 97-day round-the-world cruise. In return for his free cruise, his job was to hit the dance floor with women who didn't have a partner on the trip.
The ship stopped at more than 30 ports, and he collected a T-shirt at many of them — including Hong Kong, Tahiti, New Zealand, Egypt, Greece and Italy.
Hill, 87, said the shirts remind him of his cruise, which he called an amazing adventure.
His favorite is from Sydney, Australia. It's a black T with a design featuring a koala bear and three gold jumping kangaroos.
Hill, a retired pastor, still loves to dance, and likes wearing his shirts when he's out for the evening.
People ask him if he's been to the countries displayed on his shirts.
He tells them the country was a wonderful place to visit, and offers them some advice: “Go before you die.”
signed Fishbone T-shirt
Ever since he was a kid, Lee Holmstedt loved the band Fishbone.
The Los Angeles group plays a mix of funk, rock and ska that always sounded great to Holmstedt.
Back in 1999 when he was a senior at Omaha North High he wore a Fishbone T-shirt to watch the band live for the first time at the Ranch Bowl.
Before the show he was in the Ranch Bowl parking lot with friends, and the band's tour bus was nearby.
One of the band members invited Holmstedt and his friends onto the bus.
Holmstedt, who's now 31, remembers one of the band members walking around swigging from a bottle of Jagermeister. Two other band members were in the back of the bus watching a Jackie Chan movie.
It was an amazing experience for Holmstedt, but the best part was he got all the band members to autograph his shirt.
“They're not the biggest band in the world,” he said. “But they are to me.”