Small city life in 1960 -- No scholarship for Rabbit Angstrom

A couple of years ago, I read all the Rabbit novels by John Updike. The protagonist (one hesitates to call him a hero) Rabbit Angstrom, at the beginning of the cycle, is a 20-something ex-high school basketball star laboring away as a demonstrator for the “Magipeel” gadget, in what sounds like a fairly dumpy department store. He never went to college.

Yet, he was the top high school basketball player of the region in his glory days. Allowing for the fact that Updike is a fiction writer, does that ring true? Even in 1960, in Pennsylvania, couldn’t the best local HS basketball player get college scholarship somewhere? Especially if the alternative was to stand for hours in a cheap suit demonstrating a Magipeel?

Rabbit Angstrom was 26 as the story started (presumably in 1960), so he would have entered college in 1952, not 1960.

My sister graduated in 1961, so I’m a little familiar with that era.

First, there weren’t that many big-time college basketball programs, so while Rabbit might have been a very good player, he would have had to be better than very good to get a full scholarship. Maybe he got offered a community college scholarship, or a scholarship from a less-than-prestigious school. Also, the chance of becoming an NBA player wasn’t all that interesting (or lucrative) back then.

Also, in 1960, college wasn’t the absolute requirement for a career that it was even 10 years later. And while Rabbit would have been eligible for the draft, since we weren’t in a shooting, the prospect of going into the military wasn’t as frightening as it would be 5 years later.

I knew a lot of guys in my sister’s class who figured they’d either work for a year or two, go in the military for awhile, or just didn’t care that much about college, so they took their HS diplomas and went on from there.

On preview, it seems Rabbit would have graduated in 1952, so everything I said about 1960 was even more true (except he might have wound up in the Korean War.)

Helluva series. Updike wrote a new Rabbit book every decade or so, and it seemed to be an accurate representation of the times. I think that Rabbit had the Holden Caulfield kind of disaffection about life. It’s been 20 years since I read it, but wasn’t he a father in a small town where he had to live with his own legacy? The family dynamic was certainly the greater story arc.

And as everyone else said, small town athletes weren’t guaranteed scholarships. Rabbit grew tremendously through the course of the books, and probably didn’t have strong college aspirations after high school (I can’t remember if he went to college).

I wasn’t thinking of a pro career, but just a chance to attend college.

Apparently so, because his buddy/nemesis Ronnie Harrison also didn’t go, but managed to rise high enough in the insurance business to be one of Rabbit’s country club buddies in the third novel.

He did go into the Army in 1954, I think, but never went overseas.

Probably not. There were no athletic scholarships before 1956, and between 1956 and 1973, they were given out based on need. There were other restrictions, which I won’t go into unless someone really wants to know. But the modern practice of giving scholarships to every player on every Division I team didn’t exist in Rabbit’s day.