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"Across the street from the house was a box factory," Haynes says. "They had a black guy for a janitor and he'd bring over cardboard boxes and we'd put them up for insulation. We papered the walls with the Tulsa World and The Tulsa Tribune." The older Haynes kids, including sister Cecil and brother Wendell, all played basketball for Booker T. Washington High School. Cecil first took Marques to a practice when he was five years old, set him on the sidelines and gave him a basketball to play with.
"I learned how to shoot from her and how to dribble from Wendell," Haynes says. "We'd take economy-size food cans and cut the bottoms out and tack them to the outhouse, then ball rags and tie them together and shoot baskets. Sometimes we'd find a barrel hoop on an empty lot and tie a feed 'n' grain gunnysack to it for a net and use that for a basket. Everywhere I went—the backyard, vacant lots—I practiced dribbling with a tennis ball. Or a rubber ball."
Not that Haynes became a high school prodigy. Booker T. had a superior basketball team in those days, what with Orlandus Lowe, Big Eyes Davidson, James (Peter Rabbit) Wilks and Long Tom Smith, and Smith recalls that Haynes had a devil of a time breaking into the starting lineup.
The autumn following his senior year in high school, Haynes hitchhiked to Langston, 83 miles away, catching 16 rides and bumping over the last two miles in a mule-drawn wagon driven by an amiable old white man wearing overalls. "Glad to see you're goin' to school," he told young Marques. "Get out there and do the best you can."
Haynes eventually graduated with a degree in industrial education—cabinetmaking and welding, that sort of thing—but what he did best was play basketball. On a team that won 112 games and lost only three while he was there, Haynes was the star. In a famous scene from the movie Go, Man, Go!, a story of the Globetrotters, Haynes catches the fancy of owner Abe Saperstein, played by Dane Clark, after challenging Saperstein to steal the ball from him in a hotel corridor, then making Saperstein look foolish by dribbling around him. That was Hollywood varnish. The Globies first met Haynes when he was a senior at Langston, when, except for that one show against Southern the season before, he was playing straight, no-nonsense basketball for Gayles.
When the Globetrotters came to town, they played Langston. "We won't beat you by a whole lot," the Globie captain, Cumberland, assured Gayles. The only thing fancy about Marques that day was the 26 points he scored in leading Langston to a 74-70 win. The Globies' traveling secretary, Winfield Welch, tried to sign Haynes, but Marques turned him down. "I was right on top of getting a degree," Haynes says. "My mother would have killed me if I had left school."
After getting his degree and going on a tour that fall with the Kansas City Stars, a kind of Globetrotter farm team, Haynes signed on with the Globies in January 1947. He and Tatum were the show, of course, with Goose carrying the comedy and Marques doing the dribbling. "I never considered myself a clown," he says.
Nor did the NBA owners and coaches. Twice he turned down offers to play in the NBA—with the Philadelphia Warriors in 1953 and with the Minneapolis Lakers in 1955. "I would have made $35,000 in 1953 and been the highest-paid player in the NBA," says Haynes. "Isn't that unbelievable? I tell that to my players and they don't believe me. You tell them that we stayed three or four in a hotel room, and slept across one bed, and they don't believe that, either."
Tell them, Marques, about that hotel you stayed at in Cincinnati and the insect spray: "It was an old, dilapidated-looking hotel. It seemed like a haunted house. It had these old creepy steps you had to walk up, broken windows, spider webs, and here come two or three bats flying around.... We used to have to go into hotels with insect spray. We'd take the covers off and spray our mattresses, underneath and on top, to kill the bedbugs."
Tell them about the day Clifton bought a used Lincoln in snowy Cleveland and how all those Globies, who went with him to pick it up, had to push it out of the dealer's lot because the battery was dead and how everyone laughed as they fell in the snow. Or about how every city had a black hotel, and about how that was good in a way because every black entertainer who happened to be in town would stay in that same hotel—Nat King Cole and Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, Joe Louis and Peg Leg Bates.