In Tribute: Caton last surviving member of 1933 Forrest hoops champs

Submitted by Susan Caton Wright Oran Caton, holding the ball in the front row, was a member of Forrest’s 1933 state basketball championship team.

By Ben Moffett: Special to the CNJ

Oran Caton, 93, the last living member of the 1933 state champion Forrest High basketball team, died Friday at his home in Albuquerque.

Caton his brother, Pearl, and former Clovis High and University of New Mexico hoops coach Bill Stockton were members of the 1933 team that defeated Raton, 28-13, for the state championship. Pearl Caton was also on a 1931 Pirate team that defeated St. Michael’s 24-15 for the title, part of a string of seven straight Forrest appearances in the state tournament.

One of Oran Caton’s most cherished moments came at the 75th anniversary of Forrest’s 1933 title when he was honored at The Pit in Albuquerque during the state basketball tournament, and received a standing ovation from a sellout crowd.

Caton loved to talk about his family and his days growing up in Plain.

“I was born in a dugout,” said Caton, who played college basketball at New Mexico Highlands. “It was about four feet deep with dirt walls and a dirt floor. But we always had plenty to eat, a pen full of pigs and we butchered a calf every so often. We’d grind sausage, wrap it in sheets and hang it in the smokehouse. We were dry-land farmers — wheat, cane, corn. It was marginal.”

His trip to the 1933 state tournament was an adventure, too. “Highway 66 didn’t go straight through from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque then. It ran up to Santa Fe and back to Albuquerque. We decided to go straight west like I-40 goes today. At that time it was just two tracks, no graded road, a few wagons on it.”

Caton moved around after graduating from college before a long career in the Albuquerque Public Schools system.

“I taught and coached grade school at Cliff, fought fires for the Forest Service there, worked at Douglas Aircraft in California during the war, got homesick and took the closest job to Plain I could find. That was Santa Rosa where I coached varsity basketball, football and track.”

He retired from APS in 1980 after 33 years of service as a teacher, coach and administrator. He moved to a home with acreage in Bosque Farms in Valencia County and remained there until two years ago when he returned to Albuquerque.

Funeral services: 2 p.m. Friday at 2 p.m at French Wyoming Chapel in Albuquerque.