'Thomasville Ticket Lady' has represented athletic program more than half a century
Maybe Joyce Torrence should’ve been a meter maid. Over the past 50-plus years, she’s handed out more tickets than the entire Thomasville police force.
If you’ve ever been to a sporting event at Thomasville High School or Thomasville Middle School, there’s a high probability you’ve met Torrence. The 85-year-old Thomasville woman is the unofficial “Thomasville Ticket Lady,” having sold tickets at football games, basketball games, wrestling matches, soccer games, track meets — you name it — for more than half a century.
“If it’s going on in Thomasville, there’s a 99.9-percent chance she’s there,” says Steve Bare, athletic director at Thomasville High School. “It’s got to be up in the hundreds of thousands of ball games that she’s been to. I mean, if you add up all the events she’s been to, she’s got to hold the record.”
Hundreds of thousands may be an exaggeration — no one’s actually counting, after all — but Bare’s point is a valid one: In the pantheon of Thomasville athletics, Torrence has played an important, albeit under-the-radar, role.
“She really is an institution,” he says. “The T (athletic logo), the Bulldog (mascot), Coach (George) Cushwa, Coach (Allen) Brown — you could put them all in the same conversation. She’s been that important to our community.”
Torrence, a retired educator, began selling tickets at high-school sporting events during the 1950s, when she was on staff at the school. A teacher, Alexander Watson, had been doing the job and asked if she was interested.
“I said, ‘Yeah, I think so, but let me check with my husband and see what he says,’” Torrence recalls. “My husband said it was OK if I wanted to, so I tried it and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Eventually, the job evolved to include events at the middle school — varsity, junior varsity, everything. If you attended any sporting event at either school, you could fully expect to find Torrence sitting there with a smile on her face and a gray, metal money box in front of her.
“For all the sports, all seasons,” Torrence says. “Would you believe this week I’ve been out every night? Between the middle school and the high school, you can easily have five games a week.”
Ironically, Torrence says she’s not what most people would consider a huge sports fan — though she does admit to cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers, like the rest of her family does — but she’s clearly a supporter of Thomasville athletics. She might even sneak into the gym to watch the end of a basketball game between the Bulldogs and, say, their rivals from Lexington High School.
Mostly, though, she simply enjoys the interaction she has with a community of people she’s come to know and love.
“I see a lot of grandmothers and grandfathers whose children and grandchildren I’ve had,” she says. “I may not remember all their names, but I remember their faces. It’s very rewarding to know all these families.”
When Torrence retired from the high school’s guidance department in 1993, she kept her job taking up money at sporting events.
“You know, when you retire, you need to have something to look forward to, and I look forward to this,” she explains. “When I finally retired, they asked me if I would continue doing this, and I said I would be glad to if they would let me. I don’t know why they keep me.”
They keep her because she’s a valuable, instantly recognizable face in the Thomasville athletics community.
“She, as a career educator, has been in this school system a long time, so there’s a whole generation of people in Thomasville who know Mrs. Torrence from her role here as an educator,” Bare says.
“And then you compound that with the three or four generations of children who have played sports — whose families have come in and out of the gate at football or baseball or basketball or volleyball or whatever it is — and she has been the constant. Coaches have changed, athletic directors have changed, venues have changed, but Mrs. Torrence has been the same. She’s been here all these years, and she’s still going strong.”
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