Farmington Hills, Michigan
My Life After Patton:
Michigan State University (BS-1963),U.S. Army (1963-1965),
Lawrence Institute of Technology (BS-1971)
Some Things I Remember:
I was the guy who talked Jack Duffy into joining the Mackenzie H.S.
swim team. He wasn't planning on going out for the team. I had a lot of
fun watching him and Gary La Prise compete for fun in the Mackenzie pool.
Gary challenged Jack to a 200-yard race once with Mackenzie coach Don Andrews
timing them. Neither swimmer wanted to take the lead and be the pacemaker
for the other. Coach Andrews stopped the race because he thought that a
new pool record was being set for slowness.
John Lovstedt was a freshman diver and we became good friends. He introduced
me to Patton pool and to Jimmy Ottinger. I should say that Jimmy introduced
himself to me. (You know Jimmy)
While I was at Patton Pool, I met many other interesting people. Bob Sanchez
was the city champion in diving the year before I started swimming. We
graduated from Western H.S. Then there was Ron Jaco from Eastern H.S. Bob
came to the pool quite often, but Ron didn't. Bob was a rough diver but
had lots of power and a great personality. He ended up selling insurance
in Virginia. Ron was a big name U of M freshman diver and he was more interested
in trying to recruit John Lovstedt for that school. He didn't talk much
to a beginning schmuck like me. I didn't really develop into a decent diver
until I went to Michigan State.
I was a lifeguard in 1960 at the Rouge pools during the summer. I worked
out in the morning and during lunch at Rouge Park and then Lovstedt, Ron
Syria and I went to Patton Pool in the evening. Because I was a diver,
I didn't meet many swimmers at Patton pool. I met more of them as a lifeguard
and a diver at Rouge. Mike Reissing helped me rescue a seriously
drowning guy in 1960. I was on the high tower in the deep end and I kept
noticing this one individual. The pool was very crowded during the
4th of July holiday. But I kept noticing this one guy who was just floating
face down with his arms out stretched. At first, I thought that he was
just swimming there. But I kept coming back to him for some unknown reason.
He had his head down for just too long. I took my life in my hands and
jumped into a big crowd at the base of that high guard stand. If I could
have walked on water I would have. That swimmer had his head down for just
too long for a nonprofessional swimmer. I was scared to death that he was
dead. Mike Reissing was the lifeguard who took my place on that tower after
I jumped in. After we revived that swimmer, Mike stayed with me on the
tower until I stopped shaking. I still remember Mike's face when I called
for a clearing of the pools to enable John Brown (the head lifeguard) to
bring emergency oxygen and first aid to us. I think about that often and
remember it like it was yesterday.
I remember John Dudeck who was a great breaststoker from Western H.S. and
later a three time All-American at Michigan State. But most of all, I remember
his beautiful bride who was a bronze medalist on the three-meter springboard
in the 1956 Olympics. She was a beautiful woman and also went to Mackenzie
H.S. Her brother (Fletcher Gilders ) was a diver at Ohio State University
and a coach at Bowling Green University. At one time, Fletcher owned the
state record for pole vaulting at Northwestern H.S. in Detroit. John Dudeck
was the person who recuited me for Michigan State University.
I remember another time at Rouge Park. I was again on the high tower in
the deep end. Some young boys pushed a girl into the water beneath me.
Her girlfriends started yelling at me that she could not swim. I jumped
in like a good diver. When I hit bottom and I briefly watched a surreal
image of a young girl on the bottom trying to flay herself to the top but
going nowhere. She looked like some space odyssey of weightlessness. I
turned her around, grabbed her waist from behind and gave a hard push off
of the bottom of the pool. She got a 16-foot rocket ride to the surface
in less than a second. I bet that she remembers that ride to this day.
I know that I do.
Then there was the time in 1960, just after the olympic trials, when there
was an American/Canadian water show held at Brennan Pools. The divers had
some comedy routines. One of them was where Ron Syria was to do a dying
duck (belly dive) off of the 10-meter platform. On the way down, I was
supposed to fire a blank pistol and Ron was supposed to double-up and release
a bunch of shredded paper that was supposed to look like feathers
shot off of a duck. Ron jumped off the platform and I squeezed the pistol's
trigger, but nothing happened. I kept squeezing the trigger but still nothing
happened. Ron really got mad at me because he held the belly dive all the
way down. That hurts from the 10-meter tower.
And finally, just before the above mentioned swim show, we were practicing
some dives off of the tower. I was going to do a flying one and a half
somersault. This is where I do a swan dive and then just pike over
for the one and a half somersault. A real easy fun dive off of the tower.
You just hold the swan dive for as long as you can and watch the world
go by. But this time I did something different while jumping off of the
platform and I thought that I was going to hit it. So I tucked up and did
a one and a half somersault. I came out of the somersault at 10-meters
and stretched for the water. At seven-meters up I knew that I was going
to land flat on my back. At five-meters I had the ugliest spaghetti dive
in the world going. At zero-meters, I bounced off of the water twice without
going under the surface. When I came back to the surface, I took a deep
breath to replace the air that was knocked out of me. But instead of air
I got water. You see, what they did was have a hose spraying water at the
surface of the pools water so that diver could see the surface after a
dive. That water got into my mouth just as I took a deep breath. I thought
that I was going to die. Nobody knew what happened to me. Most thought
that I hit the tower. When I got pulled out, I just laid there trying to
catch my wind. Then I heard some screaming at the top of my head. I looked
up and saw the mayor of Detroit yelling at the pool manager and a bunch
of cops standing around. I didn't care how much pain I was in. I got up
and pretended to shake everything off. Then I heard the applause. There
was a huge crowd standing there watching the mayor yell at the pool manager.
They were previously watching some water ballet practices in another pool.
(Remember, the stands and the night lights were still up because of the
Olympics that year). I was so embarrassed. I looked hard but I could not
find a hole to crawl into. The next day, I had two red lines going down
my side and the whitest line going down between them. The white line eventually
turned to a real dark black and blue line. The center of my chest ached
for a long time from it being flattened from hitting the water. I never
got a get well card from the mayor.
Home Page * Names
Coach Andrews ignited a major spark to my life, but Jimmy threw fuel on
that spark for a number of years (1956-1963). I hate to think what I would
have become if it weren't for Coach Andrews, Jimmy Ottinger and John Lovstedt.
Diving gave me a sense of self-worth and helped me to develop a work ethic
and a 'no quit' attitude that has propelled me to a successful life. I
never knew what Jimmy did for a living. I do know that he had worked for
Chrysler at one time and that he lived on Brush Street in Detroit. I knew
so little of a guy who did so much for me. I am sad for that. I owe Coach
Andrews major big-time because he was a major player in turning my life
around. I was just a drifter in High School. I tried out for the football
and track teams, but I was too small and slow to do anything. I tried out
for the swim team but could not swim that fast. But I knew a few dives,
so I became a diver. We had two divers who made the city finals (John Lovstedt
and Gary Kid), so I didn't get any chance to compete, but Coach Andrews
said that if I made the top half of divers in the city championships, he
would give me a varsity letter. I made the top half and got my letter.
That changed my life in a big way. I was given a shot of self-worth among
other good things.