Those who live in Michigan said August 12, 2000, was the nicest day they had all summer. It was partly sunny and warm, but not hot. This must have greatly relieved Craig and Barb Dwyer. Plan B, in case of bad weather, was to have the reunion in their living room (Did Craig tell you that, Barb?). When Jeani and I arrived on the reunion scene at Huron Valley Swim Club, Craig and Barb were already busy as a couple of bees transporting the many items needed to throw an all-day party for about 65 people. Zillions of coolers, drinks, ice, food, decorations, etc. had to be lugged to the reunion site and set into place. At about 10AM, the first people started arriving. Although we had name tags for everyone, we didn't need to rely on them. Surprisingly, after 35 years, people hadn't changed that much and were quickly recognizable, even at a distance. Joanne (Scarborough) Hodges and her husband Alan were among the first guests to arrive. I guess missing the plane to come home from a swimming meet in New York in 1963, and having Harry read her the riot act, must have really made an impression on Joanne. She and Alan arrived a week early for the reunion! Actually, they thought the reunion was the Saturday before and consequently got a chance to do an unplanned extra week of camping in Michigan when they found the reunion site vacant on their first visit. Just about all the people who registered for the reunion were able to make it. A few, due to illness or other commitments, were unable to attend: Ron Alsobrook, Larry Dalton, and John and Laurie Powser. We missed you guys, but hope to hear from you via the Internet. Some of Ron Alsobrook's old swimmers, knowing that he was unable to attend the reunion, were able to have a visit with him at his house. We had a couple of unexpected guests: Rich and Dave Dixon. Rich wandered into camp with that million dollar smile of his and a little later Dave came in with his wife Cory (Dave and the former Cory Nash met while lifeguarding at Brennan). Dave probably wondered what kind of nut I was when I immediately pulled up his shirt and started looking for a scar from an old stab wound in the chest that he received while breaking up a fight at Brennan. At about noon we had a lunch of assorted boxed sandwiches and chips from a place called Mancinos. Subway, eat your heart out! After lunch, Harry Hauck showed a video, put togehter with the help of his brother Ken, consisting of some photos taken from his days of coaching at St. Clair where a lot of the Patton swimmers were first introduced to competitive swimming. Also on the video was footage taken of the various marathon swims that Harry has done, such as swimming around the island of Puerto Rico (No kidding!) and swimming from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands! We also got to see him training for the family relay swim of the English Channel by sitting in a tub of ice cold water in a walk-in refrigerator. Does Harry know how to have fun or what? Dinner was served about 5:30. Another slam dunk for the Dwyers in choosing East Texas BBQ for some delicious barbecued beef and pork accompanied by barbecued beans, potato salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, coleslaw, and cheesecake with strawberries for dessert. After dinner the guests were invited by our MC, Dennis Manrique, to come up and address the group with whatever they wanted to say. Many took advantage of this opportunity to thank the coaches, swimmers, and parents for such a memorable experience. A common theme that seemed to prevail was that the swimming experience enriched all our lives by providing good lessons in discipline and sacrifice, opening new worlds to us, and making many friends. The after dinner "speeches" turned out to be a very moving experience and in this reporter's opinion the highlight of the reunion. One of the most memorable parts for me was the presentation of a family-size can of tuna by Tom Sullivan to yours truly for his contribution on the website in spreading awareness of the impending Y2K catastrophe. Harry came up last with a thanks to the members of the reunion committee, presenting each with a T-shirt commemorating one of his many marathon swims that he uses to publicize serious social problems such as AIDS, drugs, and pollution. In appreciation of my efforts in beginning the reunion process 3-1/2 years ago with the website, Harry presented me with a solid copper spike (recovered off the coast of Puerto Rico from a 300-year-old sunken Spanish galleon) mounted on a wooden plaque. Harry's brother Ken, who is a professional photographer and videographer, generously volunteered to capture the events of the day for us. The day went by way too fast and left us all with the thought that we need to do this again!
The reunion was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was the first reunion of any kind that I have ever attended. What struck me the most is how little people change. In spite of the many skills, knowledge, roles, etc. we have all developed in the last 35 years, there is some essential quality of personality (essence) that changes very little and that is exactly what makes each of us so unique and drew us together as friends. After about 5 minutes, it seemed like we just saw each other the day before at workout. I kept expecting to hear Harry yell, "Get your bands on. We're going to pull a mile fly." The day was also important for me for giving me the opportunity to thank those whose love extended beyond the borders of their own family unit to enrich the lives of other kids from other families. It was a great pleasure to have three of the Patton coaches attending, Harry Hauck, Tom Sullivan, and Jeff Longstreth. They were the architects of the team at Patton, men who had the vision and commitment to carry it out. It was also a real privilege to have three members of the unsung heroes and supporting infrastructure of the team, the parents. How often we would like to express our gratitude to someone, but it is no longer possible. It was great to be able to walk up to Mr. Boyd, Mr. Powser, and Doc Szuba, shake hands and thank them from a perspective of 35 years for all that they did. And finally, the building blocks, the swimmers themselves. I remember Craig Dwyer sending me an email after he read Joanne (Scarborough) Hodges' biography on the website. He said he couldn't figure out if swimming attracts good people or makes them that way. I have come to believe that it attracts good people and makes them better. What a privilege to be associated with a group of people that were bonded by a mutual respect for each other by sharing the same hard work and suffering through workouts. I never saw anyone as being Mexican, Armenian, rich, poor, black or white, Catholic, or Protestant.. They were all the same as I was. Just another shivering guy with red stinging eyes and trying to catch his breath, believing he would eventually succeed, if he just worked a little harder and never gave up.
Some Things Heard
Doc Szuba said Patton was known as the "Welfare Team" because of all the kids who came from the poorer sections of Detroit.
I found out from Fred Savinsky's wife, Kathy, what it really takes to catch a great girl. Forget about a fancy car and a big bank account, just try some old-fashioned good manners. When asked how she and Fred met, she said they both arrived at a party at the same time and Fred opened the door for her! It really made a deep impression on her and the rest is history.
To Craig Dwyer, for doing 99% of the planning and work. Craig is the guy whose gratitude to those who opened up to him the world of swimming led to getting the rest of us going to organize a real reunion.
To John Savinsky, a guy whose own appreciation and precious memories of swimming wouldn't let him take "no" for an answer as he bulldoggedly rounded up people for the reunion.
To Craig Tesch, the human P.A. system, for crowd control.
Thanks, guys, for a great day I'll always remember!
Carol Danboise, what's your secret? You still look 15!