As a child, I looked forward to the Fourth of July celebration because the extended Davis family would gather at my uncle Roscoe’s small home located on a small lake near a small town in Minnesota. “Small” was a good thing then because it meant that everything and everybody seemed closer to each other and closer to the excitement on that holiday. We spent the day diving from a raft which floated on empty oil barrels; we floated on inflated truck tire inner tubes, and we all learned to water ski behind Roscoe’s small power boat with its engine just barely able to pull one skier at a time. By the end of the day, the uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and cousins were filled with soda (pop), hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato chips. In that relatively small space, the lake seemed much larger because it was “ours” for the day. The evening fireworks display really was just for our family gathering. It was done by us, and for us. It was such a wonderful day that we could hardly wait for it to happen again.
Sadly in the Davis family history, the Fourth of July family gathering simply ended. Families grew larger and moved to bigger cities and spent vacation time on larger lakes where the fireworks were provided by the local government.
After several years of not having a family reunion, my sister, Cindy, decided that in August of 2012 it was time to revive — in some small way — the special feeling that comes with an extended family simply spending time together in the summer. Trying to find a location and date and cost that would be acceptable to almost 25 people was not an easy task. The answer: A barn. Yes, a barn, but not just any old barn. She found a barn which was built just for the purpose of housing small gatherings for a few days or weeks. O.K., it was located in Northern Wisconsin — not Minnesota — but still it was just 30 miles east of Duluth, Minnesota, and it was build on woodland property overlooking Lake Superior. There were enough bedrooms, beds, and bathrooms to accommodate 25 of us. (Should the numbers increase at the last moment, there were porches outside either end of the barn with couches available for another 6 guests.) The nearest convenience store was 25 minutes away and the nearest neighbor was 3 miles down the dirt road leading to the Barn.
The young at heart could relax, play games, or sleep in an authentic Indian tent built deep in the woods just 200 yards from the Barn. For your total enjoyment, the tepee had two futons and a fire pit inside. (Note: Knowing that there were bear warnings near the teepee, this Landon Bear always slept in the Barn.) From the Barn and leading to the edge of Lake Superior, we had 60 yds of grass to practice our chipping game(for the golfers who brought their pitching wedges)or you could play badminton. Next to the Barn was a wood burning hot tub. At the lowest of the three levels in the Barn, we could choose between table tennis or shuffle board. At night, while sitting around the fire pit, we could make “somemores,” watch the lights on the freighters as they navigate Lake Superior, and enjoy the warmth of the fire. Indoors in the evening, we could play cards (cribbage was the game of choice), and numerous table games kept us busy. Did I mention that eating was the main event of every day? In typical Midwestern tradition, eat-eat eat-sleep-talk-play (with proper libation) was the routine for our 7 day reunion.
Was it a success? You betcha! In addition to the options discussed above, the real reason that we all enjoyed the company of one another is the simple fact that we had no television, no wifi, and only limited cell service linking us to the rest of the world every hour of the day. Impossible, you say. No television? Impossible as it might seem, twenty-some people managed to survive without their daily “fix” of electronics. We talked and talked then ate and ate then took a stroll in the woods and then ate some more. Thanks to the Barn, we got to know each other in lots of small-but memorable- ways.
P.S. And thanks also to our sister, Cindy, who picked up most of the tab for the week.
Thought for the day: It’s the little things in life that count most.
Be good; do what is right.
on Friday September 28, 2012 at 09:22AM
The greater Washington D.C. area has set all-time highs for average temperatures for the last three months. With almost no snow during the winter and temperatures well into the 80's in March, thoughts of golf and tennis started dancing in my head earlier than usual. I had planned on a trip to Florida during Landon’s spring break to visit alumni and, of course, relax while enjoying all that Naples, Florida can offer. If you like golf, tennis, biking, the beach, or Pickleball, then Florida is the place to be. Did I say “Pickleball?” I have played or watched almost every sport on earth (except cricket), but at the Heritage Bay Country Club, I was witness for the first time to the game of Pickleball. Although created as a sport in 1965, it is becoming quite a popular sport activity among the more mature (read: retired-over 50ish) population. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but basically you play indoors or outdoors on a space equal to a badminton court (or approximately one half a tennis court.) There is a net similar to a tennis net; the ball is a wiffle ball about the size of a baseball; the racquet is similar to that used in paddle tennis; doubles is the preferred game; quick hands are more important than quick feet; you only get a point when you win a rally on your service; first team to 11 points wins, but you have to win by two points.
Nancy and I were watching a match on center court, curious as to what we were seeing, and suddenly we were invited to be part of the action. Being a tennis player can help you, but it can also hurt you in the game of pickleball. On the “help you” side, you have the advantage of a basic tennis stroke and you understand the placement strategies of tennis. On the “hurt you” side of this equation, the racquet is shorter and the wiffle ball drops quickly and bounces minimally. (One tends to “wiff” a lot until you get the hang of things, and it is hard to remember that overheads – by rule – cannot be hit within seven feet of the net.) We had a great time learning the game and returned two days later when another round of pickleball was played late in the afternoon – finishing in time for the “Early Bird” specials at the local restaurants. For more information or if you want to form a league (really?), just give me a call or use Google.
Pickleball did not occupy all of our time. We traveled onto Marco Island to visit Allen Hobbs ’87 (right) enjoying lunch with him and his wife, Debbie, and daughter, Elizabeth, who had just finished a fun half day at preschool learning to make a necklace. Their son, A.J., was busy in kindergarten reading from 3rd grade books and preparing his resume for his next level of education (with a little help from his dad’s and mom’s genes). Although being the original computer jock at Landon and having constructed the first computer used at Landon, Allen did want me to know that he remembered one important history lesson from Bob Wipfler’s Middle School class – thus showing his well rounded academic side. The memorable lesson: What were the five commodities taxed by the British which led to the American Revolution? With computer-like speed and Middle School boyish exuberance and smile, he recited the answer: Paper, Paint, Lead, Glass, and Tea. And we all know about the Tea, don’t we?
Mrs. Lou Brett and her son, Nolan.
From left to right, Bob Hanson '43, Mac Jacoby, Rock Brett '41, and John Gill '42.
We were also able to connect with Lou Brett who was the wife of Lt. General Devol (Rock) Brett ’41. Rock received the Kupka Distinguished Alumnus Award at the alumni association meeting in December 2008. Unfortunately Rock died two years later. Nancy and I enjoyed a lovely afternoon chat with Lou and her son, Nolan, while overlooking a golf fairway from her home. (Rock loved golf) Lou has plans to move further North to avoid the hot Florida sun. I suggested Minnesota, Michigan, or Maine, but with a laugh she replied, “No, not for me, Atlanta is as far north as I ever want to be. “I do believe that she is a Southern gal through and through.
Thought for the day: “A man who takes, eats well; A man who gives, sleeps well.
Headmaster David Armstrong with the championship hockey team.
There is currently considerable excitement and justifiable pride surrounding the Landon campus due to the success of the Varsity Hockey team. Last year their record was 25-0-1, and this winter, the team finished 20-2 while winning an I.A.C. league title as well as the Maryland State Championship in consecutive years — not a bad record for two years. I know what you are thinking: “This is not Minnesota or Canadian hockey.” Right on — you have a point there. But this has been a very exciting team to watch.
If you like stats, then check this out: over a two-season period for these Landon Bears, the average margin of victory has been more than four goals. When you consider that most hockey games have scores with a margin of victory of two or fewer goals, then what this team has done is amazing. (Many of you have heard the name DeMatha High School, which is usually ranked No. 1 nationally in more than one sport. Landon beat DeMatha the last two years for the state championship by scores of 8-2 and 5-1). Even with a record like that, few Landon players are recruited for college hockey. But, my goodness, these Bears do love their hockey.
Although a Minnesotan, I can find no hockey genes in me or any of my relatives. I skated on frozen ponds created by an overflow of the Minnesota River and played pickup hockey with my buddies. Hockey was not a part of the athletic offerings at most high schools located in the southern half of the state. Wrestling and basketball were the popular sports, and today, in many areas of the state, it is common for two small towns to combine resources to form one hockey team.
The Chase twins: Ed (far left) and Bill (far right), 1938.
When thinking about recruiting practices today for hockey players (or recruiting pressures for any sport), I am reminded of the athletic history of my father-in-law, Bill Chase. Bill and his twin brother, Ed, were raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Neither had played team hockey; their only skating was on the frozen Detroit River. They were, however, very good baseball players and considered to be all-around fine athletes. So by the end of their senior year of high school, the Chase twins were considered good prospects by the University of Michigan to play Division I ….not baseball, but hockey. Bill and Ed played four years of hockey for the University of Michigan from 1935-1939 — Bill as goalie and Ed as a forward. Do you think that the recruitment of student/athletes has changed slightly in the last 70 years?! Bill and Ed bragged little regarding their hockey days at Michigan, but I received some of the benefits of their playing days as members of Michigan’s athletic ‘M’ Club (varsity letter winners) because, fortunately for me, the Chase twins were granted priority when purchasing highly sought Michigan football tickets (with seats on the 50-yard line for the next 70 years).
My first date as a teacher in Grosse Pointe was with Bill Chase’s daughter, Nancy, who was teaching in the same school and was — like five of her relatives — a graduate of the U of Michigan.
Bill Chase, Nancy and Laura Davis, 1986.
That memorable first date took us to a University of Michigan football game with 100,000 screaming fans supporting a championship team. Tickets, of course, were supplied by Nancy’s dad. I felt really “cool” about that. (I don’t remember who won the game, probably because I was focused on impressing my date.) For Nancy, her high school cheerleading expertise did not give her an edge to become a cheerleader at Michigan. She had the talent, but in 1966, only men were allowed to be cheerleaders at Michigan.
With some thanks to hockey, the rest became history — boy met girl, boy married girl.
Thought for the day: “All is well that ends well.”
As a high school senior in St. Peter, Minnesota, I played football, basketball, and baseball enjoying an average level of success in all three sports, but there is one game which was most memorable—the day that I threw a no hitter. The baseball game was played 40 miles from my home on a typically cold Minnesota spring afternoon. My teammates, the coach, and the bus driver were the only folk from St. Peter who witnessed the highlight of my high school athletic career. There were no parents or brothers or cheerleaders or fans to celebrate with me. No one jumped on me or poured Gatorade on my head. Instead, I remember receiving firm handshakes from my coach and teammates with little fanfare beyond that. I put my jacket on (the spring temperature was usually in the high 40s when I pitched) and headed for the bus being overwhelmed with happiness, but being able to share that enthusiasm with only the relatively few who had seen my “big moment.” I saved the baseball and put the date, score, and words “no hitter” across the seams. I still have the ball, but the inning by inning memories of that game are now fading.
The memories of the thrill of doing something very special in sports came flooding back to me last Friday night during a home basketball game between Landon and Episcopal. Episcopal had lost only one game and was ranked No. 6 in the Washington D.C. area. Landon lost to Episcopal earlier in the year by 13 points and most of Landon’s victories this year have been due to the basketball skills of a 6’1” guard named Joe McDonald. Joe had been the team leader on two consecutive I.A.C. basketball championships and has received All-League and All-Met honors. Although a multi-sport athlete, he was encouraged to play only basketball at Landon by “outside” forces, but in his senior year (and supported by his basketball coach), he displayed his variety of athletic skills and helped the varsity football team by being a standout performer as a split end. Joe is a quiet guy who leads by example. He is a team player and his main support from the stands comes from his mother.
The performance by Joe on that Friday night was one of the best ever witnessed by me or probably anyone who was in the gym. For openers, Landon trailed Episcopal by three points with only three seconds remaining in regulation. Landon fouled to force a free throw; Joe rebounded the miss and dribbled three times with the clock ticking down to one second. With two Episcopal defenders guarding him closely, Joe let a three-pointer fly and “swish” — game tied. The game went into overtime, and in the last minute of overtime, Joe had two steals, sank four free throws, and sank a huge basket. Landon wins!
Fans stormed the court waiting to give Joe that youthful tap on the head or shoulder bump as a way of expressing their overwhelming joy at just having seen one of those “Holy Cow” experiences. Before accepting the crowd’s accolades, Joe found his mother at the middle of the court, gave her a much deserved hug for five seconds, and then gave “high fives” to the Landon student body.
For Joe’s personal record book on that night, he scored 49 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, had five assists and five steals. Joe shared the floor (and the ball) with teammates all of whom have the same goal: let’s win the next game.
Chalk up one more win for Landon; chalk up one more win for a good guy.
Joe will be playing basketball next year at George Washington University.
Thought for the day: “Help others get ahead. You will always stand taller with someone else on your shoulders.”
Be good, do what is right, and keep in touch.
on Friday February 3, 2012 at 12:01PM