How can I link a rainy Saturday in Seattle, (yes, hard to distinguish given so many similar days. . .) to the achievement of an American gold medal in the Olympics?
Well, I can start by mentioning a book. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown published in June 2013. The book, describes the stories of the varsity crew members for the University of Washington. This is the gold medal part of the post.
In April 2013, I attended my daughter’s regatta held at the University of Washington. The morning started with a brief springlike moment of sun, and within minutes the skies became kitten gray and began to pour torrents of rain. Buckets. Puddles. The teams waited for their turn to row through the Montlake Cut. The kids were terrific. Cold, soggy, fun.
Parents were invited into the UW Conibear Shellhouse to warm up as the boats came in. My jacket was dripping and my jeans were saturated up to the knee. And I was faring well compared to the rowers. Nestled on Lake Washington, I had a few moments to myself in the dining room out of the rain.
As I waited for my munchkin’s boat to make its way back to the dock, I looked up to see an old racing shell hanging from the ceiling. Things made of wood are my kind of things. (In our entry, I have a vintage pair of skis, an 8′ toboggan, and a carved antique door panel.)
Wood seats, metal riggers, leather shoes, a polished honey glow. The shell was beautiful.
In 2014, my rower and I went to hear author Daniel James Brown speak and read from The Boys in the Boat. He was joined by Judy Willman, the daughter of one the boys. As they shared details about this amazing story about the boys, and the journey researching and writing the book, they also mentioned the boat.
(Listen to coxswain Bob Moch describe the gold medal race.)
Mr. Brown stated that the Husky Clipper racing shell used by the 1936 UW Olympic Champions now hangs from the ceiling of the dining hall in the Conibear Shellhouse.
OMG, I had pictures of it! I gasped as I realized I’d been so close to a piece of history. (Yes, I welled up too)
And I sat under it on a rainy Saturday.
Completely changed the meaning of ‘cool’ when I now remember that regatta.
Boys in the Boat book excerpt, interview with author Daniel James Brown, and video of the Olympic race.
Have I read the book? Yes! Twice.
If you’re in Seattle, the Conibear Shellhouse is open 9-5 M-F, and there’s a Boys of 1936 Tour
Oh, how are the Husky men’s varsity crew doing? 2015 was their fifth national championship in a row.