How could we ever forget?


I got a call on Wednesday from an old-time friend, Ron Leganger, whom I hadn’t spoken with in years.  When I answered the phone and he said “This is Ron Leganger”  I immediately asked if the films were going to be shown at his house tonight.  In high school, Ron was able to get “stag” (porn) films and about 100 of us would show up at his dwelling to watch……highly illegal then, no theaters, books, and certainly no television and……..computer?

Ron called me to let me know that on September 6th my high school graduating class was going to have our 62nd reunion…..I guess they didn’t want to wait till 65 cause god knows how many will be around.

I went to Niles Township High School in Skokie, Illinois, which served a bunch of communities in that suburban Chicago area.  We lived in Glenview at that time and had our choice of Niles, New Trier (very prestigious), and Maine Township.  My sister was going to Niles and my two best friends from grammar school (no middle school then), Fred Gatter and Al Haut were going to Niles, so it was easy for me.  The high school was seven miles from our house, so we could take the bus or drive, and since in Illinois you could get a license at 15, I went with my older sister.

At Niles I hung with five people who became my best friends:  Ed Archibald, Dean Whitton, Fred Gatter, Ralph Smith, Norrie Miller, and two other in our “gang” who I was not as close with, Bill Poehlmann and Grey Waters.

We became known as “The Gatter Gang” or the “Seltzer Syndicate”, but we were not an evil gang (of course there was one of those at Niles).

Friday night would be our night to hang out and cause a bit of  trouble….no dates allowed.   Innocent stuff, some of us on each side of a road pulling on an imaginary rope when cars would come so they would have to skid to a stop; drag racing, and raising havoc in quiet neighborhoods.  We went to the Indianapolis 500 together, slept in a cornfield, and at 4 in the morning drove into the infield (I think it was $10 a car) to watch the powerful Novis and other sleek machines race; the cars did not all look like each other at that time.

And of course at least once a month we had to go to the Coliseum to see the Roller Derby, and we had a great time.  We were all good students, in the top 10% of the class.  After graduation, I headed out to Palo Alto to go to Stanford, Fred and Dean went to Northwestern Engineering, Ralph to the Coast Guard Academy, Ed went to the Illinois Institute of Technology,  and I am not sure where the others went.  After a year at Stanford I transferred to business school at Northwestern and graduated from there (after a two year stint in the army).  I was close with Fred and Dean and actually roomed with the latter.

We all eventually got married, went into professions (I must confess I was the only one to go into Roller Derby) and stayed in touch.  We were spread throughout the country from the East Coast to the Midwest to the South to the West, but starting with the tenth reunion I was at all of them up to 50.  I think at the 25th I came with Marsha Jordan who was in her early twenties and gorgeous (she still is) and was able to make all the girls jealous who wouldn’t go out with me in high school because I was a year younger, 5′ 4″ (I grew until  21), 90 pounds, and with thick glasses, although always a charmer.  Eventually Judi started going with me to the reunions and my friends and their wives became her friends.  The last one we attended was in 1999

When Roller Derby was on tour in the sixties, I had the privilege of staging a benefit game at our high school gym (then known as the Performing Arts Center), raising money for the school, and they gave me a letter sweater.  I had received a small letter for playing jayvee football, although I rarely got into a game.

The last graduating class was in 1980, and eventually the school was torn down.  If you saw “Risky Business” with Tom Cruise, you saw my school.  Today there is a community college on the site.

Over the years life transitioned.  Dean, Fred, and Bill  all lived in Hilton Head, SC.  Ed stayed in the Chicago area, Ralph obtained a law degree and practiced in New Orleans, although he was flooded out by Katrina.  He is rebuilding.

So the day after I spoke with Ron I called Ed who I hadn’t spoken with in way too long.  It was like no time had been lost.  His wife, Mary Helen, had died of cancer, and over the years he and a group of others met to plan the reunions, and some time after Dana’s husband had died, she and Ed had gotten married.  Ed told me that Dana had died six months previously;  they had a great eight years, and every month they celebrated their anniversary.  “She died on our hundredth anniversary.”  Both Dean and Fred’s wives had passed; Dean was now in Tennessee with his daughter, and Fred had just died.

So it was not a happy call, except for most importantly re-establishing with perhaps my closest friend.  I don’t think any other time of my life I established friendships as I did in high school.

I don’t think I can attend the 62.  It will be too sad for me.  But I am not losing track of Ed again.  There should be a regional tournament about that time.

some kind of benchmark


Created by Ricardo Chahad from stock.xchng.com.

Just about a year ago I was at the computer and tried to figure out what blogs were all about.  From the way they appeared as quoted in op-eds, in the Huffington  Post, etc, it seemed that it was a way that people who didn’t have access to a usual news source could simply write about something and pop it out on the internet.

So I figured I would write about something I was familiar with and put it out there.  I saw several people recommended wordpress so I went to wordpress.com, saw how you could blog for free and, the way I usually do things, didn’t read any instructions and did my first posting in early June 2010.  I concentrated on my family history pertaining to Roller Derby and the other interesting things Leo Seltzer did.

When you write these topics you want to know if anyone is reading, so I would check the daily totals.  The first time it reached 20 I was thrilled.  And I would cross-promote the topic on facebook.  (I haven’t stop doing that).  I noted I was getting a few subscribers (“subscribe free, enter your email address upper right hand corner of page”) and always added you could cancel any time.

I started putting more of my feelings and opinions into the postings and got such great response (positive and negative) that I started to feel I was accomplishing something.  Tell a story, try to impart some knowledge that I have acquired over more than three quarters of a century, and see how I could impact the readers in a positive manner, even if they don’t agree.

I love Roller Derby and the fact that it has been revived in a way I never thought possible; how the flat track game is so strategic; how the banked track game is spreading; and, most importantly, how the revival has brought together a “cult” of tens of thousands who care about each other, their fellow humans, and the desire to make the World a better place by their community activities.  (I looked it up, those things were not in the original rules.)

But some 38 years ago my life branched out into other endeavors, other loves, and although I never forgot Roller Derby (I couldn’t, people were contacting me constantly to restart it),  I was able to lead a productive life and find ways to give back to the community.  And I constantly preach to businesses:  do good in your communities and it will come back to you ten-fold.  The profit-only motive will destroy our souls.

At this time over 110,000 have read my posts, and over 320 of you have subscribed, and yes, there will be a book.

May the great spirit bless you all.  A Happy Holiday season.

The best of times


Photo by Robert Linder from stock.xchng.com.

My teenage years were during what many feel were the best times, the late 40’s and early 50’s.  The war had ended and after years of food, gas and clothing rationing, our economy burst at the seams.  Clothes were funny (not to us then), with lots of material, huge shoulders, long skirts for women;  and the cars:  so long and so wide, huge fins, terrible gas mileage (gas was 25 cents a gallon), and the future looked so great.

GI’s had the right to go to college, guaranteed loans to buy houses (new houses were from $10,000 up, cars around $2500) and we felt that when we got married, our kids would have a brighter future than we did.

OK, so today we have the web, electronic marvels abound, and a pretty lousy world for many.  If you have a degree you no longer have a guarantee of a job, and the so-called middle class is heading south; and money is definitely not trickling down.

This is not a Republican or Democratic thing;  for whatever reason this is where we ended up.

Every one talks about whether or not you are patriotic;  that does not mean waving a flag or just supporting our troops.  Either the Americans of my generation were gullible or far more patriotic;  when we were told to conserve and ration, we did.   Everyone made sacrifices to support the war effort.  Prices were controlled (by the government).

When the Vietnam war came about, those in charge (again Dems and Repubs) wanted people to not be affected, so we were not told to choose between “butter and guns”.  No restrictions were imposed, we did not sacrifice in any way, and our debt grew and inflation came about.  And future wars came without sufficient reason and we just accepted it.

From that point on we have never been asked to save, buy bonds, hold back and look where we are.  And when things turned into an almost-depression (or maybe a real one), the solution given was to go out and shop.

So  now all of us are no better off (except for a select few) and the pols are all afraid to cut any of the real cuts that are needed (and not just ones that affect the already distressed middle and poor classes).  We shouldn’t just blame them, we all went along with it.

God Bless America.

 

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Leo, Jerry, Steve, fishing and President Carter….


How do I live up to that title?  Stay with me.

President Jimmy Carter Fishing. Photo by Rebekah Stewart.

My father had two favorite pastimes besides Roller Derby that really gave him peace of mind:  gardening (see earlier blog on Leo) and fishing.

As a result while growing up, I had a lot of great fishing experiences.  My father was not a fly fisherman, he liked to fish from a boat.  His brother Oscar was a devotee of fly casting and spent a lot of time in Oregon in some of the great fishing spots.  Oscar’s son Lloyd carried on the tradition and, oddly enough, the Roller Derby Skate Company tested and developed some deep water fishing boots (but not with wheels).

So I got to accompany my Dad salmon fishing on the Columbia River (I actually got a 42 pound Chinook), muskie fishing on the Eagle River in Wisconsin (caught one and had it mounted – seems strange now), and caught a beautiful sailfish in Florida, and some beautiful and wonderful-eating rainbow trout near Crater Lake Oregon.

In later years when Leo lived in Seaside, Oregon, he found the tributaries off of the Columbia river and would spend days fishing for trout and salmon.  Many of the skaters would also tell you how Leo gave them the first fishing experiences of their lives.  In the early days the skaters did not make a lot of money, but they traveled everywhere (even to Cuba), had fans and all will tell you what a great life it was.

My most significant fishing experience occurred without my dad.  My family spent one summer (1964) in Honolulu while Roller Derby was playing there for six weeks.  We rented a house in Kahala and one thing we decided to do was to go fishing on a boat from Honolulu.  Now they tell you if you want good fishing in Hawaii, you go over to the big Island;  there is too much boat traffic off of Oahu to catch the real game fish.  We wanted just to let my seven-year old son Steven have the experience of catching dolphin (no, you are thinking of porpoises; dolphin are beautiful blunt headed fish that run generally 7 to 15 pounds and their meat is delicious – can you say Mahi Mahi?),

So off we went about a mile out in somewhat choppy water and we were well on our way to catching our limit of dolphins and Steve was having a great time.  All of a sudden my line snagged and I tried to reel in but couldn’t.  I asked the captain if I had snagged on the bottom and he said it was impossible; the ocean was thousands of feet deep at that point.  My line started to move and he felt I had hooked a seal (ugh!).  Anyway, I kept reeling in for at least 45 minutes and the captain let out a yell:  I had hooked a yellow fin tuna.  Somehow we got the monster in the boat:  it was about 7 feel long and weighed 220 pounds.  I was shaken, this was not what I had been looking forward to.  I gave the fish to the captain (today, it would be worth about $20,000 in Japan).  I was listed in the fishing column of the Honolulu paper the next day as having caught the largest fish that day.  On reflection, I am of course sorry that I didn’t release that fish and the other major game fish.

We took the dolphins to the Kahala Hilton and the chef made delicious mahi mahi for us.

OK, back to the title.  My son Steven who was formerly the somelier at the Rainbow Room and Tavern on the Green in New York is now a private label wine producer.  He called me to tell me that he had been contacted by Rebekah Stewart who owns the Brigadoon Lodge by the Blue Ridge Mountains in Clarksville, Georgia.  It is located on the Soque river, one of only two private rivers in the US. (ESPN called the Brigadoon “the Augusta of  fly fishing”).  Steve was to help her create wines to match the quality of the Lodge and her unique idea was to have a wet fly on the bottle of  Cabernet and a dry fly with the Chardonnay.

Fly Wine. Photo by Rebekah Stewart.

Steve sought samples from the wineries he knew in California and Rebekah and her wine-knowledgeable friends tasted wine from different vintners until the right ones were selected.  You literally can buy one bottle of each in a traditional fishing creel at www.flylinewine.com;  a great gift for a fishing friend.  You want to stay at the Brigadoon Lodge?  Go to www.brigadoonlodge.com and stay at this intimate outstanding resort where Presidents and captains of industries go to relax (surprisingly inexpensive, as is the wine).  Great trout fishing, all catch and release.  Now I can’t wait to try fly fishing at Brigadoon!

President and Mrs. Carter were at the lodge last week for the annual Carter Center Auction weekend and he actually caught three rainbow trout on his Flylinewine fly, and he loved the new wines!

So you see, with the Seltzers, it wasn’t just about Roller Derby.  Although my next blog will be about it again as I leave for Chicago this Friday for the National Championship tournament……I will not fish in the Chicago River.

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