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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Speechless in Sacto

Yesterday was the final day of the Western Regional Championships in Sacramento for the WFTDA.

To make it extremely deja vu-ish is that it was held at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, a venue that we used for Roller Derby some 50 years ago!  There are two other arenas the Derby Girls use that I know we skated in:  The Coliseum in Phoenix and the Gardens in Cincinnati, but I haven’t seen any of those matches yet – there are some 400 or so leagues in the US alone and I don’t think I can make all of them.

Anyway, many of the games I had seen in the last few years were definitely one-sided – some with scores like 230 to 87.  At the regionals you get the best teams in the region and they have all been seeded, so yesterday’s two final games were four teams competing for three places at the WFTDA National finals in Chicago in November.  The Bay Area Derby girls won the third place game against Portland, so in the final match of the tournament the undefeated Oly rollers (22 straight wins) against the second seeded Rocky Mountain Roller Girls from Denver.

Roller Derby has a simple premise:  two teams of 5 skaters compete against each other; the object is for the jammer(s) to break away from the “pack”, circle the track and for each member of the opposing team she (or he) passes, she is awarded a point.  Two teams may jam at the same time so you have to play offense and defense on the same play.  Currently, there is a two-minute time limit on the jam.  They play two halves of 30 minutes to comprise a game.

Several things were apparent that I had not seen before:  the conditioning of the athletes, the legal viciousness of the blocking, and the complete comprehension of the complexities of the game (say that fast!).  If you think it is easy to try to block the opposing jammer from getting out of the pack while blocking the other team’s blockers who are trying to keep your jammer from flying out while you each are trying to open holes in the pack, you should just try a little Roller Derby.

And both teams did it play after play, knocking each other to the floor, bouncing back up, punishing the jammers when they broke loose and when they hit the pack from behind;  it went on for the entire sixty minutes.  And these were women who were playing this so very difficult and bruising game.  No dull spots, no backing down, very few very high point jams and the players had to always be aware of the other skaters and to call off the plays almost immediately after coming into the pack;  more placing hands on the hips (signal from lead jammer to end the play) with no score or just 1 point than in any match I had seen.

Obviously the players got tired, but they didn’t complain – not did they yell and scream at the tremendous amount of penalties that often change the flow of the game.  And when the game was over and Rocky Mountain had ended the 22-game win streak, there was no sulking by the losers.  I watched carefully as they congratulated the winning team and showed such amazing sportsmanship.

At this point I had so many different thoughts:  I wished my father had been able to see this amazing match and how his dream of legitimacy in Roller Derby had proved itself.  I was so proud that I had been invited and was handling out the medals to the participants.

It is so tough to judge the different teams in the different regions……whether the New York Gotham Girls or a team from the Southeast or Texas or anywhere else will be able to beat either of these teams.  The important thing is how the game has progressed.  There was no criticism of the skating outfits (nice uniforms) or of any of the things that old time Roller Derby fans complain about.

These are serious athletes whose time has come.  Watch out America and the world.  It is not important if you take them seriously or not, I repeat:  they are not going away.  I hope those of you who can will show up at the University of Illinois Chicago Pavilion in November to see the most exciting women’s sport there is as the top teams in the WFTDA compete for the National Championship.  And it happens to be in the city the sport was born three-quarters of a century ago.  I will be there.

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By the sea, by the beautiful sea in Seaside.

Photo by Veeka Be from stock.xchng.com

I think all of us are attracted to water, be it a lake, river or ocean.  And my best memories of childhood (and some recent years) are from time at all three locales:  the river at Zig Zag, Oregon; Crater Lake (the most beautiful blue lake in the world), and the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, a small oceanside town 70 miles from Portland.

As long as I can remember, we always went to Seaside in the summer.  My father had come ahead before our sojourn to Los Angeles and San Francisco for Roller Derby, and sometimes he brought managers and occasionally skaters.  Uncle Oscar would be there at the same time along with our cousins.  We would spend all day on the beach, running in and out of the Pacific; in recent years I put my foot in the ocean and it literally curled with the cold, but what do you care when you are little.

There is a wonderful picture of Sid Cohen (who used to work for the Mob) walking next to me in a shirt and tie on the beach, carrying my little beach bucket with his 6′ 4” 280 pound body next to my tiny frame.  And we would go fishing up in Astoria (this is where the robber baron John Jacob Astor made his money buying furs from the Indians) on the Columbia River and I caught a 35-pound Chinook salmon.   Unfortunately, you don’t catch Chinooks or almost any other salmon in the Columbia now.

My dad was always happy and relaxed at Seaside.  The main street, Broadway of course, was very honky tonk with a salt water natatorium up near the end of the road, a ferris wheels, bumper cars, and all the junk candy and other items you would expect to find at the beach.  At the end of Broadway was the turnaround, officially marking the end of the Lewis and Clark trail, with statues of both there, and the promenade (prom) running for a few miles north and south.  You could stroll on the prom, ride your bike, or just sit on a bench and look at the ocean.

Seaside has never been known for its weather; it generally is cool and damp, but I always loved it.  When the sun was out, it was truly spectacular.  When we were on the beach (this is before World War 2), we would look for the glass floats, generally balls, that held up the fishing nets in Japan and would break away and follow the warm current all the way to the Oregon Coast.  One of the reasons it so rarely snowed or froze in the area was because of the Japanese currents.  We also would go crabbing off the pier for Dungenes crab (no limit then) or at low tide go clamming for the razor clams which are only found in the northwest coast of the US.

My Dad and Mom (named Rose) loved that area and wanted to build a home there.  I did not know at the time that my mother was very ill, having been misdiagnosed and suffering with breast cancer which was virtually incurable at the time.  I found out later that he had taken her to the Mayo Clinic and other advanced medical centers in order to prolong her life.  She never complained so Gloria and I were unaware what was going on.  They bought a piece of property, about 2 and 1/2 acres right on the ocean just south of the city limits with a forest on the land.  It was just adjoining Tillamook head and was called the Cove.

I think my father knew that they would never build on the land, but felt it gave my mother something to look forward to.  I believe that in 1940 he paid $3000 for the site.

After my mother’s death and we moved to Chicago we of course had Lake Michigan nearby, but it was  nowhere near the same.  On our occasional visits back to Oregon we would take short trips to the beach.  Then after my Dad remarried and moved to Encino, he started going to Oregon again.  His wife Belle had a family house in Gearhart, a very quiet and small town north of Seaside.  I stayed there several times, but there was no talk of building anything in Seaside.  My father contacted the Holiday Inn people with the idea of them putting a hotel there, but they felt that the market was too small at that time.

After my father’s death in 1978 the Seaside land became Gloria’s and mine.  We then found out that because of restrictions on septic tanks, no new building was allowed in that area.  However, after a few years the entire district was annexed into Seaside, and Gloria and Ken and I decide to develop a street, build a house for both our families to use, and sell lots.  Her son-in law Bruce came up with the name of Keepsake Drive, which had at least one letter for each of our children and grandchildrens’ names.  I won’t bore you with all of them.

The lots were sold, our house was built (a Victorian theme) and a small lot in front was donated to the city by Uncle Oscar and us, to be developed into a park.  I was in LA with Ticketmaster and got a call from a very upset Gloria.  She told me the city council had decided that there wasn’t money to develop the park…..the only public location on the ocean….and they would build restrooms on half, and sell the other half for development.

At Gloria’s urging I flew up to Seaside, and we attended the meeting at which the park project was to be officially dumped.  I must say I gave a fiery speech, stating that my family did not give the land to Seaside to become a toilet.  The mayor, a very smart man, said fine, you raise the money, we will build the park.

So Gloria formed a 501.3C and we started fund raising.  She was a whirlwind whipping Ken and I and all the neighbors into fevered activity.  She found out where she could get benches which were recycled and we started selling them.  We sold hundred of bricks to family, Seasiders, friends to put their names on.  I got a hold of Willie Nelson’s manager, and he did two concerts for us, one in Astoria and a second in Seaside.

I had recently moved to Sonoma and become friends with Tom Smothers, and he and his brother played for us in Seaside.  All of the Seltzers and Weinsteins showed up, we dedicated the ground and today there  is a tiny, beautiful park in Seaside, just around the corner from the house we built.  There are warm showers for the surfers (one of the great surfing spots in the US; don’t tell anyone), and benches at the top of a small hill.  And one of those benches has the name Leo and Rose Seltzer on it, so don’t tell me they didn’t get to that beautiful spot by the Cove.

The name of the park?  Seltzer Park, of course.  please visit when in Seaside……just sit on a bench and look onto the ocean.


So the big birthday is upon us.

By:Angela Kane

75 years ago my father had no idea that what was a  variation  on a marathon would become one of the amazing sports stories of the 21st century.

I don’t have to go through the history of the last 75 years;  it is in Wikipedia, videos, books, etc, as well as the oral histories of so many skaters who delight in telling the tales of what for many was the best times of their lives.

But there are many things to note about the current state of the game.

First of all, this time there is the best chance for the long-term survival because it has come from the bottom up, rather than from having been seen on television and others wanting to duplicate it.  There is a strong natural foundation from the 570 plus leagues and many tens of thousands of participants around the world who don’t just see this as a game to play, but as a cultural event that crosses borders and ethnicities and creates a sisterhood (and now brotherhood also) of people who didn’t even know each other, and the common thread is Roller Derby in their lives.

These are not perfect people in a utopian place:  there are many different organizations, and rules, and break-off leagues in the same cities (I believe 6 is the maximum), but the love of the game is there, regardless if it is flat track, banked track or whatever.  And with the growth of the junior Roller Derby (I will always capitalize it as long as I live), so much is being done for the empowerment and the teaching of community for young people.

And this is not a career choice.   Everybody has something else they are doing in their life from working at a profession to raising children.  Right now there are no paid leagues that I know of.

As someone who has lived all of the 75 years (and a bit more), you can imagine the changes in the world I have seen and experienced.  The one I am perhaps most proud of (outside of family, of course) is what Roller Derby now represents:  a contact sport primarily performed by women that embodies my father’s ideal of his game being a completely legitimate sport that hundreds of thousands of fans are enjoying from New Zealand to Berlin, and undoubtedly will be in the Olympics eventually.

What do I see in the future:  several thousand leagues in virtually every country, the continuation of the amateur game owned and operated by the leagues and a fully professional game with full-time paid athletes who will never lose their obligation to the leagues that brought them to that point.

Did Leo Seltzer have any concept of how the game would be on its diamond anniversary in 2010, that there would be over 50 leagues in California alone?  Of course not.

On this 75th date of the first appearance of Roller Derby, with its groundbreaking use of women as participants, please honor August 13th whether as a moment of tribute or something more grandiose.  The leagues in Brisbane, Nottingham, Chicago, New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Berlin, Scotland,  and others have all notified that they will.

Be proud of the history of the game.  Be even more proud that you have created the fastest growing sport of the 21st century.  I love you all, the skaters from my era and those of today and all those who are helping to make the game what it has become.

Leo and I and Ken Gurian and Loretta and all others salute you.

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