Don’t Give up the Ship

   One of my all time heroes in American History is Commodore Oliver “Hazard” Perry of the U.S.Navy whose command was  during the War of 1812.  When you read about Perry, you discover that he had a very distinguished naval career prior to and following the Battle of Lake Erie.  His battle flag read,” Don’t Give up the Ship” in deference to his great friend Captain James Lawrence who commanded the original frigate in peril during the battle.  Lawrence was a fatality, but the command shifted to the frigate Niagra where Perry took over and eventually defeated the British Navy forcing them to surrender.  His famous line,” We have met the enemy and they are ours”  is a testament to the tenacity of an outgunned, undermanned U.S.Navy whose leadership under Perry was able to take on and defeat the most powerful navy in the world.  

     During my travels to Rochester, NY or Toledo, Ohio, I always had my road bike with me and made a point to stop and ride at Presque Isle on Lake Erie.  There is a monument there dedicated to the construction of the ships that made up Perry’s command during the War of 1812, in and around Presque Isle and the bay. A similar monument and visitors center is situated at Put In Bay in Ohio.  One of the famous Lake Erie Islands, Put In Bay is easily accessed by the ferry   at Port Clinton, Ohio. I always took a ride on the ferry, rode my bike along the quiet roads on the island and always stopped at the monument and took in the video presentation of the Battle of Lake Erie at the visitors center which is managed by the National Park Service.  .  The presentation by the Park Rangers is worth the listen and it is always a must on any trip to Put In Bay.  The scenic roads around Presque Isle in Erie, Pa and the country roads of the Lake Erie islands always remind me of my youth when my folks took us to the lKing James 2012photo800px-DONT_GIVE_UP_THE_SHIP_flag.svg264px-BattleofLakeErie489px-Portrait_of_Oliver_Hazard_Perry%2C_1818ake for vacation. As I peddle along and see the cottages along the routes, it reminds me of a time gone by with swims in the lake, penny candy, and evenings along the shore looking at the stars.  

     But perhaps my most recent memories are again centered around this famous battle flag….” Don’t Give Up the Ship.”  When my son Jack played AAU Basketball as a grade school kid, we always had tournaments in Erie, Pa.  I always took the boys and the parents down to this little restaurant on the bay which had good seafood but more importantly to me, had this flag proudly displayed behind the bar.  As we all assembled around the bar waiting for our table, I took the opportunity to tell the boys the story of the Battle of Lake Erie and the courageous actions of one Oliver “Hazard” Perry.  ” Don’t Give up the Ship” was a rallying cry for our teams as we faced teams from all over the east and Canada in the AAU Tournaments.  We saw talented players who were much bigger and faster than our guys and we knew we had to face them in the next round.  As I began to get carried away with my enthusiasm for the Battle and the success of the frigate Niagra, I would encourage the boys to not give up the ship and remember the heroics of Perry and his men.  As their eyes widened with my overachieving enthusiasm, I was able to incite a little courage and oftentimes our Davids defeated the Goliaths on the basketball courts and we advanced to the final rounds.  I like to think that my speech in front of that flag was enough to attain the victory and that the boys were encouraged enough to play their hearts out.  Well, in reality, I can’t take credit for that for sure.  But a little encouragement goes a long way and helps to fuel the fire of competition.  As the years went by, I repeated the story to several of my son’s teams and when they were juniors in high school and in their last years of AAU Tournaments, it got to the point where my son preempted my speech by saying,” Don’t say it Dad!!!”  ” We have all heard it and we know…………..Don’t Give up the Ship.”  We all laughed but I looked at that flag with a fire in my eyes for our team and for my hero- Oliver” Hazard” Perry.  

     I have always been a fan of the underdog.  The little guys on a team, the kid that always strikes out, the kid with little talent but a lot of heart, the friend who has lost his job, the divorced friend who is trying to find peace, the downtrodden, the parents facing a child’s medical procedure with a life in the balance.  These are the people in our lives who need encouragement.  These are the people who need a friend at the times when it might not be convenient.  These are the folks whose name I write on my pad at work so that I don’t forget to give them a call or get together with them.  My memory is a little sketchy these days.  But these are the folks whose hope needs restored.  My mom always said to have a friend is to be a friend.  She was so right.  Encouragement is the fuel for recovery and whether we invite a person to dinner, ride bikes, ski, hike, or any activity in which conversation can be shared, it is well worth it and no matter how badly the person is defeated, the care of a friend saying,” Don’t Give up the Ship” is appreciated and may turn the tide for that person………..just like the Battle of Lake Erie.  Call a friend today.  Thanks for reading.  

Be a little part of History

2013-02-05-the-bowlIMG_0084photophotoTannenbaum-T-barGoogle Image Result for Many years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Toni Matt tell the story about his famous Inferno ski race down Tuckerman Ravine in 1939. Toni was born in St. Anton, Austria the hallowed ground of ski racing and ski instruction and when he came to America, he entered this famous race up in New Hampshire against all of the hotshot Dartmouth ski racers and won because he straightlined the Headwall of Tuckerman Ravine. This was a feat that had never been done let alone in a race and the National Ski Hall of Fame recorded the account on the evening that I heard Toni tell the tale. Interestingly, 1939 was a pivotal year in American skiing. Some of the first rope tows went up that year in Woodstock,Vermont, Seven Springs, Pa. and Fish Hill up in Western New York state. People were starting to get enthused about sliding on a pair of skis and the late 30s prior to the big war, were the seed years of skiing in this country. Post World War II, the 10th Mountain Division veterans founded some of the larger ski areas out west including Vail. There are several accounts written about the 10th and their exploits against the Nazis in Italy and how their adept skiing skills not only helped them in the battles in Europe but also fueled their passion to create modern day ski areas.

I have always liked history particularly the founding years of our country. But it is also interesting to look at the history of my favorite sport in America. If you ask anyone who plays golf, they can tell you about the famous courses and their history in this country. The Opens, the Masters, how they don’t take out the wooden floor in the men’s grill at Oakmont Country Club because the spike marks belonged to such luminaries as Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. If you have a passion for your sport, you know the history and appreciate the efforts of those who have gone before you. The old saying that “you don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been”, applies to American History as well as the history of sport. I love looking at the old pictures of the wooden skis( I owned several pairs and skied on them as told in my last post.) I love seeing how the early days of stretch pants, leather boots, cable bindings shaped the sport and respect the passion of those who took the time and effort to market skiing.

I had the pleasure of skiing Holimont this past week up in Western New York. The private club was founded in 1962 and has been a haven to ski enthusiasts ever since. The members are avid skiers, racers, and take pride in their club. You can feel the passion of the members in the way that they meet each week with their crock pots, lunches in the lodge, promoting events that foster their love for the sport of skiing. They let non members like me ski during the week and it is quite evident that this club is well run with excellent grooming, lifts and dedicated instructors and patrollers who are eager to converse about skiing at Holimont.

History has a great way of telling the story about those who had the vision to build a hunting lodge like Adolph Dupre did at Seven Springs here in Pa. How he built the rope tow for his customers out of an old truck engine, some truck wheels that served as the rotating wheels on the tow, and a heavy duty rope that he fashioned himself. These stories pervade all of those startups in 1939 and if you look at the pictures above, you will see the history unfolded. Those Holiday Valley Queens were somebody’s girlfriend, wife or eventually mother who told the story about the fun times that they had back in the early sixties with the snow carnivals. Don’t you just love that fur hat? Not quite sure what those guys were doing with the parachutes on their backs but it looked like fun with their wooden skis and leather boots. Well we have stories like that as well and I am sure that as the years go on, my wife and son and his family someday will see the old pictures of our skiing exploits and talk about our little bit of history on the slopes. If you have the passion for a sport, take pictures, talk it up to someone who would like to try, and encourage them to be a little part of history for someone down the road looking at how it was done. I think my ski outfits and equipment are pretty state of the art. But no doubt someone looking at them in the future will ask,” Wow- what does grampa have on his feet and what on earth is he wearing?” Hey, that old relic grampa will be a little part of ski history. Think snow and thanks for reading.