On August 23rd, we plunged into the first day of school and aquatic sports: rowing.
This year’s Fall Colloquium centered on the book, The Boys in the Boat, a NY Times bestseller, which combines great storytelling, biography, and history on the Depression with aspects of 1936 Berlin Olympics, scrutinized under Hitler’s eagle eyes. The book is a wonderful read!
The opening lecture was off the beaten track. Led by Mr. Otero with an overview of Wall Street and the Crash in 1929, other high school faculty members told the stories of their parents and grandparents’ experiences during the Depression in different parts of the country. Ms. Castilla told of her grandparents’ struggle during the Spanish Civil War. Mr. Ryan talked about his grandmother’s emigration from Russia through Germany and eventually on to America.
Some tidbits on rowing:
- Rowing, they say, burns more calories than any other sport.
- In the 1930s, rowing was one of the most popular spectator sports.
- Rowing is the oldest team sport. It began in Ancient Egypt. (See some hieroglyphics.)
- This summer, the US women’s rowing team won its third Olympic gold.
- It takes a team, working in exquisite unity, to row straight, let alone, win a race.
- George Pocock, a British boat builder, changed the design and woods of the traditional crewing boat that led to a winning boat.
The book The Boys in the Boat tells the story of Joe Rantz who grew up in Washington State during the 1930s. Abandoned by his family in a farmhouse in his teenage years, Joe learned to hunt, fish, and forage on his own. Not only did he get jobs around the neighborhood (including bootlegging and selling poached salmon), he kept up his school work and was admitted to the University of Washington on a scholarship. To save money, he lived in a janitor’s closet at the YMCA. To shine, he went to crew everyday (in the same sweater for a year), and worked out in rain, sun, wind, sleet, and snow. A tough childhood, a tough training, a tough coach, an indomitable spirit, and a dedicated team resulted in the Olympic Gold in 1936—and later, a family reunion and an enduring marriage.
During the colloquium week activities ranged from racing our canoes at Abiquiu Lake (which meant all the students learned to canoe fast—or in circles), to carving boats with Fletcher Lathrop and Chris Sciarretta, to hearing a lecture on crewing by Fatima Van Hattun, to watching the movie Race about Jesse Owens and his feats in that same 1936 Olympics, and to discussing and comparing the experiences of Joe and Jesse—and what it takes to win an Olympic medal.
The final contest? To see whose boat (those carved in woodworking) stayed afloat and “sailed” straight! Winners were determined by applause: Luca Vera Ramirez (9th), Matias Gonzales (10th), Devta Khalsa (11th), and Julian Kneisely (12th).
All in all? It was an inspiring and wet colloquium—and a marvelous start to the school year! We’ve set sail!
Written by: Pam Colgate, High School Humanities Teacher and 12th Grade Sponsor
Photos by: Susanna Green, High School Office Coordinator