Could everyone write one simple essay about something that once happened in Saltaire…that they saw or were a part of…and put it on one big website? Somebody should collect a lot of stories before we all forget. Otherwise it is like a line in “On The Beach” : The history of the war that now would never be written.” -(JO'H)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Track Meet on the Fourth of July

"Let me tell you how to win this race. You don't run. The key is, you just walk together, nice and slow. If you run, you will trip and fall."

Larry Lynch's father was telling Larry and me the secret to winning the three- legged race for nine-year-olds. It was at a Saltaire Fourth of July track meet in the field sometime in the 1950s.

“I won this race with a friend of mine when I was your age in the 1920s,” he said. "Just take your time, walk, and you guys will be able to walk clear into first place."

You gotta understand, Larry and I spent most summers running around like hyperactive wildcats as kids at Saltaire, so asking us to do anything nice and easy was asking the impossible. But we took a few practice steps with our legs tethered together with these huge, fat rubber bands. In fact, they were not rubber bands but cut up automobile inner tubes sliced crosswise.

They lined us up in the ball field, just like they do today, a straight course from one corner of the field towards the other.

“This is the same way they had it lined up when I was a kid. I know you guys can do it. Just walk together and you'll win.”

Now he was whispering to us so that the other entrants could not hear his secret “Remember, just walk. Nice and easy.”

There were maybe ten or twelve nine year-old boys in the village that summer, so that made for about five or six tandems.

We all lined up.

Bob Wright used to be the starter for a lot of the track and swimming meets. He had a starter’s pistol. He always seemed to wear white Bermuda shorts, white socks, loafers, and a navy shirt, and looked real official. And serious. Bob Wright didn't smile a lot when he was starting races.

Meanwhile everybody who was not in the race, which means just about every other kid in the Saltaire, and all the parents thereof, would be lined up along the sides of the course.

I am ready to go. Larry is ready to go. Once more from the sidelines: "remember what I told you. You will win easy. I did.”

At any rate, six pairs of boys, joined at their knee caps:

Bob Wight: "On you mark, get set,” and then the “BANG” of the pistol.

We start walking just like we were told. Nice and easy.

Five yards out, and there are four pair of kids ahead of us. Well ahead of us.

Just as I'm about to hit the panic button and shift to my natural sprint, I hear "you're doing fine boys you're doing fine.” “A fine last place," I am thinking, but then all of a sudden I notice kids ahead of us tripping all over each other. One pair tumbles to the ground in front of another oncoming pair who crash into them. Suddenly there's a pile of four boys on the ground.

But there was one other pair of kids still on their feet. They were maybe 15 yards in front of us, running briskly, in tandem. Doing just what we were told not to do.

But I stopped thinking about the guys in first place, because Larry and I were now carefully, methodically walking around a pile of four intertwined kids wriggling on the ground, laughing and trying to get up.

Now that we walked past them, I noticed the leaders up ahead were wildly out of sync, one guy's legs are going one way, the other guy’s the other. One kid is actually kind of flipped around, facing backwards. For a second, it looked like they were going around like a merry-go-round.

I noticed all that as Larry and I walked past them and we crossed over the finish line first.

Larry’s dad was jubilant. “You did it. Just like when I was a kid. Back in the ‘20’s.”

I think the three of us couldn’t stop grinning for about an hour.

But still, I couldn’t imagine time as far back as the “20’s” being part of the same village.

But that was back in the ‘50’s.


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