The purpose of this blog is to not be forgotten. That is why we have posted so many Uncle Pete stories. But for space limitations, we even have more.
Peter W. Kuachek, "Uncle Pete,'" Saltaire Athletic Director, 1954-1964 dominated the Village and kids lives for eleven summers in ways that left marks for the rest of their lives. We will be leaving a book in the Village library with a group of essays written in 2008 around the time Uncle Pete died. You really can't recall or understand Saltaire in the baby boom years with out recalling Uncle Pete.
Here are a couple essays we posted her in 2008. If anybody wants to add some stories, post below in comments.
“Uncle Pete, Uncle Pete”
I have in my mind’s eye the playground in Saltaire. It is around 1960 or so. It is on towards evening, after dinnertime, when a lot of little kids would come to the playground.
There was constant activity. Kids on swings, kids climbing the monkey bars, kids running in the sand, sliding on the slides. All kinds of kids. Kids four of five years old. Kids ten and eleven years old. Boys. Girls. I could always see and hear this frenetic scene from my house, which was by the ball field and the playground.
So it just happens that Uncle Pete is walking by the playground, coming down Neptune Walk, to go home.
All of a sudden all the miscellaneous chatter becomes about 30 kids yelling out “Uncle Pete, Uncle Pete.”
They all want to see him. They all want him to wave to them. Kids are yelling from the swings. Kids hanging off the monkey bars are yelling “Uncle Pete, Uncle Pete.” They all want him to see them. Kids run up to him.
And he waves back, smiles, yells out a lot of names: “Hi Jenny,” “ Hi Pam,” “Hi Mike,” and so on.
Every kid in the village knew Uncle Pete and he knew every name.
So you thought they would have had enough of Uncle Pete that morning at class? And at swimming lessons? Forget about it. He was like a rock star to those little tykes. They couldn't get enough of him.
That’s an image I have always had in my mind, and I guess that’s how I see him now:
Wow, the kids really loved him.
Remembering Uncle Pete
By Duncan Dobie
In one way, he had that bulldog look of a tough, seasoned football coach with a whistle around his neck who could breathe fire or tear you in half if he wanted to, yet he was always a hero to us young boys. He always had a smile on his face and a special twinkle in his eye. Although (like Beaver once said) he appeared to be 10-feet tall and larger than life to most of the boys at Saltaire, he usually spoke softly with encouragement and that encouragement had a way of giving you confidence in whatever you were attempting to do.
People often talk about a special teacher or coach who influenced their early life in some special way. Uncle Pete was the epitome of that unforgettable teacher. He might as well have been a member of the family and I guess that’s why we called him Uncle Pete. He was family. He had that special gift for teaching and bringing out the best in people. He could be gruff and intimidating at times, but he always had our respect and he taught us how to do things and how to have confidence in ourselves. He had the gift for teaching you to believe in yourself.
One of my fondest memories of Uncle Pete goes back to the summer that he taught me how to swim. It must have been 1954 (it’s my understanding that ’54 was his first year at Saltaire) but it seems like it was a year or two earlier than that when I was five or six. At any rate, I was 7-years-old in 1954. Like a lot of kids, I could dog paddle around the shallow end of a swimming pool but I really hadn’t been around water that much and I couldn’t swim very well on my own.
My grandparents decided that if I was going to spend the summers with them at Saltaire, I’d better know how to swim. So Uncle Pete started giving me swimming lessons. We practiced in the bay off one of the swimming docks just west of the main dock. At first, the murky waters of the bay were quite intimidating, but Uncle Pete’s confidence-building style was contagious and he soon had me stroking and kicking and swimming out in water well over my head.
At last, the big day came for me to show everyone how well I could swim. My grandparents and my parents were both there on the dock along with Uncle Pete for the big event. I was to jump off the end of the dock and swim around to a ladder that was maybe 10 feet away. I had already practiced several times with Uncle Pete and it should have been an easy task. But something went wildly wrong as soon as I jumped in. My mind went blank and apparently I forgot everything that Uncle Pete had been teaching me. I thrashed around for a few seconds and Uncle Pete finally had to jump in – shoes, shorts, shirt and all -- and pull me over to the ladder.
I was very embarrassed. A dripping wet Uncle Pete acted as though nothing had happened. He immediately began encouraging me to try again. “It’s okay,” he said. “You can do it.” Finally I did it. I jumped off the end of the dock, floated up to the surface and calmly swam over to the ladder. Then I did it two or three more times. It was easy. Uncle Pete kept saying, “I knew you could do it!”
Uncle Pete gave me the confidence I needed to be totally at home in the water. It wasn’t long before I was a virtual “fish” in both the bay and the ocean like most of the other boys at Saltaire. In fact, those early swimming skills I learned at Saltaire paved the way for me to be a very strong swimmer in later life. I’ve always been at home in the water, and time and again those skills learned so long ago have helped me through some potentially dangerous situations.
I later became a certified lifeguard while volunteering at a children’s cancer camp in Georgia. Over the past 25 years, I’ve taught many youngsters from seven to 17 how to swim. I’ve never really even thought about it until this very moment, but in many ways, that is Uncle Pete’s legacy to me. He gave me the confidence to know I could do it, and I’ve been able to pass it on to others.
I spent every summer at Saltaire with my grandparents until I was 12 years old in 1959. For all of those years, Uncle Pete was always a much-loved permanent fixture – leading us boys and coaching us in baseball, archery, swimming and other activities. He might have been a little tougher with the older boys, but I don’t ever remember him putting me down or putting down any of my friends in any way. Instead he always built us up. He was my first and only great coach. As I grew older and started playing football and other sports in high school, he was always the yardstick by which I measured other coaches. None of them ever lived up to his ideal. None of them ever had the kind of influence on my life that he had. Truly Uncle Pete was 10 feet tall! Thank you, Uncle Pete, for the amazing gift that you have given to so many others!
cosmo, Oliver Hull Jr. said...
When I was growing up, my family shared the house at 104 Marine Walk with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins (the Ahernes). We would get the house in July and they would get the house for August. This only left me four weeks per year to learn how to swim with Uncle Pete. Finally one year Uncle Pete got tired of my slow progress. He threw me off the dock and held a long bamboo pole just out of reach in front of me. I kept reaching out for the pole, and soon found I had swam all the way to the floating dock. Upon reaching the dock, Uncle Pete proclaimed that I now knew how to swim.
August 21, 2011 8:17 PM