Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dad Vail ~ Peeling Back the Years

I've been caught in a loop of packing and unpacking so smilla4blogs has been given short shrift in the month of May.

Peter and I were in Philadelphia two weeks ago attending a crew reunion to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Georgetown's victory at the Dad Vail crew races. The foot path and Schuylkill river are unchanged, as is the picturesque boat house row, but the event bears little resemblance to the old days of picnics on a patchwork quilt of blankets spread across the grass. Now there is media coverage from water and air and cheers are interrupted by the drone of helicopters. Large strategically placed screens show details of the rowing participants and an enormous crowd stretches along the river bank.

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 157

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 004

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 159

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 146

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 148

The Georgetown crew was little more than a club in the late fifties. Years later an extraordinary coach took a group of young men and turned them into winners. He opened a door to their potential and heart and he did it on a shoestring. They raised money to buy better equipment and rowed...and rowed. I imagine stiff frozen hands grasping oars on many a frigid morning with a thin light casting pale reflections on the Potomac. Blades dip in and out of water while Washington sleeps. Perhaps it was those early morning practices that turned the boys into athletes and poets...at least that's the way I thought of them and still do.

The following photos were submitted to the Crew ~ Cadle Era archive for the reunion by various crew members

1962 Dad Vail

1962 Georgetown Varsity Crew, number 1 at the Dad Vail finish line.

1962 Georgetown Crew

1962 crew...rough practice on the Potomac.

Don Cadle

Coach Don Cadle.

1964 Olympic Trials

1964 Olympic Trials.

In the photos below, the fellows are honored in a row-by at the 2012 Dad Vail.

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 098

My first glimpse. There's a lump in my throat and tears threaten to fog up my camera's eye piece.

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 109

Dad Vail Regatta 2012 ~ 110


  1. Hello Carol:
    It is, we feel, always something of a pity when events, such as this one, grow in size and take on something of a commercial aspects. Is it inevitable, we wonder?

    The old photographs are most intriguing.

    1. Hello Jane and Lance ~ I think the growth is inevitable. I do miss the old days of picnics on the river bank and those happy times, but I'm glad to see how popular the sport is today and the number of women participating.

  2. Its wonderful to go back and visit the memories that make up our lives, although sometimes saddened by time and change.
    I too come from a rowing town... the Henley Regatta is held here each year and the race course was used for a movie set once.
    Have a great day.
    Susan x

    1. Hello Susan ~ To tell you the truth, I'm delighted crew is thriving. If you've seen the Henley Regatta, you are well aware of the beauty...there is nothing quite like it! How wonderful it must be to have that historic event in your home town!

      Thank you for stopping by, wishing you a happy weekend!


  3. How funny to see the Potomac (and the building where I currently work!). I hope your trip to Philly was great - it's such an amazing city. Great for getaways from DC for sure.

    1. Hi Stefan! Ha! I figured those old photos would be entertaining....can you really see your building?!! Philadelphia was wonderful, nice to be back, although I didn't see much more than the Schuylkill this time.

      When are you coming to Maine?!

  4. Was Peter part of the crew? Lovely story. I agree that simpler has its grace.

    1. home before dark ~ He was! And he participated in the row-by, filling in, with others, for some of the missing oarsmen. He will have his 50th, marking a Dad Vail victory, in two years. It's extraordinary how close everyone has remained all these years.


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