Sunday, February 8, 2015

V. 5 N. 8 Watergate and Track?

A Winter’s Tale of Paths Converged”

This is a tale of two friends of mine whom I met at different times in my life. The first person is Roy Mason who writes the Track and Field News synopses on the pages of this blog. I first became acquainted with Roy in 1983 while I was living in Zimbabwe. Roy was and still is situated in Ukiah, CA. A mutual friend, Steve Price, who was coaching track in Bahrain, used to forward Roy’s letters on to me, because Roy’s writing was so good, and Track and Field was an interest to all three of us. Roy and I started our correspondence out of Steve’s having sent those letters on to me from Bahrain. When one lives overseas in the Third World, writing can become a very important part of your daily life.

Nineteen years later Roy wrote this account of running track at a small Christian Science College, Principia in Western, Illinois. And thirty two years later we feel it is time to tell this tale. 

One of Roy's  teammates at Principia was Egil ‘Bud’ Krogh who later went on to Watergate ill fame as a member of the co-conspirators.

In these letters you will see a dislike for the coach, a stifling collegiate atomosphere, and a love of the sport. The Christian Science faith plays a  part in this as well. Roy's mother was a CS practitioner and wanted him to start college in a CS school.  I remember Roy once mentioning about going out for football at Principia his freshman year and looking for the training room to tape his ankles. He soon found out that athletes of the CS faith didn’t use trainers they as they relied on faith to be healed of their injuries. Thus there was no training room, and Roy quickly became a cross country runner. It was a time when many of our readers were competing on a higher level of the sport, but the universality is there to behold.

letter from Roy

I left Principia after my soph year in '59.  Bud Krogh was a year behind me.  I first saw him as a Principia HS senior at the Ozark AAU meet in St. Louis where he won in 1:57.  We ran XC his freshman year.  He had gone to Europe and put on 15 pounds that summer, so I was able to whop him pretty good for most of the season.  As the pounds came off he got closer until the last meet when he beat me.  In track that year I had to double  (M, 2M) in every f----g meet while Bud ran 880 and MR.  Pissed me off because the 2M was last and that was the event I was trying to break the school record in.  "Oh, well", thought I, "at least I'll get two firsts in the conference meet".  Nope, in that one Bud got to run the mile.  Pissed me off, but he was a faster miler.  Bud was the AD/football coach/track coach's boy.  Crafton, the coach, had been at Krogh's high school the previous year, so that was understandable.  Also he didn't like me.  (Ask me about the Not Going To The Drake Relays Story.)  Personally, you couldn't find a more straight arrow guy than Bud Krogh.  He was the epitome of what a young CS kid should be: honest and religious as hell.  Very admirable guy with a good sense of values.  Can't say anything bad about him.  That is why I was floored by what happened to him.

I googled Egil Bud Krogh and a lot of little bio's came up.   Sounds like Nixon aid John 

Ehrlichman , friend of the family, dragged him right out of law school into the White 

House and gave him more responsibiltiy than the kid could manage.  His loyalty to Nixon 

enabled Ehrlichman to get him to do the nasties, then his conscience got to him.  He was 

the first to spill the beans and got 4 1/2 months in the joint.   GB


To say Principia was "stifling" is putting it mildly.   The school had the most beautiful campus I have seen, but was in the middle of nowhere.  As I remember it was 13 miles to Jerseyville, the closest spot to get a hamburger.  As freshmen and sophomores were not allowed to have a car, those 13 miles might as well have been 1000.  I only got there once and then it was for a funeral of a kid who drowned in the Mississippi

Another source reported the following about that incident:
I remember it was two boys drowning in the Mississippi in late Winter, early Spring.  One was from Cleveland.  He and the other boy had borrowed a kayak that belonged to some very advanced boy in Buck House that had ridden across the U.S. on a small motorcycle the summer before.  It was a cold Saturday, they had warm clothing, the kayak tipped, and they went over in the cold fast river with lots of ice in it from the Spring flood.  There were students on the bluff who saw them go over.  Later, the guy from Buck House who owned the kayak went out in the river with the men’s dean (John Rawsthorne) to look for them.  One of the boys’ bodies washed up in the locks at Alton.  The other boy’s body was never found.

When you were at Principia the rest of the world ceased to exist.  The town of Elsah was maybe two miles down the road, but there was nothing there to attract a college kid. 

There was a small general store with a gas pump in front.  That was it for commerce.  Most of the professors lived there.  It was a beautiful little town on the bank of the river, but time had passed it by as far as a college student was concerned.  This lifestyle was culture shock in the first degree for a kid from Long Beach, California..........
You were assigned to a dorm when you arrived.  There was no changing.  You were in Rackham East or West, Brooks North or South or Buck House.  You were a Buckie or a Westie for the rest of your life.  I was a Rackham Eastie.  The Rackham house (East and West adjoined) was a very impressive building, almost castlelike.  I was always in awe of it.  The advantage Rackham guys had was that you didn't have far to walk to sign up for the barber.  The barber shop, located in the bowels of Rackham East, was a regular dorm room with a barber chair or two, and was in use one, maybe two days a week when a barber (or two?) came in from Jerseyville.  The rest of the time it was used by guys pulling all nighters..........When I think of my time at Principia, the overwhelming image was money.  Nearly everyone there came from wealth or at least from my impoverished background that was the impression.  I had never associated with kids who had financial resources.  These were people with vacation homes, families who traveled to Europe, connections in business.  Although many of the guys there were arrogant assholes, I was surprised to find that many of them were nice guys.  The expectations of many were completely different than mine.  A B.A. was only a step along the way to success.  They talked about graduate school.  I remember being shocked to find out that when you graduated, you went on to do more college.  There is more?  I had no idea.  I had a roommate who, when he saw how few winter clothes I had, took pity on me and traded me several items of winter clothing for a sweater that he admired......Freshmen were to room with upper classmen.  Each quarter roommates would change.  The spring quarter there was a foul up and I got to room with another freshman, a guy from So Cal, Orlo Harvison (Bud) Pool.  Bud and I very quickly figured out that we were the two poorest kids on campus.  It was a bond that continued through our sophomore year, after which we left.  (Bud worked for a couple years and then reenrolled and graduated with a 4.0.)  No money?  Not to worry, Principia provided for those who needed to work.  I had a job filling the soft drink machines in the dorms.  It paid a whopping 59 cents an hour.  Thank you.  That evens things up.  Pretty much covered toiletries.  I got to drive a truck which in itself was pretty exciting.  I would assess what needed to be replaced then load the cases of pop on the handcart and haul them into the dorm.  When I serviced the women's dorms I was supposed to yell, "Man on the floor!" so that the bevy of women who run around naked at 4 PM would know I was there.  Though I was reprimanded by house mothers for not yelling loudly enough, I never saw a naked girl.............I mentioned cross country in the last email, making it sound like a regular team.   It wasn't.  We had one meet.  The rest were time trials on "our course".  The one meet was at Greenville I believe.  I won by a minute or so over four miles.  Bud Krogh was second.  The AD/football coach, Jim Crafton, didn't care about distance running in general and cross country in particular.  He let us have our "sort of" team with Bud acting as the facilitator/coach.  We would ask if we could please have another meet, but he never scheduled one for us.  Very disappointing.  Crafton was a good ole boy from Louisiana who had once put the shot 54' or some such at LSU, I believe.  He was a big guy who talked very slowly, very intimidating for a 19 year old kid.......This brings us to the story to which I referred in the last email.  The Drake Relays were on our schedule.  I knew the whole team wasn't going, but I thought I would be picked to run a slow heat of the 5000.  Nope.  The only guys to go were "Crafton's boys".  You were either one of his boys or you were an outsider.  If you were a football player or had been on one of his teams at Principia HS (St. Louis), you were his boy.  I definitely wasn't.  A couple station wagons were loaded up with about eight guys and off they went to Des Moines.  What were the rest of us to do?  As he left, Crafton posted Saturday's workout on the bulletin board.  My workout: run a mile time trial wait 20 minutes and run a two mile time trial.  Great workout, coach.  Thanks.  The rest of the stay-at-homes were given similar assignments.  We were disappointed with his lack of interest.  Another guy and I got the idea of seeing if we could do our time trials as nonscorers in a local meet somewhere.  The coach at Greenville had been friendly at the XC meet.  I called him.  Sure you guys can run.  Come on over.  We went to the dean of men who authorized a station wagon for us and we were off.  At the meet we turned our jerseys inside out so it would be obvious that we were competing unattached.  We had a good day with several PRs (not me, but I paced our #2 guy, Pete Martin, to his fastest 2M).  In general we were proud of our efforts.  I posted our times on the b-board next to Crafton's office, thinking that he would be happy we had done so well.  BIG MISTAKE!  About 4:00 the next morning several guys that had just returned from Drake came into my room to warn me that Crafton was furious at all of us, but me in particular.  They had never seen him so mad.  The reason: we had competed and hadn't won the meet.  Principia had some sort of win streak and he felt we had broken it.  I didn't understand.  In the note I had explained that we had reversed our shirts.  The scary thing about it was that the Drake guys bought his line of thinking.  At least they warned me that he might come looking for me.  I grabbed my mattress and dragged it down the hall to a friend's room so that if he did try to find me before the sun came up I wouldn't be there.  Sunday morning was always doughnuts and cocoa in the dorm, then church at 11:00 followed by lunch in the dining room.  No word from Crafton.  That afternoon we all got the word that we were to meet individually with Crafton in his office above the gym.  My appointment was for 7:45 (not sure how I remembered that).  I was sick with fear when I climbed the stairs.  Coach Crafton was very calm as he told me that I and the others were off the team, done, finished, through.  I was crushed.  How could this happen?  My one goal in life had been to set the 2M record, something I knew I could do if I had competition and didn't have to run the mile before.  Now that was gone.  The next day the situation changed slightly.  The team would vote on reinstatement.  The kicker was that it had to be unanimous.  That was followed by the information that Rich Overby, definitely a Crafton boy, one of the two good athletes on the team (21.5 straightaway, 49.5), with Bud being the other, was going to vote no.  This was a crusher as I considered Rich a good guy and had even gone on winter runs in the snow with him.  The vote was scheduled for Wednesday.  Needless to say Monday and Tuesday dragged on forever.  When practice finally rolled around I watched from a hill perhaps 100 yards away as they voted.  We were back on the team, but the message had been sent.  I knew I wasn't coming back for my junior year.  I did get the record and the Prairie College Conference (think that was the name) championship in the 2M, but the last meet was the Ozark AAU in St. Louis and everyone was entered as individuals.  Really enjoyed that week because I didn't do Crafton's workouts.  Fuck you, asshole.  He didn't care, because he didn't care during the regular season.  Even then, in my second year of running, I knew I knew more about distance running than Crafton.  Can't say that I hated the guy (feared, yes), but I harbored a healthy dislike.  
Coach Crafton Athletic Center
Once we went to Washington University in St. Louis.  It had one of the strangest tracks I've ever seen: three laps to the mile.  As I recall, it was built for the 1904 Olympics.  The guy giving 440 splits had to be in pretty good shape since the track was 586+ yards.  He had to move clockwise 146 yards every lap with the result that only the leaders got lap times.  I vividly remember the meet my sophomore year.  Washington's best runner was a small black kid who spit when he ran.  The second time I got hit I complained.  He apologized and aimed a different direction.  The memorable part of this wasn't that I beat him twice, it was that I OUTKICKED him both times.  I had never outkicked a white kid, let alone a black.  I thought I was Superman that day.

Another Student remembers fondly his last days at Principia:
  In the Spring, my roommate and others in Brooks South had a hard time sleeping, so we would go up river to Chubby’s all night café in Grafton, where we would eat hamburgers and play the pinball machine.  On the way back, we would stop at a summer resort on the river called Chatauqua, and go for a swim.  The river was warm, but the current was about 7 knots or better.  We would keep abreast of the peer we swam from with some good swimming, but then the river would win.  We would float downriver, and eventually have to walk back upriver in the sucking silt at the edge of the river.  My last year there the state began building an interstate up our side of the river, under the bluffs, using the old railroad line.  One night, at the riverside in Elsah, we found an aluminum workboat that was unchained.  We rowed across the river to a small town called Portage de Sioux (I believe).  We walked around town in the stillness of the night, and I distinguished myself by flicking the remains of a filter cigarette to the pavement, and it landed standing up on its filter tip.  We took that as a sign of ‘mission accomplished’, and rowed back over to Elsah You can see why I moved on.  Too bad they didn’t have any competitions on flicking cigarette butts.

So fifty-six years later, our young hero now an aged and surly old curmugeon sits in his mountain retreat regarding those days not so fondly.  Congratulations, Blog Buddy, you got the 2M record despite the poor, make that no coaching you received.  Crafton may have gotten a cement slab named after him  on the campus, but you got the record. Amen and pass the liniment.  George
The bluff road now an interstate

The photos add to the story.  Elsah looks like a European town in those shots.  Now it is more in touch with the world because it has to be a freeway off ramp.  The freeway replaced the dirt road that had been the railroad tracks long before my time.  It was a beautiful place to run.  Tugs pulling barges going upriver were fun to race.  The tug operator would toot his horn at us.  Then the freeway went in and I'm sure Elsah entered the 20th century.....Roy

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