Farm boys, fishermen and loggers who win Olympic gold!
It’s the fall of 1933, the Great Depression has gripped the country for four years and 10 million people are without jobs. It’s a cold and dreary day in Seattle as the next class of freshmen prepares to enter the University of Washington. Among them is Joe Rantz, who is eager to try out for the freshman crew along with 174 other hopefuls. If Joe makes the team, he would be guaranteed a part-time job on campus, a necessity if he is to achieve his dream of becoming a chemical engineer.
Like Joe, most of these boys have never rowed a stroke in their life and would be trying for one of the nine spots in the racing shell. What unfolds is a story recounting the intrepid determination of Joe and the eight other young men who won Olympic gold in 1936 right under Hitler’s nose.
We follow them as they relentlessly train in all kinds of weather, and we witness their drive to learn the numerous things they need to know to row as a crew. We learn the tactics and techniques of the coaches, and we become immersed in the mechanics and intricacies of building a racing shell. Woven throughout the book are the history-making events taking place in the pre -World War II years.
In a move of pure brilliance, our facilitator Ann Schooley invited members of the “This Boat Rocks” Dragon Boat Team to our meeting. Susan Chicone, captain and coach, was quick to point out they “paddle” the dragon boat—not “row” it like in crew, but she knew this hands-on demonstration would drive home the coordination and grace needed for this activity.
We listened intently as Susan explained how the team trains, and we watched in rapt attention as the team members demonstrated their paddling prowess. Then we all assumed the correct position in our chairs and practiced paddling. This was just the precursor for book club members actually to try their hands at paddling with the team in two weeks.
Members noted that even though they knew Joe’s crew rowed to win the Gold Medal, that knowledge didn’t diminish the suspense of the book. And, contrary to their initial impression, it was not a “man’s book.” Members were overwhelming with their praise and felt the book was beautifully written, told an inspiring story and should be on everyone’s must-read list.
About the Author
Born in 1951, Daniel James Brown was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and UCLA. He taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford before becoming a technical writer and editor. He now writes nonfiction books full time. He said his primary interest as a writer is “bringing compelling historical events to life as vividly and accurately as I can.” He currently lives outside of Seattle, Washington with his wife, two daughters and an assortment of cats, dogs, chickens and honeybees. When he is not writing, he likely is birding, gardening, fly fishing, reading American history or chasing bears from the bee hives.
Learn more about the Book Club
Club chairwoman Kathy Porter can be contacted at 352.259.8196 or firstname.lastname@example.org.