Boat. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown is the book that my every third Thursday of the Month Book Club is reading. The book I should be reading.It’s not that I don’t like the book. I like the book a lot, but I’ve been spending more time writing than reading. I suppose if I want to encourage reading, I could write about what I am reading.
Daniel James Brown interviewed Joe Rantz, a neighbor; the only thing that separated Brown from Rantz was a field and a split rail fence and wet woods. Anything with a lot of rain in it makes me feel at home.
Boys was published in 2013. I don’t know what year it was that Brown visited Rantz, but Rantz was on his deathbed.
The fence that Daniel climbed over to get to Rantz’s daughter’s house had not only been built by Rantz in his mid seventies, but Rantz had felled/fallen/whatever the trees. Two thousand, two hundred and forty-four linear feet of pasture fence.
The author said that he knew only two things about Joe before the interview. In addition to the fence-building tidbit, he also knew that Joe and his teammates blew the world out of the water when these University of Washington young me won the 1936 Olympic Medal, snatching it away from Hitler, making a huge impact on history. To read about someone who saw Hitler first-hand is almost like meeting someone who saw Hitler first-hand; it’s the closest I’ll ever come.
My father’s family was German. My recollection is that Beno Honthumb was the last born and the first born in America; he was the last attempt at having a boy to carry on the family name. After my dad’s death, there are no more males to carry on the name in the entire world, at least from what my sisters and I have figured out. No other Honthumb has popped up. We did discover a cousin in California, but her grandmother, Vera was one of my grandfather’s sisters. Do I have that correct? I’m sure someone will try to straighten me out.
This story fascinates me, especially with the different back stories. Joe. His teammates. Hitler and his behind the scenes scheming and cheating to win no matter what the cost.
I don’t know much about the history of the west, at least not the history of Washington in 1933. The world wasn’t a happy place and Seattle was the epitome of this feeling.
HOOVERVILLES IN SEATTLE
The stock market crash in October 1929 helped trigger a devastating depression that dominated the Northwest for nearly a decade. The economic downturn gradually affected more and more people. Mortgage foreclosures, delinquent taxes, and sharply rising unemployment were the experiences of many. Between 1929 and 1933, a hundred thousand businesses failed across the nation. Racial minorities, women, and the unskilled were the first to lose their jobs. By the time President Hoover left office in 1933, 13 million were unemployed, about 25% of the work force. Some unemployed became transients, searching for jobs and food. In Seattle, unemployment was 11% in April 1930, rising to 26% by January 1935.
The dichotomy of the rise of Germany and fall of America during this time is mind-boggling, and still we managed to take the Gold right out of Adolf’s greedy little hands. What blows my mind away even more so is to think that right now in the United States Political Platform, Donald Trump is giving history a re-do. I am hoping and praying that eventually voters will wake up and smell the java and prevent history from repeating itself. Ignorance is not bliss. Back in the 30s, they really thought that cigarettes were good for you. They had proof. Most of the World Series champions, the Giants, smoked.
But we know better. Don’t we?
Time to settle back and do some serious reading. This may be the first book since I joined this nameless book club many months ago where I’ve not finished the book.