Friends of Rowing History
Cornell's Influence on
By John W. Lundin and Stephen J. Lundin, Seattle Wa., 2004
John took advantage of the contributions of his grandfather (Mark Odell, Cornell 1897) to Washington rowing, and presently rows (both sweeps and sculls) out of the Pocock Rowing Center in Seattle with a club that uses the classic Thames watermen's stroke taught by George Pocock.
Cornell made a major contribution to rowing at the University of Washington and the entire west coast, a story not well known in Ithaca. Mark Odell, who rowed on Cornell's famous crew of 1897, and the authors' grandfather, coached the University of Washington crew in Seattle in the early 1900s. Odell was one of several influences Cornell had on Washington rowing at the inception of its program.
Washington, in turn, after getting its start as a rowing power with
Cornell's help, sent coaches schooled in its rowing techniques all over the
country to develop crew programs at many different universities, including a
Washington rower who went to Cornell. Rollin Harrison "Stork" Sanford (U.W. '26)
coached at Cornell for 33 seasons, winning four national championships in the
ROWING AT CORNELL UNDER COACH
Off to Ithaca
Mark Odell was born on January 13, 1869, on his family farm outside of Baldwinsville, New York. He won an essay contest which provided a state scholarship to Cornell, where he attended from 1893-97.
At nearly 6 feet tall and 184 pounds, which was big for his time, Odell rowed five seat on the starboard side for the Big Red crew of 1897 under Cornell's legendary rowing coach Charles E. "Pop" Courtney. Courtney, the "Old Man," coached from 1884 until 1916, and has been described as the "greatest training master of oarsmen in the world."(1) Odell's 1897 crew established Cornell's rowing reputation after the school had been overshadowed by Yale and Harvard for decades. To everyone's surprise, the 1897 Big Red crew won the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) race at Poughkeepsie and became "champions of America." New York Journal, June 25, 1897. Cornell beat heavily favored Yale and Harvard in this four mile race, establishing the school as a rowing power and earning it new respect.(2)
Setting The Stage For The 1897 IRA Regatta
The 1897 IRA regatta received extensive press coverage.(3) Not only was college rowing widely followed in the late 1800s, but 1897 was the first time in over 20 years that Cornell raced Yale and Harvard, so the race had special significance. Press coverage of rowing in the 1890s resembled present day coverage of the Super Bowl, the NBA championship, and the NCAA championship combined. Writers from each major paper and magazine attended the important regattas, and provided knowledgeable analysis of the races. There was substantial betting on rowing in that era, and press accounts influenced the odds. The bookmakers had a field day with the 1897 race.(4)
Cornell last rowed against Yale and Harvard in 1875 and 1876. Even though Cornell's rowing program only begun in 1870, it won both races marking the school's emergence into the rowing community, and making its oarsmen instant heros.(5) After this humiliation, Yale and Harvard withdrew from the Rowing Association of American Colleges.(6) Thereafter, they rowed only against each other in a self-declared championship, refusing to allow others to join this exclusive club, a self-righteous attitude criticized by the press. The Rochester Democrat of June 26, 1897, said:
Since its varsity's last race in 1876 against Yale and Harvard, Cornell sought a rematch but was arrogantly refused. "The two eastern colleges had regarded it as a condescension to permit Cornell to join the contest...," said the New York Journal, on June 25, 1897. The New York Press of June 26, 1987 sounded a similar theme:
Odell described Cornell's frustration in his hometown newspaper, the Baldwinsville Gazette and Farmers' Journal, on July 1, 1897:
By 1897, Yale and Harvard had been the country's rowing powerhouses for two decades, and Cornell was not seen as being in their league. The "smart money" and all of the experts agreed that the 1897 race was between Yale and Harvard, with Cornell having no chance. The betting odds were heavily skewed in their favor.
Two learned writers who covered rowing, A.H.C. Mitchell and Julian Hawthorne, easily picked the winner - Harvard, in the New York Journal:
Robert Cook, Yale's coach, and Rudolph Lehmann, Harvard's coach, had no doubts:
The "uneven" match up for the race was described by the New York Journal:
And there were about all the most renowned rowing experts in this country and in England adopting the same point of view and standing upon their experiences of ten, twenty, or thirty years....
And, after all, poor, slighted little Cornell, with her unconsidered crew, came bashfully to the most remote and cold-shouldered of the three stake-boats, and didn't do a thing but win the race, with so little seeming effort that one could hardly believe she wasn't rowing in a steam launch, and by her haughty rivals, who were staggering and fainting in her wake, in the same glance.
The 1897 IRA race was a high stakes one for Cornell, a chance to prove that its rowing program could compete against the Eastern powerhouses, with nothing less than the honor of the school at stake. The New York World reported on June 26, 1897:
The Race Atmosphere
College rowing was the era's most popular sport, and huge crowds attended the important races. The 1897 IRA regatta was an extended gala party, as Odell described in Cornell Era. "For two weeks Po'keepsie had been festive; parties from the more imposing regatta ball to the unpretentious reception, excursions, moonlight sails, and concerts, had crowded one after the other, making life happy and Po'keepsie gay." The need for a long stay at Poughkeepsie, required for crews participating in the IRA race so they could train on the four mile course, was criticized as "becoming too much of a spectacle of the circus variety, merely a money maker for the New York Central Railroad, rather than a purely athletic event." Young, Courtney and Cornell Rowing.
Race day resembled a giant carnival according to the New York Journal:
The "serpent" was a train that ran along the length of the course allowing spectators to see the entire race, gayly decorated and filled with boisterous fans loudly shouting encouragement to their favorite crew. Private yachts lined the course, some with cannons, which were fired as the crews rowed by, adding to the mayhem.
Coach Courtney inspired his group of underdogs, who had been counted out before the race by all of the experts. "[I]t is hard to discourage a Cornell Varsity crew when Charlie Courtney tells them that they are fast and that the other fellows haven't wings: and it is still more difficult to discourage them when he himself is satisfied with their speed." E.O. Spillman, Captain of the 1897 crew, Cornell Era. Courtney's last words to his rowers before the race reflected the seriousness of the occasion: "Boys, do you know what this means? It means that you're Cornell or you're nothing."(Id.)
Odell described the tumultuous race atmosphere, in Cornell Era:
Against all odds, Cornell beat its arrogant rivals by nearly three lengths in a memorable race. The New York Journal of June 25, 1897 described the race:
Acclaim after the Race
Cornell's surprising victory overwhelmed the school's loyal supporters who had cheered the crew to victory, as Odell described in Cornell Era:
In spite of the uproarious response of the Cornell fans, the crew celebrated its victory in a modest manner, according to Odell in Cornell Era:
Virtually every New York newspaper carried an article about the race. The New York World of June 26, 1897 described Cornell's victory in lyric terms:
The New York Times article about the race referred to rowing's betting connections.
Odell captured the tenor of the extensive press coverage of the race, in Cornell Era.
School pride ran deep. On the victory ride home on the train the next day, the 1897 crew was welcomed by a member of Cornell's victorious crew of 1876.
Id. Odell described how Cornell's victory inspired others.
The victorious crew anxiously looked forward to the train's arrival at their beloved Ithaca, which Odell described as "the most loyal college town on earth, where feuds between campus and the city are unknown, and where town and gown lock arms and march up the street of brotherly love blowing great blasts of joy through the same tin horn." Id. When the train reached Ithaca, the crew was greeted as conquering heroes, like Roman legions returning to Rome after a battle, according to Odell:
The "Courtney Stroke" Won the Race
Cornell's 1897 win at Poughkeepsie not only established the school as a rowing power, but also proved that the "American stroke" developed by Coach Courtney for the Cornell Navy was superior to the "English stroke" used by both Yale and Harvard. The race established Coach Courtney as a rowing genius. The same writers who had dismissed Cornell's chances and criticized its unusual rowing technique the day before, all of a sudden were instant experts on and cheerleaders for Courtney's miraculous and innovative stroke which represented the future of rowing.
The New York World reported on June 26, 1897: "...it was the American stroke that won against the Lehmann English and the Cook modified English stroke." The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle of June 26, 1897 concluded: "[t]he English stroke taught by Lehmann proved to be exhausting and far less effective than the steady rhythmic motion taught by Courtney." The New York Press said:
The New York Herald chimed in saying:
The New York Journal of June 26, 1897 agreed, saying:
Casper Whitney wrote in Harpers:
Disclaiming honors for developing the winning method of rowing, the "Old Man" modestly insisted there was no such a thing as a "Courtney stroke."
Rowing analysts differed with Courtney's humble statement, however:
Courtney's coaching shows clear thought about each part of the stroke.
Courtney and Cornell Rowing after 1897
After 1897, led by coach Courtney, Cornell dominated college rowing, winning 14 of 24 IRA championships during his regime, and taking second six times. His crews won 98 out of 146 races, sweeping regattas seven times. Id. Courtney believed in the moral as well as the physical value of rowing. "There are two elements to a contest with oars over a measured course - the mental and physical." Courtney believed that rowing was not only one of the best body developers, but from the moral point of view there was no branch of athletics which was such a character builder as trying for a place in an eight-oared shell. The long period of training offers little to the flabby type of man who must have the prospect of immediate reputation. The long, steady grind, often under disagreeable and discouraging conditions, together with the good comradeship, was to his mind, an invaluable preparation for life's battles. (Id.)
Although successful, Courtney was a controversial figure because of patrician attitudes that dominated sports in that era. Before coaching at Cornell, Courtney had been a successful amateur rower, but turned professional to race Canadian champion Ned Hanlan in 1878.(10) Cornell's hiring of Courtney drew significant criticism because he was a professional rower. The New York Times editorialized:
This patrician attitude in sports was widespread in those times. Participation in the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896 was limited to gentlemen and the military; professionals and the working class were excluded. Rowing first appeared in the Olympics in 1900 in Paris following this tradition.(12) The New York Journal's article of June 26, 1897 on the 1897 race lauded Harvard's coach for his gentlemanly approach to the sport, even though his crew lost badly to Cornell:
Odell gained notoriety from his writings about the 1897 race. He wrote articles for his hometown newspaper in Baldwinsville, and a long description, "Story of the Race and Return to Ithaca," for Cornell Era (reprinted in Appendix A hereto). When Odell returned home, he was welcomed as a hero and a parade was held in his honor. With his typical reserve, Odell later said "[c]ontrary to the enthusiastic imaginings of many of my home Baldwinsville friends, I was not the only one in the crew. There were seven other oarsmen and a coxswain in the crew which won the race."(Id.)
A picture of the 1897 crew still hangs on the wall of Cornell's crew house, a lasting tribute to the "[b]oys whose faithful training and earnest work, have combined to make Cornell pre-eminent in Intercollegiate Rowing." Cornell Navy. The caption on the picture lists 20:34 as the time for 1897 race at Poughkeepsie. Odell's obituary said his Cornell crew held the Poughkeepsie Regatta record for more than 30 years.(13)
Odell returned to Cornell in 1947 for the 50th reunion of the class of
1897. All of his fellow crew members were alive and well and attended the
reunion, except for their coxswain. They took out an eight and rowed it for old
times sake, likely not equaling their IRA championship time that made Cornell
"champions of America" in 1897, but still rowing with enthusiasm and love of the
LEAVING THE IVY LEAGUE FOR THE WEST
After his graduation in 1897, Odell entered Cornell's law school. However, like many adventurous young men of his generation, Odell caught gold fever. In spring of 1898, Odell suddenly dropped out of Cornell, and he and his best friend from Cornell, Ellis Aldrich, left for what was known as the Alaska gold rush.(14) Although Odell was attending law school, he planned on rowing with the 1898 crew. Coach Courtney and the rowing press were deeply disappointed that Odell would not row again.(15)
Ithaca to the Yukon
Odell and Aldrich were part of an Ithaca company organized to mine gold in the Yukon, financed by a wealthy local businessman, likely L.C. Smith of typewriter fame. Smith agreed to fund Odell and Aldrich, paying their expenses and assuring them "of liberal compensation for the venture whether or not they met with success."(Id.)
Odell and Aldrich left New York on March 16, 1898, taking a train to Seattle which was the jumping off point for the gold rush. In Seattle, they purchased the one year's supply of food and gear (one ton per man) that was required by Canada's Northwest Mounted Police.
Odell and Aldrich sailed on the steamer Al-Ki from Seattle on March 26,1898 traveling up the inside passage to Skagway, Alaska. Odell noted in his diary how beautiful the trip was, saying "[s]hould I return from the Yukon without one ounce of dust which has quite the balance of probabilities, I cannot regret the time spent after passing this part of the route." After Skagway, however, they faced many challenges.
From Skagway, they shipped their goods by lighter (a flat bottomed barge) to Dyea, and then hauled their supplies 16 miles from Dyea to the foot of Chilkoot Pass. Their first major challenge was to transport their supplies to Lake Bennett following the 32 mile Chilkoot Pass Trail. This involved climbing the grueling three-quarter mile "Golden Stairway" to the summit of the Pass, carrying up to 100 pounds of gear on their backs every trip. Scores of trips were required to transport their supplies. Photographs of the gold rush show a parade of hopefuls carrying their gear up Chilkoot Pass. Canadian Mounties were posted at the top of the pass to weigh each prospector's provisions to ensure they had the required ton of gear.
Odell wrote articles for his hometown newspaper in New York during his time in the Yukon. In one article, Odell described the climb up the steep Chilkoot Pass:
Odell's memories from his Cornell rowing days helped him in the climb.
Odell said the several trips up and down the pass in one day were "about the hardest day's work I ever did." Odell and Aldrich spent from April 7 to April 21 hauling their supplies over the Pass before they reached the next stage of the trip. The trip over Chilkoot Pass was as dangerous as it was difficult. Odell's diary notes several slides on the Pass while they were in the area, one of which "killed many." One of his pictures shows the place on the Pass where 54 men were killed in one slide.
From the summit, they hauled their two tons of supplies by sled 16 miles to Lake Bennett, where they built a boat to travel down the Yukon River. Planks were made by "whipsawing" logs using a two handled saw, one person working in a pit below the logs and the other working above. The man in the pit got showered with sawdust, a highly distasteful job according to Odell . His diary notes "considerable difficulty and some profanity." After the boat was assembled, pitch and oakum were used to caulk between planks. Oars, a mast, and a pump were built by hand. Sails were hand sewn. Odell and Aldrich finally began their journey down the Yukon River in late June, several weeks after most of the other prospectors had left. The Mounted Police gave their boat license number 14,039, showing how many boats had left before them.
Odell and Aldrich proudly hung a small red and white Cornell pennant from the mast of their boat showing their loyalty to their alma mater. The Big Red was finally off on their Argonaut adventure down the Yukon River.
Their next challenge was to travel down the treacherous Yukon River by sailing, rowing, and floating. At the head of Miles Canyon, they lightened their boat, had their goods transported around the Canyon on a wood-track tramway, and hired a pilot to take their boat through the Canyon and the Whitehorse Rapids.17 They then had to navigate the Five Fingers Rapids and the Rink Rapids, reaching Fort Selkirk 33 days after leaving Lake Bennett. Fort Selkirk was a trading post on the Yukon River about two-thirds of the way from Lake Bennett to Dawson and the Klondike.
The Search for Gold
Next, they had to find the ever elusive gold. They decided to prospect for gold in the Fort Selkirk area rather than travel further to Dawson where most of the good prospecting sites had already been claimed. Odell and Aldrich joined forces with several other Americans at Fort Selkirk, and prospected on Wolverine Creek, which Odell said was about 35 miles from Fort Selkirk. After finding "colors" or specks of gold by panning in the creek, they dug shafts in the nearby old creek bed. The idea was to dig a vertical hole down to the bedrock, and then fan out in horizontal tunnels just above the bed rock where gold nuggets would hopefully be found. Permafrost started two feet from the surface, so they built fires to melt the frozen dirt, and then dug out the mud, dirt, and rocks. They built cribs, or supports, to keep the walls from caving in as they burned and dug their way down. A winch was built on top of the shaft around which a rope was wound, and a bucket attached that was lowered into the shaft to haul out the dirt and rock. Odell's diary indicates the shaft caved in several times. Little "color" was found and the larger group broke up and left the site.
Odell, Aldrich, and two others later returned to the site on Wolverine Creek, where they built a cabin for the winter and hung their Cornell pennant on the cabin's wall.(18) They dug three shafts, one reaching thirty feet. The Fall of 1898 and Winter of 1899 were very cold and dreary. Odell's diary recorded temperatures of 45, 46, and 51 below zero, and noted that the prospectors were frequently sick.
The men made weekly treks by snowshoe from their cabin to Fort Selkirk for supplies, and to get away from the cabin to break up the tedium of winter. Odell's diary says the trip was 35 miles one way, and the men hiked it in one long day of 14 or 15 hours, although the distance may have actually been shorter. The rigors of the hike were noted in Odell's diary. One day, a member of their group "gave out half way to Selkirk," and the men took five hours to cover that part of the trip which usually took two. It was too cold to wear boots so they wore two pairs of heavy German wool socks and moccasins. On one trip his diary notes: "moccasins and socks wore through, wrapped feet in flour sack." Odell's family still has a pair of his moccasins.
Gold Dreams Fade: Leaving the Yukon for Seattle
Their last challenge was the long trek back to Skagway. As was true for most lured to the Yukon by the dream of striking it rich, their claim failed to yield any significant amounts of gold. Several small nuggets were found, not much to show for their efforts. After a harsh winter of prospecting, reality set in, and the men decided to get on with the next phase of their lives. Odell's diary notes "not very cheerful."
Odell and Aldrich left Fort Selkirk in mid-February 1899 on the 400 mile trek back to Skagway. A last photo taken at the prospecting site shows several men pulling a sled with a horse collar, with a caption saying "lean into the collar, the unspoken slogan of '97." Odell described the effort to haul their supplies to Ft. Selkirk as "regular horse work." Apart from a few nuggets and many memories, these attempts at humor were all that Odell and Aldrich brought home from the Yukon. "Buck," their trusty buckskin horse, and dogs pulled their sled from Ft. Selkirk to Skagway. Each day they hiked between 12 and 30 miles, and slept in dirty, cramped bunkhouses. After three weeks they reached Skagway, no longer Cheechakos but hardened and weary sourdoughs. A real hotel room, steam-baths, medicine, and new clothes were the first order of business.
Aldrich returned by boat to Seattle and train to Ithaca, where he finished his law degree in the Autumn of 1899. Aldrich practiced law in Maine for many years thereafter. Odell remained for several months in Skagway, acting as an agent for the newly constructed White Pass and Yukon Railway, and later the Alaskan Steamship Company. Odell moved to Seattle in late 1899.
The gold rush caused Seattle to grow substantially in both population and wealth. Seattle was the jumping off point for the gold rush, and its merchants prospered by outfitting prospectors heading north. In addition, all of the gold found in the Yukon, and most of the wealth generated in the gold fields, ended up in Seattle. The gold rush pulled the entire country out of economic doldrums, and ended the worst depression the United States had experienced up to that time.
After moving to Seattle, Odell formed a construction company, which specialized in concrete work. His firm took advantage of Seattle's growth, paving many of the city's sidewalks in its downtown area, paving the ship canal built in 1916 which linked Puget Sound with Lake Washington, and paving Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascade Mountains, the present day route for the I-90 freeway extending from Seattle to Boston.(19) Odell's financial benefactor, L.C. Smith, invested in Seattle, building the Smith Tower in 1914, the tallest building west of the Mississippi until the 1960s.
In 1960, Odell described his time in the Yukon in his typical modest way: "A year of wonderful adventure and experiences. But remember - there were thousands upon thousands of people who did this in 1897 and 1898. In Seattle, above tale is commonplace."
The Cornell pennant Odell took to the gold rush, which had been given to him by a fraternity brother when he left Ithaca for the Yukon, was proudly displayed in his house in Seattle as a constant reminder of his Alma Mater and his Yukon adventures.
Odell's Cornell pennant remains in the family. Odell died in Seattle in
1963 at age 94. Vigorous to the end, he continued to go to work and do his own
gardening until the summer of his death.
ROWING STARTS AT WASHINGTON WITH CORNELL'S INFLUENCE
The Early Days
Cornell influenced rowing at the University of Washington from the beginning.
E.F. Blaine, a lawyer and land developer, lived in Ithaca before moving to Seattle in the late 1800s. Blaine knew of Cornell's successful rowing program, and wanted to start a similar program at Washington to take advantage of Seattle's mild weather, accessible water, and tall young men mainly of Scandinavian descent whose families had moved to the area for its logging and fishing. In 1899, Blaine donated $200 to start a rowing program at Washington, and later Blaine and other Seattle businessmen spent $650 to build two training gigs and a boathouse for the U.W. crew.(20)
Washington hired its first crew coach in 1903, James Knight, the football and track coach who had rowed at Princeton. Washington's first inter-collegiate race was in 1903 against Cal Berkeley, in fours-oared gigs without coxswain. Washington won the race by over three lengths beginning its winning tradition.(21)
Cornell's influence on Washington rowing continued in 1904 when the school purchased a four-oared shell from Ithaca for $400, and expanded in 1906 when Washington did not have funds to hire a rowing coach, and turned to local rowers to fill the void. Mark Odell, Cornell 1897, who learned his rowing under Coach Courtney, and George Strange, two businessmen and ex-college rowers living in Seattle, were recruited by the University's athletic manager to coach Washington's crew in 1906.(22) The 1908 University of Washington Tyee said:
Odell and Strange donated their time to coaching Washington rowers because of their love of the sport. Early morning turnouts were held so the coaches could go to work afterwards. Beck, Rowing at Washington. Beginning in 1906, Washington rowers were taught the Cornell rowing techniques developed by coach Courtney which had dominated east coast rowing since 1897. Odell brought to the shores of Lake Washington, his experiences learned rowing on Cuyuga Lake under the "Old Man," and the winning ways of his 1897 IRA Big Red championship crew.
An article on Washington rowing later reported that Washington's crew program "started" under Mark Odell, and Odell's obituary said that he "organized a rowing club which was instrumental in establishing rowing at the University of Washington."(23)
1906 also was the year that Washington's crew program took a major step forward by acquiring two used eight-oared shells (from Cornell, of course), financed by Seattle businessmen, likely including Odell. Beck, Rowing at Washington.
University of Washington Tyee of 1908. Acknowledging Cornell's dominance in rowing circles since Odell's 1897 crew won the IRA championship, the annual established a lofty goal for the school: "It is now up to Washington to prove herself the Cornell of the Pacific Coast." (Emphasis added).
The acquisition of eight-oared shells allowed Washington to engage in serious crew racing for the first time. The University of California at Berkeley purchased three eights from Cornell at the same time. Eight-oared competition began on the west coast in 1907 with the annual Triangle Regatta, where crews from Washington, California and Stanford competed against each other. "Husky Crew 100 Year History."
The Conibear - Pocock Era
Washington's crew program took a significant step forward in 1907 when Hiram Conibear (later known as the father of Washington rowing) was hired as crew coach. Conibear was lured to Washington in 1906 from Chicago by Dr. Bill Speidel, a former U.W. quarterback studying dentistry there, and a relative of the authors through marriage. Conibear had been a professional bicycle racer, the trainer for the Chicago White Sox, and the trainer for the football teams at the Universities of Illinois and Chicago (under coach Alonzo Stagg). Conibear was hired as the athletic trainer for Washington's football and track programs, and as assistant football coach. He decided that crew was the perfect off-season sport for conditioning his football players.(24)
When Conibear became Washington's crew coach in 1907, there was one problem: he did not know how to row.(25) When asked about being the crew coach, he replied "I'd make a good one...[but] to tell you the truth, I don't know one end of the boat from the other."(26) Conibear described his initial coaching technique as follows: "I have to yell and cuss a little in order to bluff my way along until I have a chance to grasp what I'm trying to coach."(27) Given Conibear's rowing limitations, it is fortunate that the UW had experienced volunteer coaches available. Mark Odell continued his assistance to Washington's rowing program.(28)
Conibear admitted that he learned the art of rowing from others, along with his own novel experiments:
In addition to learning from his assistants, Conibear did his own experiments to understand the physiology of the stroke. Conibear took a skeleton home from the biology department, placed it in a shell, and used it to study the anatomical movement of the stroke and the physiology of rowing. Conibear placed a broom handle into the skeleton's hands to serve as an oar. He moved the skeleton through the motion of a stroke noting the position of the bones at each stage. He then turned a bicycle upside down and turned the wheel with his hand, the wheel serving as the water and his palm the oar blade. He realized that unless the oar blade struck the water at a speed equal to or greater than the water's speed, there would be a moment of unwanted drag.(30)
Conibear was Washington's crew coach from 1907 until his untimely death in 1917. During that time, he expanded the program, raised money to purchase new equipment, and put Washington rowing on the national map. His crews dominated west coast rowing during that period, and made their first entrance on the national rowing scene. His goal was always to compete at the IRA regatta in the four mile race against east coast crews. In 1907, he sponsored a four mile race against Stanford, the only time a four mile race had been run in the west. In later years, he tried to convince other west coast teams to use the four mile format used at the IRA, but they refused, insisting on keeping two or three miles races.(31)
In spite of his success at Washington, Conibear was in a constant battle with the school for money and manpower. His efforts to create a winning crew program were fought by coaches in better established sports such as football, who were concerned that Conibear might take resources away their sports. In 1908, Beck reported that "[r]owing competes for man power and money with longer established sports. It therefore is always on the defensive for the next fifteen years." Conibear said that in 1908, he was "ordered off the football field on several occasions," and in 1909 he "was told to stay off the campus until rowing started in December."(32)
Conibear brought enthusiasm and success to the Washington rowing program. "Never in the history of the University of Washington has the crew had a more successful season than that of 1908" reported the UW Tyee of 1910. In 1908, 54 men turned out for crew along with 50 women. Beck, Rowing at Washington. Acknowledging again the school's debt to its mentor in Ithaca, the UW annual stated:
Showing the program's growth, 165 men turned out for crew in 1910.(Id.)
Cornell's contribution to Washington rowing continued under Conibear. In 1908, Conibear sought to have Washington invited to the IRA regatta at Poughkeepsie. They "were bitterly cast down when a terse statement comes back that it is too late to get in." Conibear went to the IRA anyway "...to talk to coaches and see how things were done on the water generally." This was his first opportunity to interact with the eastern crew coaches whose crews dominated rowing, and Conibear made the most of the opportunity. Before the race, Coach Conibear met with Coach Courtney at Cornell, where the newcomer learned valuable lessons from the rowing master, as described by Broussais C. Beck the author Rowing at Washington.
Courtney readily shared his philosophy of rowing with Conibear, which was brought back to Washington's program. "Courtney set out most frankly and generously his ideas on....the stroke they were rowing at Cornell.(34)
In 1912, Conibear achieved one of his major accomplishments while he was at Washington. He convinced George Yeoman Pocock, and his brother Dick, to move from Vancouver, Canada to Seattle in 1912 to build shells for Washington's crew program. The Pococks came from a family of well know boat-builders and rowers in England, and were accomplished rowers themselves who had immigrated to Canada in 1910 to seek their fortunes in the new world.
George's great uncle, William, built the first seamless rowing shell around 1845 (previously they were of lapstrake construction). His father was the boat builder at Eton College, a prep school which had an extensive rowing program, and later manager of Eton's boat house. The entire Pocock family were expert rowers. Dick Pocock won the Doggett Coat and Badge Race, the oldest rowing competition, rowing against professional watermen. His sister Lucy won England's women's rowing championship in 1910. George learned to row by emulating Ernest Barry, the professional rowing champion of the world at the time. George won the award in 1908 as the best rower in England, when he was 17, an award coming with 50 pounds sterling.(35)
The Pococks' first meeting with Conibear shows how little he knew about rowing. The Pococks were living on a houseboat near Vancouver, Canada, accessible only by boat. One day they saw a man rowing toward their houseboat, lurching so badly they feared he would capsize. They thought the rower must be "under the influence of alcohol" he was rowing so poorly. It was with great surprise that the Pococks learned "this clumsiest of oarsmen" was Washington's rowing coach.(Id.)
In spite of his lack of rowing skills, Conibear convinced the Pococks to move to Seattle with a vision of building a rowing dynasty at Washington, and a promise to buy 12 racing shells they would build for its program, an offer the Pococks felt was too good to be true. It was. There was only money available to buy one shell.
The Pococks settled in Seattle nonetheless, and built their first eight-oared shell for Washington in 1912. They sold an eight-oared shell to California the next year and their reputation for building quality boats spread. The Pococks initially earned their living by building floats for seaplanes for Bill Boeing, a young Seattle businessman who started the Boeing Aircraft Company, while they built rowing shells on the side. In 1922, the Pococks went into the boat building business full time. George Pocock built rowing shells on the Washington campus for over 40 years, supplying the Huskies and virtually every other crew program in the U.S. and Europe with finely crafted wooden shells that became the world standard.(36) Pocock sold his shells below their market value to promote rowing, making it much easier for rowing programs to get started. The rowing community all over the country benefited from his generosity.(37)
Conibear took Washington its first IRA regatta in 1913. Cornell was the heavy favorite, but Syracuse won the race with Cornell finishing second and Washington a surprising third.(38) The complexion of American rowing was irreversibly altered, and east coast schools were put on notice that Washington rowing was for real. This race put Washington rowing on the national map.(39) Conibear's salary was raised to $2400 afterward in spite of his problems with the school, although he complained that this required him to be both crew coach and Supervisor of Aquatics, each job paying $1200, while he had previously been paid $1800 just for being crew coach. He was also promised a house on campus, a promise that was never kept. Conibear Memorandum.
Conibear and the Washington crew returned to the IRA regatta in 1914. This trip was not as successful however, with Washington finishing fifth out of five crews, a result that Beck blamed on a change in Washington's rowing technique.
As a result, the "[f]aculty voted no more Eastern Rowing for three years at least." Conibear said "...internal trouble which every crew man knows of hindered us terrible [sic] and....so we did not make a good showing in the east."(40)
Conibear's crews raced only against west coast competition the next few years. Washington lost to Stanford in 1915. In 1916, Conibear returned to the stroke he initially taught in 1910, with a few modifications, which accounted for the crew's success thereafter according to Beck. Washington beat Stanford and Cal in 1916 (with Carroll Ebright, future Cal coach, coxing Washington's shell). The 1916 boat was the "fastest Conibear crew." In 1917, Conibear's crews beat Stanford and Cal by six lengths, "rowing 28 all of the way....This Varsity was one of the very best all-around Conibear Crews."(41)
In spite of his success, Conibear's problems with the school continued. In 1916, Beck said that"[a]n agitation develops, aimed toward reducing Conibear's salary, or to have him take a six months' vacation without pay - neither of which plans were successful." In 1917, Conibear wrote a memorandum in which he defended his record as rowing coach at Washington, apparently in an attempt to keep his job. He complained of mistreatment by the school in past years, and showed that he had raised more money for the rowing program than the school had spend during his tenure.(42)
Coach Conibear died unexpectedly in September, 1917 from an unfortunate accident; he fell from a plum tree he was climbing to pick fruit. Conibear
This was the end of an era, but Conibear trained rowers continued his traditions, bringing glory and recognition to Washington rowing, and spreading the Conibear method of rowing all around the country when they became coaches at virtually every major university that had a rowing program.
Ed Leader (UW 1916), Conibear's stroke, became Washington's rowing coach in 1919, following an interruption in the program because of WW I. Beck said that in 1919, the "Washington Rowing System partly rebuilt after war period." Id., IX., page 8. Leader coached at Washington until 1922, when he was hired as Yale's rowing coach. Russell S. Callow (Rusty) (UW 1915), who also learned to row under Conibear, took over as the UW coach after Leader. Callow was given substantial assistance by George Pocock who often went with Callow in the coaching launch to assist with his crews, since Callow had been out of rowing since 1915.(43)
Washington returned to the IRA regatta in 1922 under Callow for the first time since 1914, where they finished second behind Navy. Washington won its first IRA regatta in 1923, beating Navy by a length, with other heavily favored east coast crews trailing. This was sensational sporting news, since a west coast team had never before won the IRA. Headlines proclaimed: "Giant Crew from the Far West Triumphs;" and "Navy Unable to Meet Washington's Drive." Washington also won IRA championships in 1924 and 1926 under Coach Callow.(44)
The Conibear Stroke
Conibear has been described as "...the most famous rowing coach in Washington's history [who] never rowed a stroke in a racing shell in his life, but his innovations revolutionized the sport." The Conibear stroke has been described as having a shorter layback, a snap of the oar blade the instant it was inserted into the water, and a "shot" of the blade out of the water at the completion of the rower's drive. The Conibear stroke is said to have influenced rowing in the United States for many decades. Daves and Porter, The Glory of Washington. However, there is a debate in the rowing community about whether there was a distinct Conibear stroke.
Broussais C. Beck, author of an unpublished manuscript Rowing at Washington written in 1924, was a strong proponent of the "Conibear Stroke," and included an entire chapter entitled "The Conibear Stroke - Theory and Practice." According to Beck, some rowing experts believed the Conibear stroke was the Cook stroke, and others believed it was the Courtney stroke. Beck disagreed with both camps.
Beck had been coached by both Conibear and Bob Cook (Yale's coach in the 1897 IRA race who coached the modified English stroke). Beck said "there are points of great difference" between the Cook and Conibear strokes.
Beck strongly believed that Conibear developed his own unique stroke.
Beck described the Conibear stroke as "a commonsense affair" worked out by "Conibear and his several generations of college oarsmen." The stroke evolved over the years as Conibear learned more about the sport and experimented with other ideas, and did not become final until 1916, just two rowing seasons before his unfortunate death.
Between 1911 and 1915, Conibear experimented, somewhat unsuccessfully, with a series of variations to the stroke. 1914 was the "height of Conibear's experimenting with the ideas of best known Eastern coaches. This crew was probably as further from the real Conibear stroke than any other Washington crew ever had [been]." By 1916
Beck believed that Conibear's return to a modified version of his 1910 stroke was the reason for the success of his crews after 1915. His 1916 crew was the "fast Conibear crew," and the 1917 crew was "one of the very best all-around Conibear crews.(45)
The stroke Conibear taught in 1910, and the one to which he returned in 1916 which Beck said was based on "Washington's own ideas," was likely the techniques he first learned from his assistant coaches, i.e., the Courtney stroke learned by Mark Odell in 1897 at Cornell, which he taught to Washington oarsmen in 1906 and thereafter, which was reinforced by Courtney himself when Conibear met with him in 1908 at Cornell. As it evolved, the "Conibear Stroke," was influenced ideas from other coaches including the Thames waterman's stroke from George Pocock, and modified by Conibear's own innovations.
Others question the existence of a true Conibear stroke, including Stan Pocock, George Pocock's son.
Pocock's view is different from that of Beck, based largely on Callow's remarks that he saw no consistent stroke while he was rowing under Conibear. Callow graduated in 1915, the year before Conibear perfected his stroke according to Beck, and Callow's rowing years were in the middle of Conibear's experimentation with different techniques. During Callow's rowing years at Washington, Conibear changed the stroke from year to year according to Beck, and this likely accounts for Callow's statement to Stan Pocock. Beck was in a position to evaluate Courtney's rowing techniques directly. He had rowed under both Cook and Conibear, was a contemporary of Conibear, and had hands on experience with him for a number of years. Beck wrote in 1924 about the virtues of the "Conibear Stroke," a topic to which he had given substantial thought prior to that date, several years before Stan Pocock said that the term was created by local sports writers. Conibear did not perfect his stroke until l916, and he died in 1917, so his rowers only utilized it for a few seasons. It seems that Conibear did create a distinctive stroke, which was actually made famous by the rowers he coached who later became rowing coaches themselves at Washington and elsewhere. Seattle sportswriters likely did have a role in creating the mythology surrounding the Conibear stroke.
One of the influences on the Conibear stroke came from George Pocock, who contributed to Washington crews and their rowing style for decades. His Thames waterman's rowing style was integrated into Washington rowing techniques, even though he never had a formal coaching position. Until 1964, Pocock built his famous Pocock racing shells on the UW campus in the same building used by the crew. This close proximity to the UW crew and coaches gave him direct contact with, and influence over the rowing program. Pocock described his style of rowing in an article entitled "Sculling History: Notes on the Sculling Stroke as Performed by the Professional Scullers on the Thames River, England," which can be found on the website of the Pocock Rowing Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pocock never volunteered advice unless asked, but he was asked to contribute to the UW rowing program many times. He also contributed to rowing all over the country, giving advice to ex-UW oarsmen who went on to coach in many different rowing programs. Stan Pocock described some of his father's contributions to the
There are a number of examples of Pocock's contributions to UW rowing techniques. One is a story relayed to Charles McIntyre by George Pocock himself.(48) Ed Leader (UW 1916), Conibear's stroke, came to Pocock during his rowing career frustrated with Conibear. He told Pocock that there had to be a better way to row than what the UW was doing; the rowers' hands and seats were bloody, and the boat did not move well. Pocock said there was a better way, and demonstrated to Leader his way of rowing, using the traditional Thames waterman's stroke. Leader took what he learned from Pocock back to the UW crew, and helped to integrate it into their rowing style. Leader's last year at Washington, 1916, was the year that Beck said Conibear finally perfected his stroke. Beck described the 1916 crew as the "fast Conibear crew." Leader became the UW coach in 1919 after Conibear died, and coached the Huskies using what he learned from both Conibear and Pocock. Leader took his rowing techniques to the east coast in 1922 when became Yale's rowing coach.(49)
Another example of Pocock's influence involved the 1936 Washington crew that won a gold medal in the Berlin Olympics, which was stroked by Don Hume. Hume told McIntyre that before the Olympic trials, the UW eight was not moving well and Al Ulbrickson, the UW coach, could not fix what was wrong. The crew was rowing one day on Lake Washington near the Windermere district, when they met Pocock rowing his single. Ulbrickson asked Pocock to "show his rowers what he was trying to tell them, that they did not understand." Pocock demonstrated his Thames waterman's stroke, based on taking one cut at the water. Pocock rowed next to the eight for the rest of the practice, and went with them back to the boathouse. Hume told McIntyre that this was when the UW crew began to row well, row together, and move their boat fast. They utilized this style of rowing to win an Olympic gold medal.
Pocock did have a formal role coaching UW crews on occasion. In 1948, the UW eight was the overwhelming favorite to represent the U.S. in the Olympics to be held in London. Ulbrickson took Pocock with the UW crew to the tryouts at Princeton. California narrowly beat the UW eight, to the everlasting chagrin of the UW oarsmen, and went on to win the gold medal under their coach Carroll M. "Ky" Ebright, (UW 1917), who learned to row under Conibear. However, the UW four came in first, winning the right to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. Ulbrickson was devastated by his eight's loss, and asked Pocock to coach the UW four in the Olympics in his place. The UW four went on to win a gold medal under Pocock's coaching.
Pocock's statement that rowing is "rhythm, balance, and harmony" still best describes the sport. Pocock continued to be an emotional leader of the Washington crew even when he did not have a formal coaching role, inspiring them to victory with his words as well as his coaching.(50) George's son Stan Pocock, joined his father in the boat building business after he rowed at Washington and later coached its freshmen crew. Stan also coached the Lake Washington Rowing Club, and his rowers won medals in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympics. Stan Pocock, Stan, Way Enough. The Pocock Rowing Center, a master's rowing facility near the U.W. campus, is a lasting memorial to the contributions the Pocock family made to rowing.
Thus, Conibear used information from many sources to develop the rowing techniques he taught, ranging from his initial exposure to the modified English stroke from Dr. Sharpe at Chautauqua Lake in 1905, his own experiments with the skeleton, input from assistant coaches such as Mark Odell who taught the Courtney stroke in 1906 and beyond, advice directly from Courtney in 1908, elements of the English traditional method of rowing from George Pocock (the Thames watermen's stroke), and his own learned observations of the sport.
Washington Becomes a Rowing Dynasty and Influences Rowing Throughout the Country
Washington's crews, well coached because of Cornell's early influence, dominated west coast rowing for much of the 20th century. Washington crews, both men and women, compete nationally and internationally.
Conibear lobbied early in his career to make woman's rowing a part of the physical education program at Washington, and the school had an active woman's rowing program from 1906 - 1917. Women rowed in fours, doubles and singles initially, and got their first eight in 1915. In 1908, 50 women rowed, in 1910 over 40 women rowed, followed by 60 in 1911. By 1916, two regattas were held for women, with four eight-oared shells competing, representing each class. The rules of competition for women were different in those days, with the crews judged on "posture, appearance (and) oarsmanship." Women's rowing was dormant after World War I, beginning again in 1969 as a club sport, and in 1976 as a varsity sport, becoming a hugely successful program thereafter. "Husky Crew 100 Year History;" Beck, Rowing at Washington.
By 2003, Washington men's eights had won 28 out of 43 Pacific Coast titles, its women's eights won 22 out of 27 titles, and Washington crews had won 68 national titles, the first in 1923. Washington rowers have participated in many Olympic events, winning gold in the men's eights in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, gold in the men's four in 1948 in London, and a bronze in 1952 in Helsinki.(51) The Pocock built shell rowed by Washington's crew that won a gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is on permanent display at the Pocock Rowing Center.
Washington rowers went on to coach a number of crew programs throughout the country, spreading Washington rowing techniques to most major institutions in the United States. By 1937, virtually every major rowing program in the US "enjoyed the benefit of a Washington coach." Mendenhall, Tom, A Short History of American Rowing.
Returning the favor to Cornell for its early assistance to Washington's rowing program, Rollin Harrison "Stork" Sanford (U.W. '26) coached at Cornell for 33 seasons winning four national championships in the 1950s. Norm Sonju (U.W. '27) was Sanford's assistant at Cornell, and then coach at Wisconsin for 22 years.(52)
Ed Leader (U.W. '16) coached at Washington after Conibear, and in 1922 went to Yale as crew coach taking Dick Pocock with him as an assistant. Russell S. "Rusty" Callow (U.W. '15) coached at Washington (winning the IRA championship in 1923, 1924 and 1926), became rowing coach at Penn in 1928 where he coached for 20 plus years, and later coached at the Naval Academy where his crew won a gold medal in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. Carroll M. "Ky" Ebright (U.W. '17) was an assistant to Callow at Washington, and in 1924 left for Cal Berkeley where he coached for 35 years, from 1924-1959, making Cal's program into a rowing dynasty. His rowers won three gold medals in the Olympics, including gold in the 1948 Olympics in London, and five national championships. The Cal boathouse is named after Ebright.(53)
Seattle has become a center for masters and youth rowing as well for collegiate rowing. Nine rowers with Seattle area connections went to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, competing in men's and women's eights, women's singles, men's pair, men's quad, and men's lightweight doubles. Five rowers from Washington's crew program rowed in Athens.54 Four Seattle coaches, including two sculling coaches from the Pocock Rowing Center, coached US rowers in Athens, and a Pocock Rowing Center rower competed in the woman's singles. "Our Local Olympic Hopefuls," Seattle Times, August 10, 2004.
Cornell can take a great deal of pride knowing that its highly successful rowing program played a major role in starting and influencing rowing at the University of Washington. Washington thereafter helped to influence rowing throughout the west coast and indeed the entire country.
The great University of Washington bred coaches:
(1) Young, The Cornell Navy: 1871-1906, a book published in 1907 that describes the early days of rowing at Cornell. It is dedicated "To the 'Old Man,' Charlie E. Courtney, whose coaching, and to the 'Boys' whose faithful training and earnest work, have combined to make Cornell pre-eminent in Intercollegiate Rowing."
Courtney began coaching rowers at Cornell in 1884, and became permanent residential coach in 1889. Its Varsity crews were undefeated during that period. Courtney, who was raised in Union Springs, N.Y. on the north end of Cayuga Lake, gained fame rowing near Cornell, and influenced Cornell rowing from its earliest days. In 1872, when the school was only three years old, Cornell students talked about the "young countryman down the lake who could row like the wind." Poems were written in his honor. Young, Courtney and Cornell Rowing
The IRA race was a four mile course until 1919 when it was shortened to three miles. Young, Courtney and Cornell Rowing
(3) The authors' grandfather kept many of the newspaper articles discussing the1897 IRA race. Cornell Era of October 2, 1897 included reprints of many of the press accounts from before and after the race, and a four page article written by Mark Odell, "Story of the Race and Return to Ithaca," which appears as Appendix A hereto.
(4) Courtney said that "[t]he mania for betting on intercollegiate contests... is not inherent in or peculiar to this form of competition but is largely fed up by the press." Betting led to crew coaches "lying and jockeying," and dispensing false information about their teams practice times and the rower's medical conditions to influence the odds. Courtney criticized betting's influence on sports. "...the growing practice of betting on games and races is simply that every member of an athletic team has a responsibility imposed on him which tends to distort his views as to what the object of the contest really is. Theoretically it is for the glory of his alma mater, but practically it is for the sake of the money which great numbers of alumni and undergraduates have put up on the contest. If victory is secured, no doubt it isfor the University that is so lustily cheered, and not the dollar bills; but if defeat comes, it is not the dimmed luster of the institution that is bemoaned and for which impatient criticism is flung about so freely, but it is the empty pocket-book." Young, Courtney and Cornell Rowing
(5) After the 1875 victory, "[e]nthusiastic Cornellians rushed into the water lifting the oarsmen from the boat, marched them upon their shoulders up and down in front of the grandstand. Upon their return to Saratoga the wildest demonstration ensued, and the Cornell oarsmen were the heroes of the hour....A palace car was provided for the trip home, and the journey was a like a triumphal procession. At Ithaca, a great arch had been erected on campus and the town turned out en masse to join in the welcome."
The crews rowed in six-oared shells in 1875 and 1876. Cornell first rowed in an eight-oared shell in 1878. The Cornell yell originated at the 1875 race. When the Cornell crew was leading the race, spectators yelled "Cornell-ell-ell-ell, Cornell," which was converted into "Cornell, I yell, yell, yell, Cornell." Young, Cornell Navy
(6) The New York Times chided them for taking this action: "It cannot be denied that the remarkable and altogether shameless conduct of Cornell in making a clean sweep of everything in the  Centennial Regatta is an excellent proof of the sagacity of certain colleges in retiring from a conflict in which apparently they consider they have no chance." Young, Cornell Navy
(7) This description is echoed by Odell's brief summary of the winning effort:" [t]he race was a combination of mental and muscular application." Cornell Era
(8) Courtney recognized differences between the American and English strokes." The essential difference between the American and English strokes dates back to the time when sliding seats were invented. In the old days of the fixed seat the general formula for fast rowing was the same on both sides of the water. When the advantage of the new invention was recognized, the tendency in American was to make the sliding seat the basis of a new stroke. The English added the new feature to the old swing of the fixed seat. In this country, the mechanical possibilities of the slide are used to a greater extent, in my opinion. Certainly, the American stroke, if it can be called that, requires a much shorter apprenticeship, and with the rowing career condensed into the four years of an undergraduate course, there probably would not be sufficient time to develop the greatest efficiency in the English style." Young, Courtney and Cornell Rowing
(9) Courtney taught that when taking the water, "the blade should not be dropped in at a perfect right angle, but should be inclined just a trifle, so that it will enter the water easily and cleanly, scoop fashion...The important part is to get the blade into the water cleanly, and keep it covered but not to sink it too deeply...When the stroke is finished, the hands should be dropped sharply in the lap, the blades of the oars coming clearly out of the water at right angles to it, and the arms shooting quickly forward as quickly as possible for another stroke." Young, Courtney and Cornell Rowing
(10) Courtney won all 86 of his amateur races. He only lost seven of 46professional races in a time when oarsmen rowed for "stakes" from regatta committees, and betting winnings. No one but Hanlan rivaled Courtney as the greatest living oarsman of his day. Young, Courtney and Cornell Rowing. Courtney won $450 on his first "amateur" race in 1873, and there was a $10,000 stake in his 1877 race against Hanlan. Miller, Wild & Crazy Professionals
(11) Courtney, Charles E., at HickokSports.com. Even before Coach Courtney, Cornell used professional rowers to assist its crew program. Harry Coulter, a former U.S. sculling champion, trained Cornell's crew in 1873. This upset the rowing community, as seen in an article about Cornell's 1873 crew in a religious journal which put the issue in moral terms: "[w]hen the pious lot was cast into the lap, the wicked crew (meaning Cornell) had the worst position." That same year,1873, it was decided at the convention of the Rowing Association of Colleges "not to allow in future the employment of professional trainers." Young, Cornell Navy
(12) "Crew: U.W.'s Most Successful, Stable Athletic Enterprise," Seattle Post Intelligencer, 5/10/03.
(13) "Mark Odell, Insurance man, Succumbs," Seattle Times, June 26, 1963.
(14) Odell did not spend much time pondering the decision to hunt for gold. His diary shows that he first considered leaving on March 2, 1898, and he and Aldrich left for the Yukon on March 16, two weeks later. The 1898 gold rush actually took place in the Klondike area of Canada's Yukon Territory, although its entry point was Skagway, Alaska.
(15) An article in the Baldwinsville Gazette & Farmer's Journal of March 24, 1898 described Odell's surprise decision.
"The biggest surprise of the season in Cornell crew matters was the announcement at the boathouse tonight that Mark M. Odell, No. 5 of the varsity boat has suddenly left the university to go to the Klondike. Coach Courtney apparently did not like the news a bit. Odell was one of the strongest men on last year's victorious crew and Cornell's coach had counted upon him for the same position, but is doubtful if as good a man will be found immediately....
Cornell lost Mark M. Odell, who pulled No. 5 and it will be a hard matter for Courtney to replace the young man. Odell did not look much like an athlete in his street clothes. He is one of those quiet, unassuming young fellows with a gait that is next to awkward and a swing to his limbs that might mark him as a pedestrian. A casual observer would note the breadth of the shoulders and comment on them. One unfamiliar with athletes would scarcely take notice of the deep chest. But stripped, Odell is a different person. The long siege of training he has undergone at Cornell has made his back a network of muscular tissue, while the muscles of his arms are like steel cables. Fatigue is almost unknown to the man. He is energetic, quick to learn and obeyed instructions.
... His loss will be felt. There are many candidates to take his place but Courtney knows that he cannot duplicate the man he has lost. He may come pretty close to doing so, but the man who rows in No. 5 will not be Odell by any means, and Capt. Colson will know it before that triangular race is finished at New London. Experience is necessary in a good oarsman. He must know the rudiments of the art. Odell was the man for No. 5. Who can fill the vacancy?"
(16) Baldwinsville Gazette and Farmer's Journal, May 5, 1898. The trips down to pick up the next load were quite different. "The funniest sight is the return trip of the packers down the Summit. It is too steep to walk. They sit down and slide in long grooves in the snow worn by many slides down in many days. I tried it yesterday and came down like a whirlwind. It gives one a very exhilarating sensation coming down, and quite like a moist sensation after he gets down. The regular packers reinforce their garments with a piece of canvas or sealskin." Id.
(17) An entry in Odell's diary for July 1, 1898 notes that when they were in Miles Canyon, they "[h]eard of Cornell's victory over Yale and Harvard," the 1898 crew following the tradition begun by the class of 1897.
(18) Odell's diary describes the shopping list for their trip to Fort Selkirk before they return to their camp on Wolverine Creek for the winter. "25 lbs. peaches, 40lbs. corn meal, 350 lbs. flour, __ lbs. baking soda, __ pkgs magic yeast, 2 lbs. soda, 50 lbs. pea meal, 50 lbs. potatoes, 175 lbs. beans, 25 lbs. raisins & plums, 20 lbs. rice, 150 lbs. bacon, 5 lbs. pilot bread, 85 lbs. sugar, 25 lbs. apples, 15 lbs. tea, 9 lbs. coffee, 4 pkgs. Grampa's Wonder, 7 pkgs. Ivory soap, 2 jars extract of beef, 1 lb. Eggs, 2 1/2 lbs. citric acid, 1/2 lb. Ginger, 1/2 lb. mustard, 1 lb. pepper, 2 bottles vinegar, 16 cans condensed milk, 2 boxes candles, 4 panes glass."
One can only imagine what "Grampa's Wonder" is or how it is used.
(19) Odell's modesty was seen in his professional as well as in his personal life. It was traditional for contractors who paved Seattle's sidewalks to put the name of their firm on their work. Odell refused to do so, saying that he did not want people walking on his good name.
(20) "Rowing Begins at the University of Washington on December 15, 1899," Historylink.org
(21) "Husky Crew 100 Year History," University of Washington crew website.
(22) "Stepping up were George Strange and Mark O''Dell [sic] who with the help of General Manager Loren Grinstead, oversaw the program and selected a crew." "Husky Crew 100 Year History." Grinstead later wrote that "[r]owing was carried for the 1906 season through the gratuitous assistance of Capt. Balliet, Mark Odelland George Strange, the later being from Toronto.... Both Odell and Balliet did considerable." Beck, papers.
Strange was identified as "a member of that Argonaut Crew which had such a reputation at the St. Louis Exposition crew races." Beck, Rowing at Washington. The Argonauts were a famous rowing club in Toronto Canada.
(23) Evans, Walter, "Hiram Conibear: Revolutionizer of Crew Racing", Bicentennial Biographies, Seattle Post Intelligencer, spring 1976; "Mark Odell, Insuranceman, - Succumbs," Seattle Times, June 26, 1963.
(24) Daves and Porter, The Glory of Washington: Beck, Rowing at Washington
(25) Conibear had very limited rowing experience, but what he knew shows another debt to Cornell. He said that Dr. A.L. Sharpe, "now coaching at Cornell," gave him his first lesson in "the art of pulling an oar." Conibear, Hiram, "CoachingA Varsity Crew." Conibear attended a summer session at Chatauqua Lake in NewYork in 1905, "to improve his natural abilities for a real future in handling college athletes." He rowed in a four-oared barge coached by Dr. Albert A. Sharpe, who had learned to row at Yale under Coach Jim Rodgers who taught the "modified Bob Cook Stroke." Beck, Rowing at Washington, V., page 5-6.
Sharpe said that Conibear attended the Chautauqua School of Physical Education in 1905. Shape remembered Conibear as "very reliable and as an extremely good organizer and hard worker." Dr. Albert H. Sharpe, M.D. was later Cornell's athletic director. In 1923, Sharpe was the Director of the Ithaca School of Physical Education. Id., V. page 6.
(26) Daves and Porter, The Glory of Washington
(27) Evans, "Hiram Conibear: Revolutionizer of Crew Racing."
(28) Mark Odell continued to work with Washington's rowing program at least into the 1920s. Newspaper clippings show Odell as the race steward, refereeing a meet between Washington and Cal in 1922. Washington beat Cal. "Washington Oarsmen Defeat California by more than Ten Lengths," Seattle Times, April 23, 1922.
Odell's son Mark, Jr. earned a letter in 1935 rowing on Washington's lightweight crew.
(29) Conibear, Hiram, Coaching a Varsity Crew, reprinted in Beck, Rowing at Washington, Ch. VIII.
(30) Daves and Porter, The Glory of Washington
(31) Beck, Rowing at Washington, IV., pages 1-6.
(32) In 1910, Beck said there was a proposal to change rowing to a department under the physical director. "This was regarded by all those friendly to and informed on Rowing as a veiled attempt to remove Conibear. It did not succeed. Proposal was made that Conibear be given two-thirds of his salary, but only work half the year. Conibear finally engaged at previous salary, but required by contract to keep away from campus except during six months of rowing turnouts. This was frankly admitted to be for the purpose of keeping him off the campus during football season, as it was greatly feared that he might change possible football players into crewmen."
In 1911, Beck said the football coach "takes a fall out of crew plans; says Crew Quarters unsanitary and that training tables sometimes a detriment to health. After wordy battle, quiet resumed."
In 1912, Beck reported that Conibear wanted his oarsmen to play rugby to get into condition. Beck said "[t]his is horrible to the supporters of football and they march en masse on Rowing. The Board of Control, on strong representations of ensuing disaster to Football, votes to lock up all rowing equipment till after Football season. Pressure forces a partial relief. Rowing is allowed for recreation only....with the specific reservation that Conibear is to have nothing to do with Rowing until the end of Football season." According to Conibear, in 1912, the President of the ASUW said he would have to "stand for a reduction in my salary that rowing was costing too much. I told him that I would not stand for any reduction in salary." In 1915, Beck said that"....agitation develops, aimed toward reducing Conibear's salary one-fourth, or to have him take a six months' vacation without pay - neither of which plans were successful."
Beck, Rowing at Washington, IV., pages 4, 7, 9, 10, 14; Memorandum written by Hiram Conibear, undated but likely written in 1917, located in the University of Washington archives, Broussais C. Beck papers.
(33) Other coaches were equally as accommodating to Conibear. "The reception he was given by the coaches of the participating crews was a revelation. Without exception every coach was more than kind and courteous, and even many of the various crewmen came to recognize him and made us feel welcome about their floats.... None of these coaches knew Conibear in the slightest before he introduced himself. Yet at Poughkeepsie every single one was not only exceedingly agreeable but also much interested in Conibear's tale of the far western struggle to establish Rowing. They were uniformly glad to spend energy and time helping this western visitor to an understanding of the sport..." Conibear also saw the Yale-Harvard race where he received a "quiet welcome by Yale Coach Kennedy" who took him out in a coaching launch. Conibear remarked after the race that "his crew ought to have been in it." Beck, Rowing at Washington, IV., pages 4-5, and V., pages 10-11.
(34) Mendenhall, Short History of American Rowing, IV., page 8.
(35) Newell, Ready All. A number of medals won by the Pococks, as well as uniforms they received and pictures of their victories, are displayed at the Pocock Rowing Center in Seattle.
(36) The Pocock motto about boat building that guided their work came from George's father. "No one will ask how long it took you to build it, they will only ask who built it." Newell, Ready All
(37) Pocock was able to be this charitable because he was paid partially in Boeing Aircraft Company stock when he built sea plane floats for the company during WW The stock appreciated in value substantially over the years, giving Pocock the ability to sell his products for less than their actual worth.
Pocock was also very generous about the financing of his shells. Jim Roe, a member of the author's rowing club, helped start the rowing program at Notre Dame in the early 1970s, then a club sport. The rowing club had no money, but ordered a shell from Pocock which was delivered at Pocock's expense. Pocock did not ask for any advance payment but sent a bill with the boat. Pocock suggested a variety of ways the bill shell could be paid, including having the crew sell blood to local blood banks.
(38) Ed Leader and Rusty Callow, both future coaches at Washington and elsewhere, rowed 2 seat in the eight and 3 seat in the four, respectively. Beck, Rowing at Washington, IV., page 11.
(39) "Husky Crew 100 Year History."
(40) Beck, Rowing at Washington, IV., page 13; Conibear Memorandum.
(41) Beck, Rowing at Washington, IV., pages 13-15.
(42) Located in University of Washington archives, Broussais C. Beck papers.
(43) Letter of 5/24/05 from Stan Pocock to Peter Malloy.
(44) "Husky Crew 100 Year History;" Bolles, Thomas D., Eastern Versus Western Rowing, publication source unknown. Bolles (UW 1926) was Harvard's rowing coach. He wrote the article to refute a perception that western rowers were larger than their eastern counterparts, giving them a natural advantage. In 1923, the "giant" Washington crew had an average height of 6' 7/8 ", weight of 172 1/2 pounds, and 22 years of age. They were 5 3/4 pounds lighter, 1/4 " shorter and 7/8 of a year older than the Syracuse crew. The Navy crew was 1 1/8 " shorter, and 3/4 of a pound lighter than the Washington crew. "Washington physically was not vastly superior to the other contenders." He showed that the average heights and weights of crews competing in the IRA over an 18 year period (1923 - 1940) were quite similar, ranging from a height of 74.23 " to 73.06", and a weight of 180.77 pounds to173.16. He was surprised at the "uniformity" of the figures. Washington and Cal had won 11 out of the last 17 races.
(45) Beck, Rowing at Washington, IV., pages 4, 5, 8, 9, 12 - 15.
(46) Letter of 5/24/05 to Peter Malloy from Stan Pocock.
(47) Letter of 5/24/05 from Stan Pocock to Peter Malloy, author of the upcoming publication Evolution of Rowing.
(48) McIntyre was a world class sculler from Philadelphia who moved to Seattle in1949, where he got to know George and the entire Pocock family well. George helped train McIntyre. McIntyre had rowed with Jack Kelly Sr. and Jr., and many other famous Philadelphia oarsmen before he moved to the northwest. Kelly Sr.won gold medals in the 1920 Olympics in a single and double, and a gold in 1924 in a single. Kelly Jr. won a bronze in the 1956 Olympics in a single. Kelly Sr. was Grace Kelly's father and a major influence on rowing in Philadelphia.
(49) Beck quotes Leader as saying "each coach has his own picture of how he wants his ideal crew to look. Even using the same technique, there will be considerable difference between the crews of two coaches." Rowing at Washington, IX., page 8.
(50) When the Washington crew went to race in Henley in 1958, George Pocock sent them off with this message:
"Racing is an art, not a frantic scramble. It must be rowed with head power as well as muscular power. From the first stroke, all thought of the other crew must be blocked out. Your thoughts must be directed to you and your own boat, always positively, never negative. Row your optimum power every stroke, try and increase the optimum. Men as fit as you, when your everyday strength is gone, can draw on a mysterious reservoir of power, far greater. Then it is you who can reach for the stars. That is the only way champions are made. That is the legacy rowing can leave you. Don't miss it." Pocock's original note is mounted on the wall of the Pocock Rowing Club.
(51) Wahl, Grant "The Evergreen State Boasts an Unmatched Rowing Tradition100 Years in the Making," Sports Illustrated, November 13, 2004.; Raley,Dan,"Crew: U.W.'s Most Successful, Stable Athletic Enterprise," Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 1, 2003.
(52) Raley, "U.W. Has Wide Coaching Legacy."
(53) Tom Bolles (U.W. '26) coached at Harvard. Mike Murphy (U.W. '22) coached at Wisconsin. Bud Raney (U.W. '35) coached at Columbia. Gus Eriksen (U.W. '38)coached at Syracuse. Delos Schoch (U.W. '37) coached at Princeton. MIT hired three Washington rowers as coaches, Bob Moch (U.W. '36), Jim McMillen (U.W. '37),and Bruce Beall (U.W.'73). Beall also coached at Cal. John Bisset (U.W. '58) and Jerry Johnson (U.W. '64) coached at UCLA. Navy hired Lou Gellerman (U.W. '58) and Rick Clothier (U.W. '65) who has coached there for 29 years. Kjell Oswald(U.W. '96) coaches at Oregon State. Id.
(54) Anna Mickelson (U.W. 2002) and Mary Whipple (U.W. 2002) rowed in the silver medal winning women's eight, and Matt Deakin (U.W. 2003) rowed in the gold medal winning men's eight.
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