Tag Archives: golf

Extra-Curricular Activities

Life does not seem complete unless there are things you are involved with outside of the daily living experience.  There i no doubt that was true with me.  It started at age 6 with Cub Scouts.  My mom was a den leader, so that made it easy to be involved with scouts.  I loved the activities and camping out was my favorite thing.  I enjoyed learning different kinds of knots, learning about nature and being outside when it worked out.  For many years, we went to Boy Scout camp.  I remember that my first merit badge was for weather.  I have always had a fascination for weather, even up to this day.  I don’t remember much about the Cub Scout years, and even what the various ranks are.  I know I made it to first class, or star, before I lost interest around 12 or 13.  I also remember a winter camping trip when it got very cold out.  I recall that my tent was hot enough to make the ice underneath us melt, and then it froze again when the fire went out.  My sleeping bag got stuck in the ice!  I also recall one summer camp when we went to wilderness camp and had to catch a chicken (they brought them along), kill it, take the feathers off and eat it, I had done this with my grandfather, so knew the procedure.  That chicken came out really good! 

One of the things I really enjoyed about boy scouts was the penny carnival held every Fourth of July.  This was a huge money maker for our troop every year.  We took up one of the paved tennis courts in the center of all the action.  Fourth of July was the biggest event on the West Boylston calendar each year.  First there was a parade, and as a boy scout I walked in many of them.  The parade went through the center of town and ended up at Goodale Street Park.  This was a very big complex, with two baseball fields, three tennis courts and a basketball court.  There was also a summer house that served as an observation place for many of the events.  A big bandstand was further down on the park, and the high school soccer and baseball fields were on the far end.  On the third of July, the city took about 100 railroad ties, which were full of pitch.  They piled them like a pyramid in the field and covered it with gasoline.  The pyramid was about 20 feet tall, to my recollection.  When they lit I on fire, it went up like a blaze of glory.  This was one of my favorite things about the whole weekend. 

After the parade they had baseball games, and great recreational events like sack races, three-legged races, and egg tosses.  My brother and I were the kings of the three-legged race, as he was left-handed and I was right-handed.  Then we had the penny carnival, which ran until the evening festivities.  West Boylston had the bet fireworks for many miles, and we drew a crowd of up to 20,000 for the fireworks.  Many people came earlier for the penny carnival and other events, which made the carnival a great success.  My brother and I always helped put the booths up and the games together, and then ran the booths as well.  It was fun for all ages!

The Boy Scout pledge was “A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, obedient, kind, cheerful, brave. clean and reverent.  These qualities are mentioned over and over again in the Bible, and are great to live by.  When I was young, I did, and I am working on them every day as an adult.  It’s a lofty pursuit, but with the help of God I know I can achieve these things, It seem to me that much of our society and culture today steers away from many of these lofty attributes.  There is a lot of distrust in our world today because many have no problem lying to get around a problem.  Add to this to the deteriorating morality we face.  One example I think of is hitchhikers.  We used to be able to hitch hike, or pick up hitchhikers with no worries.  Now, you wouldn’t dare pick one up because you could lose your life.  People are not loyal any more, whether it be to job, souse or church.  Most are too consumed with their own lives to be concerned with someone else’s

The motto was “Be Ready.”  I try my best to be ready for anything that might come my way, and the only way that happens is when we place our complete trust in God.  When we do that, we know that whatever come our way will turn out for our good, so we are ready to endure any trial or test that may befall us. I am ready to serve and worship God. I am ready to go about my life living by the above pledge. I am ready to be the husband, father, grandfather, friend or employee I should be.

Church was a major factor for me in my younger years, then disappeared for about 6 years before I came to know Christ.  After that, it was a major factor.  Another chapter will discuss the various churches throughout my life.  But there were also extra-curricular activities that were church based.  We went to church camp every summer for several years, and I really enjoyed those.  Singing the songs around the campfire, seeing friends we only saw once a year, swimming and being involved in other activities was always fun.  The church had a very big Christmas Celebration each year, and part of that was a craft fair.  There were dozens of different crafts you could make all over the church, and they all had to do with Christmas.  I really enjoyed those fairs.  Vacation Bible School was also big at our church and I went every year.  In my later teen years, a friend and I decided we wanted to start a teen center in one of the upper rooms that was rarely used.  The church was all for it, so we went to work.  There was a big upright piano up there that was in very bad shape and needed to be removed.  We took some sledgehammers and broke it into little pieces in order to get it downstairs.  That was fun!  The place was well received and we had some good times there before we grew tired of it and nobody wanted to keep it going.  I also remember one winter selling live Christmas tree at the church to raise money, I think for boy scouts.  I worked that lot many afternoons and evenings to sll all the trees in time.  That was also a good fundraiser.

Sports were also very big in my life in many ways.  Our backyard was pretty good size, and was the perfect place to have kickball games.  There were easily enough kids in our neighborhood to get a good game going, and we often did.  In the outfield, there were three very big pine tree that worked as a backstop.  There were very few who could clear the trees with a kick, and it happened rarely.  I was one of those.  My friend David (later Jason) and I were the home run champs both in my back yard and on the playground during recess.  We could kick it farther than anyone else.  I was also a pretty good pitcher.  I threw a back-up pitch that caused many newcomers to swing and miss, often falling flat on their rear end.  Behind home plate, in our neighbor’s yard, was a pear tree that we would often raid.  We also played some whiffle ball back there. 

The tennis courts previously mentioned were also a hangout for us.  We would ride our bikes there and play very often, all the way through our young adult years.  It was easy to go down there and just sit around a pick up a game with someone, which we would often do.  And the courts were lit, which made night playing a lot of fun.  These were clay courts and were very well kept all those years.  My brother and I both played on the high school team for all 4 years.  He was two grades ahead of me, but in his senior year, we got to play double together against the other schools, and we did very well.  As I said, he swung from the left, and I from the right.  We looked pretty similar. A fact which made it difficult for opponents to tell where the forehand was at any given time.  Add to that the fact that we were constantly switching sides, and the opposition was baffled!  We went undefeated that year until the state finals.  That was a great year!

Tennis continued into my adult years.  AT Norton Company, where I worked for 7 years, they had a tennis league.  We played once a week, and there were some very good players there.  I made it to the semi-finals three years in a row, and lost to the same player every year!  In West Boylston, they also had a city tournament each year.  One year I was very excited that I had made it to the finals against the guy that had won the last two years. I really thought I had a good chance to win against him this year.  But the night before the final match, I was playing basketball with some friends and tore some ligaments in my ankle.  I had to forfeit the match, which was disappointing to me and the 100 or so people that showed up to watch it.

Then came the Frisbee and we picked it up and ran with it.  My friends and I would take up half of Goodale Street Park and throw that Frisbee what seemed like a half mile sometimes.  Accuracy really didn’t matter much because we loved to run and catch that little disk.  With out four-corner approach, we covered a lot of ground.  And we played a lot!  Personally, I enjoyed taking my Frisbee for long walks in the woods.  I would spot a tree quite a way ahead of me and see how many shots it would take to hit that tree – an early version of Frisbee golf before it became a thing.  This improved my accuracy quite a bit, and I would do it often.  Another thing that happened often were road trips all over New England.  We would take our Frisbees and stop in city parks whenever we felt the urge.  The Frisbee was with me when raising my family as well.  We would throw them all over town and make up a Frisbee golf course of our own.  I would also always have on in my car when I was a travelling salesman, and would stop at Frisbee golf courses in many cities to play during lunch breaks.  I still play Frisbee quite often when I have the time.

Golf has also been a part of my life for most of my life.  I was a caddy for many years at Wachusett Country Club in West Boylston, often carrying two bags and making some pretty good money.  We had the opportunity every year to play in the caddy tournament, and later I played on occasion with friends.  As an older teen and young twenty something, we golfed at several different golf courses.  Once I moved to Iowa, golf went away for many years simply because I was raising my family and just did not have the money of the time.  But in my forties, my company actually paid for my membership in Belmond, and I played almost every morning before work.  I got my core down close to 80 during this stretch, but it was short lived, as my time with that company came to an end after three years of membership.  It was fifteen years later before I joined the country club again, although I still played occasionally.  I even once got a hole-in-one, but it was early in the morning and I was all by myself on the course.

When summer was gone and winter set in, sledding and snow-ball fights took over.  New England is a mecca for sledding, and no place was better suited than West Boylston.  This story would not be complete without a description of perhaps the best sled run in town history.  It started at the second hole of the Wachusett Country Club.  This hole was a long par five which started out with a very steady slope, then went at about a 45-degree angle downhill before coming to a small creek.  Beyond the creek about 10 yards was an elevated green.  Behind the green, a trail went through the woods.  This trail was only wide enough for a double runner led to fit through, but would around trees all the way.  It was about a 45-degree downhill to a bridge over another stream, and then it was uphill before you got into the Bancroft’s’ backyard.  Starting in that backyard, the bigger kids had built a bobsled run, complete with high sides, down through the next two back yards. They had even brought out water to ice it down and make it very slick.  At the bottom of the bobsled run was a bridge that went uphill into a field, where the sleds would stop.

It was extremely difficult to make this run without stopping once.  First, you had to decide, when coming down that second hole, if you wanted to even try to make it.  Because if you wanted to try, you had to jump the creek. If you steered over the bridge on the right side, you could not have enough speed to make it all the way. You see, that hill faced East.  During the day, it was not unusual for some of the snowpack to melt, only to freeze overnight.  This left the entire hill a sheet of ice. To make the bridge, you had to decide at the top of the hill, or you would never get over there in time.  I usually chose the bridge, but once in a while, I would choose to jump the creek.  I made it twice!  On those occasions, I proceeded over the green and onto the trail through the woods. In order to make it all the way to the bobsled run, I could not afford to lose any steam going through the woods.  I would be dodging tree trunks going quite fast all the way down that trial and over the creek.  I barely got to the bobsled run and then went whooshing down that icy stretch and into the landing field.  Not many people were able to make that whole run, and I was one of them.  It was over a mile long, and was one of those things you did once a day, maybe once a year!  We had other runs, and toboggan runs, but none came close to this!

The snow-ball fights were also epic.  It was not unusual that they happened right in front of our house.  The snows in New England were almost always perfect for a snowball fight as they were moist and could pack easily.  This also made for very good snow forts.  We always had huge piles of now in front of our house as well as across the street, so the forts would be constructed there.  Three or four kids on each side of the street would be hurling snowballs for many minutes, creating an atmosphere of laughter and fun that’s hard to duplicate anywhere else.  One particular winter, we had 24” of now one Sunday with two days off from school, and 36” the next, with three days off from school.  The snow forts became snow huts, and we reveled in the size of our forts.  So much fun!  I would have a few snowball fights with my kids, but nothing came close to these wonder years!

One year-round activity was bowling.  I started bowling the junior leagues in West Boylston.  Those lanes are no longer there, and my memories of those early bowling years are few.  One thing that stands out, though, is the one time I watched on of the older boys start throwing strike after strike.  One, two, three four. The place was starting to buzz a little now.  Five, six, seven.  Everyone started to gather near his lanes.  Eight, nine, ten.  We were so excited, yet you could hear a pin drop.  I had never seen anything like it.  He was beside himself under pressure.  We just never saw 300 games in junior bowling.  Eleven.  The air was tense.  The mood was excitement.  We all wanted to see him throw that last strike.  He wasn’t the best liked bowler, but today everyone was rooting for him.  He got up to throw that last ball, holding it up jut like he always did.  Nothing seemed out of place or nervous now.  He approached the line, swinging the ball high above him on the backswing.  That ball came down right where all the other eleven had.  It rolled down the lane just like all the others had.  It hit the packet just like all the others had.  Everyone was holding their breath.  The pins scattered quickly and just disappeared – all but one.  That ten-pin stood there, defiant and unflinching, ruining his perfect game by one pin.  I’ll never forget that day.

In my late teens and early twenties, I became friends with a group of guys I had met in bowling league.  We became good friends, and bowling became our passion – along with beer and pot.  And we were all pretty good.  Every one of us had an average above 180, and we won the league many years while drinking the bar dry.  We were loud, flamboyant and had a boatload of fun.  We went to several state tournaments together, but never could bring home the gold.  Three nights a week we were at the bowling alley perfecting our game and drinking plenty.  Those were fun years

Life really changed when I grew up a little and moved to Iowa.  I got married and started a family.  Extra-curricular activities were few and rare. There was just no time.  I did do some bowling, but not near as much as in my teens and early twenties.  Kids and work kept me plenty busy.  Tennis was also a thing of the past.  From Fairfield to Chariton to Belmond we moved our family.  For the rest of my life, I would not find time for any of what I call extra-curricular activities except for Toastmasters (see the chapter entitled I Love Words for more about this).  Writing also became my passion.

I have enjoyed a lot of fun things in my life, but nothing was as exhilarating as raising my family. And watching them or joining them in more extra-curricular activities.  These things are the icing on life. And I love icing!  God loves us so much that He gives each of us the time and ability to get involved In things and events that make life more interesting. He desires us to have happiness and fulfillment in this life.  I am so glad I serve a God who loves me enough to give me this liberty. I hope you realize how much He loves you.  He has given you abilities to do things I could never dream of. Maybe it’s mountain climbing, or hang gliding, or surf riding. May be your good at football, or baseball, or bocce ball.  Maybe you can curl or twirl or paint surreal.  Play an instrument or lead a symphony.  Be a doctor, a lawyer, a baker, a pilot, or do construction.  Whatever it I you do, whatever it is you enjoy in your spare time, whatever you feel good at, God gave you that talent.  Use it to its fullest.  And Give Him praise!.