My Olympic Memories

The summer of 1972 I was twelve years old and about to enter the seventh grade. That would be a big lifestyle change as it meant moving from the comfort of little Sinclairville Elementary to Cassadaga Valley High School. In a way, it was my last summer of childhood, before moving on to the grown up world of the high school building.

That summer, I discovered Olympic love. It was quite the year for that. I did not come by my Olympic love without precedent. Even though I have always been the chubby kid, I do love the sports. There are some that I cotton to better than others, but I can watch and enjoy most any of them.

ABC was the place to watch the Olympics back then. Jim McKay, with his yellow blazer, was the nice gentleman that introduced us to the games each night. I think from day 1 of the games, I was hooked. Looking at pictures, I have vague recollections of the opening ceremony. The American team entered to the tune of “When the Saints Come Marching In” with snappy red blazers and white skirts for the women (and a nice purse) and white blazers and red pants for the men. 7,113 athletes from 121 countries participated in 193 events in 23 sports.

The German’s chose “The Happy Games” as their slogan, hoping to build a whole new persona for the country that had last hosted the games during the Nazi regime in 1936.

The opening ceremony was on August 26 and closed on September 10. Each night I would watch the days offering, and each day I would read the recaps in the newspapers, cut out the articles and every picture, and paste them into a scrapbook. I think I got supplemental material from the Life magazine that came to our house.

The scrapbook came to hold some amazing stories. Of course there was that tremendously good looking Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals. No one thought that would ever happen again.

For me and millions of others, the other major star was Olga Korbut.  She was darling and strong. Her performance on the uneven parallel bars was a revelation – how could anyone possibly do the things that she could do?  As it turns out, her Korbut Flip where she kind of stands on the high bar and throws herself backward is illegal now. The big thing about Olga Korbut was how cute and smiley she was. This was a person from the Soviet Union getting all kinds of love, and making the Americans forget about our own cutie, Cathy Rigby. It was all sorts of melting the fear of the Soviets for a few days.

On September 5, the happy games came to a halt when terrorists took members of the Israeli team hostage. It lasted for 18 hours and in the end, all of the hostages were dead. It was horrible and shocking. There was discussion about what to do with the games after that. They ended up going on, but it was different. In a sense, making it through was a competition in itself.

When the Olympics ended, the scrapbook ended. My parents thought it was something. I was proud of it too. I don’t remember if it was my idea or not, but I sent my scrapbook to the United States Olympic Committee. A few weeks later, I received a letter in the mail. It was from the director of communications telling me that they had received my “most interesting scrapbook.” They were sending me a book commemorating the 1972 games and one of the athlete exchange pins. The letter ended with him letting me know that my scrapbook would be placed in the official archives of the US Olympic Committee “as a fine example of what young Olympian enthusiasts can do.” That was a great mail day for me. I still have that letter … in a scrapbook.

Girls in the Trees

I have another book on my “to read” list.  A new biography of Juliette Gordon Low presents more insight into the life and times of the founder of Girl Scouts of America. I am definitely in the camp (ha ha!) of Girl Scout fans.

Having grown up in rural, small town New York, my childhood organization choices were limited. For boys there was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout troop. There was Little League, but that was still during the age of “no girls allowed”.  For us girls there wasn’t much. I did a stint in the co-ed 4-H at some point, but I vaguely remember that I joined with one of my friends because one of the cute boys in my class was also a member.

Being a collector, I coveted the ephemera of Scouting. I knew there were Girl Scouts. I knew that they could earn fun, brightly colored badges via lessons and experience. I grew up jealous.

Ali’s grade school had a great after school program where kids could participate in activities ranging from origami classes, to languages, to dancing. They also had Girl Scouts. When Ali wanted to join the school Brownie troop, I eagerly paid the seven dollar annual membership fee for the both of us. I became a co-leader with Mrs. Miller – a wonderful kindergarten teacher. Ali and I entered the world of Girl Scouts together.

Many of the little girls that I got to know that year stayed with me until they entered high school. When the school was no longer able to support the programming, Junior Girl Scout troop 929 and Brownie Girl Scout troop 425 moved to my house. Through an elaborate carpool system staffed by wonderful parents, girls got from school to my house for weekly meetings. I don’t think the designated snack person ever forgot the snack bucket. I don’t remember ever having to beg for helpers or supplies. In my memory, it worked because everyone was happy to be a part of it. Everyone knew that this was the kind of thing that was important to little girls.

We definitely made some memories. The first time that we went camping, we stayed in a building with bathrooms, but it was out in the woods and as rustic as many of the girls had ever experienced. It got real when a mouse ran across the floor and a mom nonchalantly stomped it. We progressed in our camping in following years. We slept in three sided cabins with cots. We had to venture to outhouses. We cooked over fires, hiked, sang, and played outdoor games. Little girls got in harnesses, climbed high up into the trees, got attached to a rope, and zipped across the forest. We got dirty and tied bandanas over our messy hair.

At meetings there were lots of beads and crafty things. We had a stuffed cat and a journal that got boxed up and sent to other troops around the country. It would return with new decorations and entries in its journal. We did service projects. We went on field trips, including a weekend train trip to St. Louis. There were many cookies sold.

Several of the girls spent weeks at camps over the years. They got to know other girls who shared their Scouting bond. They got to try even more things. Some of my girls developed a love and skill with horses that will always be there.

Eventually, the girls got older and meetings got harder to coordinate with other activities. They were now young women and my time as their Girl Scout leader came to an end. It had been a terrific time for me. I not only got my own prized collection of ephemera, but I also got my own Girl Scouting memories.

Around Mother’s Day this year, I received this message in my Facebook mailbox:

I know that it is very much past Mother’s Day, HOWEVER, Mother’s Day got me to thinking about all of the mothers I’ve had. Women who inspired, guided, challenged and loved me. You are one of those. Someone who not only told me I could do it, but more importantly went out and did it themselves. Someone who taught that life was and is my own to live, someone who created for me (as a little girl and now as an adult) an environment where success was always possible but failure was not the end of the world. The years we all spent with fear that we were probably too young to understand or appreciate what it was you did for us. But I do appreciate it. And I wanted you to know that. Thank you.

Thank you, Juliette Gordon Low for understanding that girls deserve and need a place of their own – right from the start!

One in Which I Get My Craft On – Bottle Cap Window Dressing

I am a collector. My mother loved to tell people about my collections of paper scraps. It was true. If there was a piece of paper, an envelope, a box that caught my eye, I would stash it away. Sometimes my treasures would get used for something, but often they were just saved. I like to think that I have controlled this to some extent, but I still have a hard time getting rid of some things – like bottle caps.

In a house that appreciates its beer, it would be ridiculous if I saved every cap that came off of a bottle. I have, however, saved quite a few. There was also a period of time that Sam thought it was clever to put caps on top of the doorframe of our bedroom. I never took them down because they would make me think of Sam.

A couple weeks ago, I was doing one of my favorite things – washing the dishes – and I had an idea. I would magnetize the frame of the window over the sink and make a display of bottle caps!

First, I investigated magnet paint. There are a few different kinds of magnet paint on the market, but this one got the best reviews that I could find:

Magnet paint is HEAVY and you really have to stir it like crazy before you use it. The best way to apply it is to roll it on with a short napped roller and then smooth it with a foam brush. The more coats you apply, the stronger the attraction. After the first coat, it didn’t hold anything. I was happy with it after about three coats. I ended up putting on six, because my plan was to paint over it.

After the last coat, I let it dry over the night, and then I did the white overcoat. It took three coats of white paint to cover the black.
Between painting, I was gathering caps and preparing them. I got a couple of packages of magnets at the craft store and used regular old craft glue to attach the magnets to the caps. There were a couple that I liked what was on the inside of the cap, so I glued those magnets to the other side.
After a couple days of prep work, it was time for the meeting of magnets and window. Right now, I have several duplicates and still room to grow, but I am excited how this turned out and I am eager to make it grow and change over the next years.