Saturday, October 13, 2007


The Ledyard Canoe Club has an annual tradition of sponsoring a four day, 218 mile canoe trip from Hanover down the Connecticut River to Long Island Sound (even unto this day). In the spring of my junior year at Dartmouth (1959), I had just taken my midterm exams and was feeling pretty feisty. Propitiously, Axel Grabowsky, the next-president of my fraternity, Sigma Nu, (and president of the canoe club) announced in the fraternity bar that very night (after I had downed a few too many frosties), “A bunch of us a going on a canoe trip down the Connecticut river. Who wants to go along?” I said, “Sure, why not.” Another brother, sophomore Bill Figilis, also rashly stepped forward. We were both quite foolish as we were canoeing tyros.

But there is no stopping callowed youth. So the next morning Bill and I packed a few changes of clothes, grabbed our sleeping bags (I also wore a straw boater hat and Bill brought a bottle of Beefeaters Gin) and took our place at the end of a queue of eight canoes pushing off from the Ledyard Canoe Club dock. After floundering around for the first few miles, Bill and I began to get the hang of the “J” stroke and how to steer this accursed Indian craft. That first evening in the canoe, as it started to get dark, a stiff headwind came up while we were in the middle of the river. This produced quite a bit of chop in the river and I knew, if we were dumped in the water, hypothermia would set in after only a few minutes and we would be goners. So, with a few bladder crises and even fewer paddling skills, we did manage to manhandle the canoe over to the river bank without mishap.

We slept under our canoe that night and most others … although Axel, our trip organizer, did arrange for us to sleep one night in a jail in Windsor, Connecticut (fortunately, for it rained like for Noah that night). The rest of the four day trip was a blur of portages (Wilder Dam, Turners Falls, and Windsor Locks among many others), bridges (Bill would always call out, “Bridges mean progress”), blisters, sore knees, and swigs of Beefeater Gin. We ate what we could scavenge at rest stops along the way and, I think, some stale cheese sandwiches at that jail. We were shadowed through the whole trip by a photographer from Life Magazine (see the May 18, 1959 issue) who wrote a small feature on this sojourn. (Neither Axel nor Bill made it into the article/pictures but I did appear as a boater-hatted background speck.)

This odyssey all ended a little ignominiously … a few canoes (including Bill’s and mine) had to be towed the last few miles because the tide had changed and we were going backwards whilst paddling a full speed. But this was quickly forgotten at a very lush barbeque thrown by an alumnus at his beautiful seaside house in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Then the boats were loaded onto a truck and all involved piled into cars to sleep their way back to Hanover … all, that is, except myself. Instead, I opted (much to Axel’s chagrin) to hitchhike over to Connecticut College for Women (then-so-named) to visit a coed that I had been seeing. I did stumble back the next day to resume my studies and the brew swilling that I had interrupted only six days prior.

Thank you Axel for these fond memories and have a very happy 70th birthday.

George and Bill

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wright’s Replacement

To see my surprising recommendation for (my ever-so hopeful) replacement for Prexy Wright’s see: Fletcher's Castoria