Those Secret Rites of Passage
By Bill Donnelly
I first moved to
in late Ohio 1976 in order to attend . I lived in Kent State University and drove bus for the Campus Bus Service until the summer of 1977, when the lure of Kent brought me back. I do not know what the lure was, but here I am again living in the jewel of Buffalo Lake Erie, and loving it.
When I lived in Kent Back in the Day, I of course kept up my running, but I missed my running buddies back in
. But then in the late spring of ’77, several friends from Buffalo showed up to run the Greater Akron 10 and 20 Kilo run. Held in Buffalo , which was about ten miles west of Akron, Ohio , I jumped at the chance to run with and against my old teammates, as most were Belle Watlings. Kent
The contingent, which included the Founder, Dick Sullivan, Ralph Zimmerman, Olcott Brown, Ham Ward, and John Peradotto of course chose to run the 20 K race as we were all manly marathoners, and when given the choice, always took the longer distance. It was not unusual for us to travel such distances for a race Back in the Day, since there were way fewer races to be found in any one area. We thought nothing of traveling to
, Rome, NY , Utica, NY or even Cleveland, OH in order to put ourselves through the ordeal of running a long race. The satisfaction of a race well run was always worth the drive. Besides, we always made sure there was a good party afterwards. The official Belle Watling motto was “Raciest Hardeto, Partiest Hardetoer”, which Sully said was either Latin or Gaelic and literally translated as “Race Hard, Party Harder”. West Virginia
Well, I of course jumped at the chance to run with my old pals and entered the 20 K. I had a decent race, but what I want to share with the reader is how in this race I first went through one of those secret rites of passage that we all share. I call them secret because rarely does one admit to these things happening to them, but we all know it does. How we know is just one of those mysteries, perhaps hearing people talking and figuring it out, or seeing or hearing others actually have it happen to them. We just come to realize that we all share in these things that we do or have happen to us.
You know the type of things I mean. Who ever admits to saving their belly button lint in order to some day make a pillow with the lint as the stuffing? We all never admit to it, but somehow we know we all do it, right? Or how about when you are in the shower and you start singing like Tiny Tim and prance about as if tiptoeing through the tulips? I know we all do that! It’s only natural, but who ever admits to it, yet we somehow just know.
Perhaps the best example of these well known secret pastimes is the way we all realize certain musical qualities we all have, but rarely do we show them off in front of others. Of course I’m talking about how at a young age we learn that we can get great tonal range in the sounds emanating from a certain nether region of our body, and with practice, we can recreate the best of the Boston Pops, or even better. Of course, this skill takes great dedication and the eating of many bean and beef burritos.
I first learned I had this skill at a very young age while my family was in
visiting my grandmother. She used to buy the love of us young Donnelly kids by handing out piles of candy corn, which we called chicky corn since she would gather us around by saying “Here chicky, chicky, chickies!” while spreading the treats on the floor like a farmer’s wife feeding the chickens. It worked. We would run around like said chickens with their heads cut off, tripping over each other to get those precious pieces of pure sugar bombs. Queens, NY
Well, on one particular day we had just finished a big dinner of sauerkraut, polish sausage and broccoli, with a big side of baked beans. After a bit Grandma created the usual sugar scrum in the middle of the living room, and after I had gotten my hands full of the corn, I headed outside to get my sugar-high in peace. Going down the back stepped I tripped and the candy corn went flying in all directions. As I was quickly bending and reaching and stretching in all directions to retrieve my bounty, the dinner caught up to me, but I hardly noticed the tooting going on as I was zeroed in on the objects of my affection.
Suddenly, I realized the tune “Mary had a Little Lamb” was going through my mind, but just as suddenly I realized it wasn’t my mind the tune was going through. What a revelation, what a talent I thought I and I alone had. Why, I must hone my skills and who knows. Perhaps, one day to be on the Ed Sullivan Show. Oh, to dream!
From then on it was corned beef and cabbage and practice, Mexican food and practice, Polish food and practice. Oh, I was getting pudgy, but I was getting good. I was particularly proud of my “The Flight of the Bumble Bee”, but my proudest moment came one summer’s day years later. I was visiting my girlfriend and her folks at their summer cottage in Rose Hill, Ontario. I was changing into my bathing suit while they headed down to the beach.
All of a sudden the three cold baked bean sandwiches I had eaten while on the Crystal Beach bus caught up to me. I believe I may have performed the best rendition of “The 1812 Overture” ever, with perfect placement of the cannon firing. Upon finishing, I left the bedroom to discover my girl and her parents had returned to fetch the lemonade for the beach. The look of amazement on their faces let me know that my performance was a masterpiece. I was never able to find out how much they enjoyed it, for my girlfriend broke up with me quite soon after that. But that is neither here nor there.
It wasn’t long after this that I gave up my idea of ever appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Some sixth sense told me I wasn’t alone with this skill. Somehow I suspected everybody could do it, so why struggle with my musical talents when I may only be average. Besides, big Ed Sullivan had died, and what other TV show would be willing to sandwich my act in between Woody Allen and the Amazing Smengy Brothers tumbling and juggling act, and followed by the Doors.
But I came to know for sure that others practiced the art of musical tooting one June day only a couple years ago. My brother Tom and his lovely wife Julie, alone with Diane McGuire and myself were having dinner at Ming Teh, the fine Chinese restaurant just across the border in Ft Erie, Canada. I had excused myself to wash up in the rest room, and while doing so, Tom entered one of the stalls. Just as I was drying my hands I heard the first challenging notes of “Dueling Banjoes” coming from Tom’s stall, but he wasn’t playing the banjo, if you know what I mean. Before I realized what was happening, I was answering young Tom, and before you could say Deliverance, we were playing fast and strong.
As Tom and I were being tossed unceremoniously from the restaurant (it was soon after this that Ming Teh added the item “Fragrant Clouds” to their menu, but we received no thanks) that I had an epiphany. All MUST practice this art, they just keep it to themselves, as they do with so many other secret pleasures. And thus, I finally get back to my tale of my secret rite of passage that happened away back in
on a warm day in 1977. Akron, Ohio
On that day, all 700 runners took off together. It was not an easy course, with a tough hill in it, and we all ran 10 K together. After doing that loop the 10 K runners, which were just over 500 of us, separated and finished, while we lonely souls running another 10 K had to repeat the loop. It was a warm day, and the temperature did not help my stomach, which was usually made of cast-iron, but today was protesting my breakfast of sausage, eggs, toast and sauerkraut. Criminy, but how I love sauerkraut.
Now you know as racers we have all been through this embarrassing rite of passage I was about to experience for the first time, we just won’t talk about it. Well I’m here to throw off the ugly veil of secrecy so all may come out of the darkness, thanks to my honest example, and live in the bright light of truth as we all admit to having been there.
Yes, with three miles to go, my stomach was going wee wah, but I thought I could make it as I was running strong. The race ended at the
, but I was a mile and a half away running through a neat residential section when disaster hit. With no woods, port-a-potties or gas station in sight, I headed up a driveway to take care of business as the other runners went by, looking over in curiosity but quickly averting their eyes as they realized what was happening. I quickly got rid of the wee wahs and was on my way, but I could only imagine the thoughts of the poor little old woman who probably lived in the house whose driveway I picked by necessity. University of Akron
Oh my, it is so good to see these young folks doing something so stimulating as running. Why look, that handsome young fellow is coming up my spanking clean driveway I just washed this morning? Now what is that young fellow up to, why did he disappear from view? If I just stand on my tiptoes I can see him. Say, is that “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” I hear? OH MY LANDS SAKES ALIVE! AGHHHH! Thunk!
I managed to finish in 40th place with a 76:20, while as usual, Ralph Zimmerman finished first among the Watlings, placing ninth with a 69:28. The Founder, Sully, won his age group, which was 48 to 55, (they had strange age groups there) with a time of 80:37, good for 56th place out of 167 finishers. I never ran that race again; in fact I never dared run in
again. But we Watlings did pratice our motto, as we “Partiest Hardetoer”, and soon I forgot my embarrassment earlier in the day. I just hope the paramedics got to the little old lady in time. Akron
And there you have it, my dirty little secret is out. But don’t we all have such tales to tell. Maybe from now on when Paul Wandel does his getting to know you column, he will ask in each interview for the member’s most embarrassing moment. But it will all be good therapy, as you too will realize that it was just another of those secret rites of passage that we all share.