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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Old-Timer Touching Base at New Trier High School

See below.  It got me teared-up this morning.  (If you want to understand that, see the attachment, too.)
Olympic Diver Bruce Kimball [Google Images]

FYI, Bruce Kimball is Dick Kimball's son.  In 1961, Dick was the diving coach at the University of Michigan. Bruce placed second to Greg Louganis (likely the best diver in history) at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

----- Forwarded Message ----

From: Duncan C McDougall
To: Bruce Kimball

Sent: Sun, December 5, 2010 9:06:20 AM
Subject: Old-timer Touching Base

Dear Mr. Kimball,

While perusing the NT alumni web pages today, I was thrilled to see your name as the NT diving coach.  I knew Dick Kimball once, and I watched you dive in the Olympics.  Congratulations on your medal!  In fact, Dick Kimball and I met at New Trier in about 1960, when he and Hobie Billingsley came to give an exhibition at the pool during a public swimming show which was replete with synchronized swimmers from the NT Guard, trained by Mrs.Toni Essick, wife of our assistant coach, Ray Essick [who went on to coach swimming at Southern Illinois University and at Harvard, and then to head up U.S.  Swimming].  Toni had been in on the demonstrations of that sport for the Olympic Committee, if my memory serves.  I saw Dick again a few times after that, but unfortunately, I missed my opportunity to know him well.

Some NT Diving Lore

In fact,  I am the guy who introduced the Duraflex board to NT.  Prior to the summer of 1959 we had two Buckboards and two Lifetime boards at one meter.  (I do not remember the brands at three meters, because we rarely used them.)  The red “Lifetime” aluminum boards were stiff as a railroad tie, and the Buckboards, made of a series of parallel I-beams of aluminum, would twist viciously if you were not centered in your footing.  They were a decent spring, but ugly, noisy, twisty, and their rough surface was hard on the feet.  

I had won the 1959 Sophomore Suburban League meet, and as both Don Merz, ‘59 (2nd in the State Meet) and Jeff Lewy, ‘59 (6th) had graduated, and as there was no junior on the diving team that year, I knew I would be carrying the ball in my junior year.  So, I practiced during the summer, every chance I got.  Among other things, I dived at Portage Park in Chicago (where I met Sam Hall, Ohio State great, while he was practicing for the 1959 Pan American Games), and at some other suburban public pools.  At one, in a west suburb, there was a brand new Duraflex.  In my one afternoon there, I learned my inward one-and-a-half.  I went back to NT, found Dave Robertson, and told him, “There is a new diving board.  It is great.  It is called Duraflex, and it is made by Arcadia Air Products Co. of Sparks, Nevada. ” (I had copied that information off of its nameplate.)  Then I asked, “Can we get one for New Trier?”  That fall, there were Duraflex boards on the two inner one-meter mounts.

I broke my right hand on a breast stroker’s leg one week before State Meet in 1960, and though I dived in the meet with a taped hand, I only placed ninth.  We lost the meet by one point that year to Evanston.  The rest of the story is in the attached letter that I wrote some years back to Verne Condon’s son.

Anyway, I have two favors to ask of you, if you have time now, in the middle of your competitive season.  If not, I will understand.

First and easiest, my name is misspelled in the listing of NT All Americans.  It should read McDougall.  If you could ask that that be changed, I would be grateful. 

Second, after my mother died in 1968, our Wilmette home was sold, and I, a Chevrolet foreman in Flint at the time and a father of two small kids, never got home to recover my personal treasures from the house.  Hence, my two Illinois first place medals (Regionals and State meet, 1961) and my 1961 Suburban League championship medal were lost.  Do you know if these might be replaced? Of course, I would expect to pay for the replacements.

Finally, if Dick Kimball is still living, would you please give him my regards, and tell him that I have often regretted my not having accepted his offer, made at the Yale Pool during the AAU Nationals in the winter of 1961, of a diving scholarship at Michigan. I had a successful diving career at Amherst College, three times the New England Intercollegiate champion, but I know that my horizons as a diver would have been far broader had I gone to the U. of M.

Sincerely yours,

Duncan McDougall, NT ‘61

Professor Duncan C. McDougall
Plymouth State University
College of Business Administration
17 High Street
, MSC #27
Plymouth, New Hampshire, USA 03264

In Europe:  Babes-Bolyai University

                  Faculty of Economics and Business Administration,
                  Cluj-Napoca, Romania  

Friday, March 17, 2000

Mr. Vernon H. Condon, Jr.

Dear Vern:

            Last Wednesday evening I was privileged to accept on behalf of your late father the plaque awarded by the Illinois Swimming Association at their All State Dinner in honor of his induction into the Illinois Diving Hall of Fame.  I am enclosing the plaque and its accompanying certificate for you and your family, as well as a program from the event.

            The award was the first one presented following the dinner, held at the Diplomat West in Elmhurst.  John Carle, president of the association, first read the impressive record of Mr. Condon's divers over his 32-year coaching career, citing six state champions, eight runners-up, six third placers, six fourth placers, etc., in addition to 11 Suburban League champions and 17 runners-up.  Carle then introduced me, as Mr. Condon's final (1961) state champion diver, to tell the group a bit about what it was like diving for Mr. C.  I thought you might like to know what I told them:

I met Mr. Condon (we never called him Vern) in 1957.  It is hard to believe that was 43 years ago. 

I was a 14 year-old freshman.  After trying out for the freestyle and breaststroke, our swimming coach Dave Robertson asked me if I liked to dive.  I walked to the deep end.

Standing there was a slender man who looked very old (he was in his sixties, not so old to me, now that I'm 57).  He welcomed me to the diving end with a warm smile, and encouraged me and a few other freshman boys to show him the jackknives, back dives and flips we had learned at Camp Echo, or at the Evanston YMCA.

We all made the team, and began our practices.  Swim practice in those days ran from 3:30 till 7:00, varsity for 90 minutes, freshmen for 60, then the "C squad" for another hour.  We divers were expected to work out from 3:30 till 6:00 every day, and Mr. Condon was always right there with us.  He was already suffering from Parkinson's disease, but he never missed a practice or a meet, that I can remember. 

Mr. Condon was always a gentleman, never loud, never negative, never pushy.

As a matter of fact, it surprised me as I thought of those days that I can't remember Mr. Condon's ever asking me or one of my teammates to try a new dive.   Yet, our state meet divers always had plenty of D. D. (degree of difficulty).  (Not much, in today's terms, but a back one-and-one-half, gainer-and-a-half, and so on were all anyone was doing off the one-meter board in those days.) 

Mr. Condon always stressed form: height, body position, and a good stretch to the entry.  So, how did New Trier divers learn those difficult dives?

Mr. Condon had a saying: "Good divers make good divers."   He held the seniors up to us as icons.  And these God-like veterans did the hard dives, beautifully.  Gracefully.  Splashlessly.

Joe Huyler was the first icon.  Joe, who had graduated the year before [and was present at the banquet] was a legendary hero, twice runner-up in the state meet.  Then Don Merz and Jeff Lewy led New Trier's divers, placing second and sixth in 1959.  But, there were no juniors on the diving team that year.

After the 1959 Suburban League Meet, I went home the sophomore champion.  My season was over.  I could have relaxed and basked in newfound glory.  But I went to Mr. Condon and asked permission to keep practicing.  "Next year, I'll be a varsity diver, and I'll need a back one-and-a-half and a reverse one-and-a-half," I said.  "If you'll let me keep practicing I'll learn those dives."  "Okay," said Mr. Condon, "You can keep practicing."

I started the next season with those two dives, plus a new inward 1-1/2 on my list.

Mr. Condon taught me to improve my dives.  But they were always my dives.  That was how he built champions.  He built our confidence in our dives.  He coached our minds.

In the spring of 1960, after my junior year, during which I'd placed ninth in the state meet, I took my yearbook to Mr. Condon to sign.  In it he wrote, "To the Illinois State Champion, 1961." 

Vern Condon, I believe you are listening tonight, so I want to tell you of my love and respect for you as my coach, as my teacher, and as my friend.  I am honored to take part in your induction into the Illinois Diving Hall of Fame.

Finally, I want to say that as soon as I arrived here, among all these swimmers, divers, coaches and parents, I felt completely at home.  For allowing me to share this evening with you, I thank you all."

So, Vern, that gives you a sense of how I felt about your Dad.  I think that the induction ceremony went well.

I am also sending a copy of this letter to Dave Robertson.  Dave deserves thanks for keeping the memory of Mr. Condon's coaching alive in Illinois, and thereby making this recognition possible.  I also owe him thanks for thinking of me to accept the award.  It was a great honor.

                                                Sincerely yours,

                                                  Duncan McDougall

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