Weekend’s end…

It’s late Sunday night, the conclusion of a very busy and good weekend. First a road trip to Wisconsin. Then our grandsons’ basketball games. Finally, dinner and a hockey game with family and friends.

It started early Friday morning with a drive through rural northern Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with two good friends.

The drive over took us through countryside we’d not been before, and it was a very pleasant and relaxing trip covering just under ninety miles.

Unknown.jpegWhy Kenosha? There is a Civil War Museum there located on the beautiful lakefront of Lake Michigan. Plus, it was just one of those times when we were ready for what the wife and I call a “field trip.”

Sometimes our trips are centered around genealogy searches, and others are all about doing and/or seeing something new. And what better way to enjoy one of our field trips than with two very good, long-time friends?

After a few hours of exploring the wonderful museum, we were ready to head out for lunch at the famous Brat Stop that would be right on our way back home.brat-stop.jpg

The place is located halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee and features good bratwurst and various cold beers. It’s been around since the 60s and is one of those combination bar/restaurant/cheese shops that tends to lure tourists and other travelers in!

The next morning began early once again, finding us in attendance at each of our two grandsons’ basketball games, followed by an hour’s drive up to Rockford where we had a 5:00 dinner reservation.

After a delicious dinner at Capri’s Italian Restaurant, we took in an exciting hockey game between the Rockford Ice Hogs and the Iowa Wild. There was plenty of excitement that kept young and old on the edge of our seats!

By the time we got back home, it was almost midnight, and after our whirlwind two days, we were worn out and looking forward to a quiet Sunday following church and a pancake breakfast.

And so the day turned out to be pretty much just what we expected. I caught up on my blogging activities, reading and commenting on many that I follow, and Carolyn napped and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

And now we close it down and prepare for another week ahead. Until next time… 🙂

The magic of radio…

Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things I “give up” each summer when I move here to our humble cottage by the lake in SW Michigan, is access to TV, and this was a concern for a while many years ago—but really not too big of a concern at that. For a few summers, we were able to go the age-old “rabbit ears” route and pick up a few stations out of South Bend. But once everything turned digital and all sets had to have that capability or a converter attached, I agreed that I could live without TV during my summer months here. What this means, of course, is that I miss out on any hockey or baseball games that I might have an interest in—such as the current exciting Stanley Cup playoff series between the Blackhawks and the Kings.

A friend of mine down a few cottages asked me the other day how I could follow the hockey action listening on the radio, and why I didn’t make the short drive over to a nearby sports bar/restaurant where the games would be featured on several large screens and where there would be plenty of cold draft beer available.

I told him that seeing the action was nice but that the real excitement always seemed better on the radio broadcast. I told him that I “discovered” hockey a long time ago by inadvertently tuning into a radio broadcast one night while exiled to my bedroom during my parents’ New Year’s Eve party.

 I’m not sure if my answer clarified things very much, but my friend just shook his head and looked at me in a very strange way and let it go and walked back to his cottage to relax in front of his TV (his set has that converter/adapter thing!). Of course the game we wanted to see was on a channel he could not pick up, so it was a moot point, and I happily settled for the Blackhawks’ radio broadcast.

Ever since I was a kid of about ten, when I really began following the White Sox, I became enamored with the voices who gave me the thrills and excitement, and I couldn’t wait for the next game to hit the airwaves during those summers when I was young. In fact, through listening to game after game, living and dying with my White Sox heroes, I decided that I wanted to be one of those “voices” someday—to be on the radio and get paid for it.

And at this same time, thanks to the accidental introduction to Fort Wayne Komets hockey that New Year’s Eve, I became an ardent fan and follower of an exciting hockey announcer by the name of Bob Chase, out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, on WOWO Radio. From that point forward, I would forever imagine myself broadcasting  games with the same enthusiasm and passion.

Allen County Memorial Coliseum, FORT WAYNE, ho...
Allen County Memorial Coliseum, FORT WAYNE, home ice of the Fort Wayne Komets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did that ever turn out the way I’d dreamed? Not really. I chose a career as an English teacher and coach, and that kept me busy in other ways but with the same kind of enthusiasm and passion for thirty-four years. For a brief period of my life, when I taught high school in Florida, I fulfilled my vow of being on the radio someday when I worked part-time at a small AM/FM station as an on-air announcer. Never did get to do play-by-play, but it’s been all good just the same.

So when anyone looks at me in a strange way when I tell them I prefer the radio, for the most part, over the TV coverage, I smile and know what they’re thinking.  But I know that there still is magic in radio…CortlandWriter

Hockey Refs & Late-night Memories


On this gray day, I received word that an old friend with whom I had officiated hockey had passed away last month–quite suddenly it seems. He was 75 and had experienced some health issues off and on during  recent years. Although I hadn’t seen or talked to him for a long, long time, the many memories of our hockey refereeing together came flooding back through the fog of time.

I had played hockey for a couple of years in the early 70s at Kent State following the tragic events of May 4, 1970. Once I graduated from KSU in 1973, I put my skates and other hockey paraphernalia in dry dock as I had other things to occupy my mind: a.) finding a teaching job; b.) finding a place to live; c.) buying a car; d.) all of the above. And the sport and my love of skating faded away. So my life took on a whole new meaning and direction as I ended up about 50 miles from St. Louis, a long, long way from home in suburban Chicago!

Fast forward from there almost seven years to 1980. The U.S. Olympic Hockey Team was creating its “Miracle on Ice” moment-in-time, and my interest in the sport was suddenly re-kindled. And I read an ad in a local paper stating that referees were needed for the youth hockey program at a nearby rink. I figured I knew enough about the game and had the ability to qualify for just such a position. Besides, most games would pay me something like $10.

I showed up at the rink and that’s where I met referee-in-chief, Stew. An insurance agent in “real life,” he became my mentor, tutor, and friend that day as we refereed several little kids’ games. I realized that I had lots to learn about the finer points of working games, even at that minor level of competition. Stew straightened me out in a very personable and kind way, and we worked many a game together over the next several years. 

We especially became regulars working Men’s League games on Sunday nights–usually beginning at 10:30! By the time the game was over, usually close to midnight, we’d drive a mile or so to his office and refresh ourselves into the “wee” hours with cold beer and chips or popcorn. I still feel like hell when I recall trying to get up to go teach school on Monday mornings following our late-night games and post-game “refreshments” and crawling into bed around 3 A.M. But, then again, I was in my early 30s and I could do lots of crazy things and survive. 

At some point, we got involved with officiating roller hockey on other Sundays, and that was a lot of work because we worked the games in gym shoes, not on skates. It was a lot of running, but I was in pretty good shape because of it. Regardless, the after-game refreshments continued. We were becoming well known around the league and worked lots of games through the winter months as well as some summer leagues.

Sadly, the “dynamic duo” had to hang it up as I was moving to Florida (1985). I thought I had worked my last hockey games with Stew at that point, but strange things happen. To make a long story short, my teaching career in Florida was short circuited with the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, since the economy of that part of Florida was tied very closely to NASA and the space program. In the meantime, my old job in Illinois came open again, and I was asked by my superintendent if I would consider coming back. I did, and, eventually, hooked back up with hockey and my friend the insurance agent, Stew!

It wasn’t quite the same since we were older and had other things going on in our lives, but we shared many more laughs and reminisced about those glorious days of “yesteryear” when we began skating and working games together and running up and down that roller rink every Sunday night. It was a road full of many fun times, many laughs, and many late-night memories. 

I will often think of those times and, perhaps, someday dig my skates out of hibernation and lace ’em up once more for old time’s sake. And when I do, Stew will be yelling at me to position myself better along the boards, or pay attention to other parts of the game and not just the puck carrier, or dig into the cooler for just one more brew…

Traveling along the road with Stew was good. I thank him for his friendship and late-night adventures…MLA