Friday, January 11, 2008
Strength of Tradition
I have not been able to get around much so I pulled this picture out of the files. This is a picture of the firemen that worked at the Fire station on Central Ave when it first opened up. I was watching a war movie and the movie mentioned the Tuskegee airmen, of which my cousin was a member. so I thought I would put another picture up to add to the spirit of history. In that movie the mentioned a LT. Archer. I had to laugh because the coincidences are running hot this weekend. You will see why in a minute.
Last night showed me how powerful the internet really is. I was a bit melancholy before I went to a class. I came home and went to sleep. About five in the morning I woke up to see what the numbers were on my blog. I don't get many readers and it amazes me that I get any. In the last month a few people have emailed me who were told of my blog. They have known me for years. However I got an email yesterday from an old high school friend and was rather shocked. He lived right across the street from a family named Archer. I mentioned them a long time ago.
My friend Doug lived across the street from the Archers. I wrote about Doug's family and the Archer family extensively when I was vascilatting, detained for a couople of months at the beginning of 2007. Doug and I were on a Basketball championship team and championship tennis team in high school. I wrote about his father and my father talking at the games and how his family was very nice to me.
That stuff was not in my blog however I planned on putting it in a manuscript. You see in my profile that I said "The Graduate" was one of my favorite movies. Well, the movie had many interior house scenes and all of them were filmed in the homes of friends of ours from school. I did not realize it until I was looking at the movie a couple of years ago. I saw a television that was sitting on a book shelf and realized I had been in that room. It was either Brett's room or Blair's. Blair was a friend of Doug's sister. I could go on and on about that movie and the friends who had their houses in them. They mean alot to me.
I will one day but now, this story is more important.
Doug was on the internet and googled his name. He is a successful business man and needed to see what was being said about him. He evidently found his name under a Scribeskidrow heading where I talked about the game we won. He clicked on it and discovered it was I who wrote the piece. He then emailed me.
I was extremely touched. I have not talked to Doug in years though I have followed his every move. He was not aware of it and he is not aware of how he, his family and the Archer family played a big roll in my stopping my life of self indulgence.
The Econns were very nice to me. I looked up to Doug. He was in the class of Mark Harmon, the UCLA Quarterback and Ron Claiborne of Good Morning, America. I thought of their standards for years. I thought of the standards of Richard Archer for years. He was a member of the USC national championship volleyball team.
I admired Mr and Mrs Econn and Mr and Mrs Archer tremendously, though none of them ever knew it.
I wrote about a funny time that I was in Hawaii when the Econns were there. All of this was in my manuscript and how Mrs Econn told me and another friend to keep and eye on their daughter Chris. They had gone to bed and let my friend, Andy, and I stay at their hotel suite for the night in Waikiki. This young guy came up to see Chris, Doug's sister. I saw him talk to her downstairs, earlier that evening. It caught my eye because he was older than she was. Chris looked older than she was because she was tall and very striking. She had two older brothers and knew all of their friends so she was quite knowledgable for her age. I guess she was 14 at the time.
Anyway, all of us were very protective of our classmates' sisters, at Harvard School.
We all knew eachother and we looked out for eachother and our families. I admired how close Doug was with his sister and wished I had the same relationship with mine.
Chris was one of our cheerleaders and so I saw her all of the time at the basketball games.
Anyway, I saw this guy talking to her outside of this hotel in Hawaii. Chris did not see me. Doug was ahead of me but I did not say anything because it looked harmless enough. However, my first thought was "who the hell is this guy talking to Doug's sister and Mrs. Econn's daughter"? I did not play when it came to Mrs Econn's daughter and Doug's sister. They never knew it but that is just how it was. I kept my eye on her at all of the games.
About midnight that night, after the Econns went to bed, while Chris was talking to me and Andy, someone knocked on the door. Now, Mrs Econn already had told me to keep an eye on her daughter. And when Mrs Econn told me to jump I would ask how hi?
I would never let her or any of my friends' mothers who lived on Muirfield ever see me with my shirt out of my pants. Never. They always expected me to be a certain way. Mrs Econn and Mrs Ketchum did not play. Their friend Mrs Power did not play either. If they saw their sons with their shirts out, they would just shake their heads and look at me as if to say "Melton, what am I going to do?" It was sort of funny. Anywhere else I did not care, but not on Muirfield. Those women were smart, they knew what was going on and they taught me alot. I was not going to lose out on my lessongs of life simply because my shirt was not tucked in my pants or my shoes were not shined. No way. Of course I never let them know how much they meant to me. I just tried to show it.
Now Chris goes to the door and answers it. We were at the Reef Hotel on Kalakaua Ave. It was 12:30AM. Doug and his brother, Greg were out. I was there with Andy.
We were in charge.
When the door opened, it was this guy with whom Chris was talking downstairs. Immedicately, my eyes narrowed. He did not know Chris was about 14. He looked abaout 19 or 20. I knew why he was there whether Chris knew it or not. My face must have said it all because Andy nudged me on the leg and told me to relax.
"There is only one reason why this guy is here at this hour. Chris is sophisticated for her age but she isn't that experienced. If this guy does one thing, Andy, that I dont like, I will throw his ass out so fast..."
Andy knew I meant it. He knew how much I liked the Econns and he knew how I felt about someone screwing around with the younger sisters of our class mates. He felt the same way. I just gave guys less room than most did. Plus this was DOUG'S sister. and Mrs Econn's daughter and they left us in charge. No way that I was going to let them down. If that guy did one thing that I thought was untoward I would have gladly thrown him off that balcony.
Anyway, Chris got rid of him. He was probably glad to go because it was clear from his glances at me that he knew what I thought of him visiting my friend's sister at that hour.
I never told Doug that story. I wore his jersey after he graduated and wore it with pride.
Standards. When I went to USC to train for the triathlon, I thought of the Archers and the Econns every day. They motivated me to be my best again. Both of those families played a very strong role in my regaining the values and living them again.
I would walk on the USC campus every day and think of them. Both of their families are very muchd USC families. Doug went there and was on the basketball team after high school. Chris went there as well. She knew she wanted to go there when she was in the 9th grade. I knew she gave the guys fits there because she was tall with this olive skin and very striking features. She had this posture that was impeccable and she carried herself with an elegance, even at a young age.
So I know she drove them crazy.
I was born on that campus while my father was doing his masaters and doctoral studies. So I guess I can be called a USC baby. Many of our friends have their names on the walls of that campus so I relived the traditions that were instilled in us at that school. I thought of the hard work that Mr Archer put in every day when he trained on the USC volley ball team. He went to Harvard School as well.
I thought of him everyday when I went by the old gymnasium. It is also interesting that for years I saw my father's USC alumni magazine sitting in a corner. I did not open it for three years. One day I decided to open it. This was after I was well into training for the triathlon. On the very first page, I saw where Mr Archer was being honored and his team for winning the national championship in volleyball.
I kept that page open and looked at it while I trained.
The Archers would probably not even know who I am but that is how valuable that school experience was. You learned from everyone and you grew from the experiences of everyone. The school was small so you knew the history. It was instilled in us.
The military drills. Everything. I oftened asked why is it that the officers were transferred from platoon to platoon. IT was not until I was older with corporate experience that I could answer that question. It was just like the corportate world. People are transferred all of the time. They had to learn how to deal with different personalities and keep things tight within their platoon. It taught them how to research out different methods to deal with different group personalities. I am sure Doug appreciates that experience now. However when we were at school, we we shared the fact that we constantly had demerits.
I remembered all of that when I was running on the track at USC, after swimming. I thought of Doug while I was running because it was the first time I was testing out my leg after a open compound fracture 8 years before. I had heard that something happened to Doug's leg. He perservered and he kept going. I had to keep going. He and I wore the same jersey. I was not going to be the one who dropped the ball in the chain of history in the school standards.
Some people think I mention the school to win points. They know nothing of me or the school. It is not the points. It is what you learn there that keeps you going when the going gets tough. For some it is a school. For others it is team sports.
For others it is military training. I had a bit of all of that at a special place with special people. We do not forget about eachother.
I thought about my friends for years. I missed them greatly. I was not going to get in contact with any of them until I could be proud of myself again. I felt them eveyday when I was on the USC campus. I thought of what I learned from John Buckingham. He was on the tennis team. I have seen the greatest tennis matches that have been played since I was 14. I ball boyed at pro tennis events. In fact I started ball boying because John Buckingham. He was a ball boy at at the LA Tennis Club during pro tennis events.
I worked for Donald Dell, who represented most of the tennis players. So I have seen all of the matches. But never, have I witnessed a tennis match like I did when I saw John Buckingham play someone at our Harvard School courts. It was by far the greatest comeback I have ever seen in my life. Because of it, we won the championship.
I had finished playing our round robin doubles. I played with Lloyd Wright. We won all of the time. We just jelled together. Lloyd is the reason why I went into commercial real estate. He does not know it but he is. He should me some buildings that his step dad built in the Crenshaw community. Medical Office buildings. They are community landmarks. In fact when Lloyd played tennis at the Rancho Park tennis courts, every body loved him. They asked about him all of the time. They did not even test him by talking trash to him. Lloyd just had this positive attitude about him.
Marty Shafer was finished with his matches. Marty was co founder of Castle Rock Entertainment. When he was number one when he was a senior, I was number two. Marty kicked my but every time we played a challenge match. Marty did the fundamentals. He did the basics well and he focused. He was steady. I had to learn how to be steady years later. Marty always won.
Doug won his matches. Tay Ganz of the Gap Family won what he was supposed to have won. Chris Lewis, the venture capitol partner of former Mayor Riordan, won all of this matches. Chris went on to play number one at USC after Harvard SChool and before his venture capitol days. His mom and dad were always at the matches.
"Melton, come sit with me". I would go sit right next to that nice lady from Arkansas. All of the parents called us by our last names because of the military tradition of the school.
We all went over to watch Buckingham play. There were other matches going on. We were suppose to when a couple and lose a couple. At one point, the update came in and the numbers did not look good. Mathematically, we could not win. John was down 5-0 and down 0-40. We did not want to tell him but we needed his victory or it was all over. John looked at us and he knew. He just knew.
John was an USC man. He thrived on competition. He loved sports. He would debate every monday about the college teams. We argued in Chalmers Hall about sports. Some guys would walk over to another table and debate movies because Harvard had a strong tradition in the movie industry. In fact Charlton Heston was watching the matches that day. His son, Fraser, was on the team.
You have to understand something. Everybody wanted to beat Harvard School for Boys. They wanted to beat the "rich kids". They thought Harvard
School boys were soft. I used to laugh because I was not rich in money: other things yes, but not money. I would hear schools yell at us and they did not know my classmates. I was proud of them because they were not softies. My classmates were tough. It was drilled into us to be strong. The Marlborough and Westlake girls taught us how to be strong and yet live within our skins and showed us it was ok to be ourselves, but we were not soft.
John was down tripple match point. He had to when evey point in that game and every game after that otherwise we would lose the championship. John started lobbing the guy from the base line. He hit every ball in the air. The guy was not at the net. He was in the backcourt. He would charge the net and John would lob him.
He would hit an overhead and John would chase it down and throw up another lob.
Finally the guy would miss. He did that for 2 more points and drew even. Then he eventually won the game. Took him thirty minutes to win the game. He kept asking us the score of the teams. We we not tell him. We did not need to tell him. He knew. In his heart he knew.
Each point lasted 4 or 5 minutes. John survived. He survived each point and he survived each game. Years later, I thought of that match in the finals of a USTA tournament and used his strategy. I was down 0-5. 0-40 as well. I won that match.
That is what I mean by learning from each other. John taught me how to survive.
Anyway, John broke the guy down and evened the match and won. We won the title.
I have never seen anything like it. Fitting because John became a big marketing manager for "Sports Illustrated" John did not just beat the guy.
I studied John very closely during that match. He conquered himself. He conquered his fears. He took his time. He studied himself. Sometimes he would wait a couple of minutes between points. He was very deliberate. He stayed within himself and monitored himself very closely. He did not focus on every point, he focused on every breadth between the shots in each point. He took attention to detail to a spectacular level. I thought of that exemplary demonstration of human will, determination, tenacity and triumph endlessly. I studied it over the years and each year I learned more about the human spirit from reexamining that match. He used history, tradition and all that it meant to carry him through and, in turn, us to victory. The "Sons of Harvard School" were with him and he embodied that spirit on that championship day. He has no idea how much that day meant to me in my climb and return to myself.
I used the collective spirit of our schoool history and every one who sat in the pews of St Savior's chapel to return again to Walter Melton. I would look at brochures that came to my house and see Doug Econn's name, or his brother's name. I would see his father's name. I would look up and see, on my wall, the championship banner that was ours. It reminded me of discipline and courage and the things that mean little to anyone until they need it.
I can tell you damn near every name in the alumni directory from the beginning of the school until John Archer's class. I studied the history of the school. I studied the spirit of pioneers. I studied the "can do" attitude. And from it, I found myself.
Fate through me a curve and then I had to use all of it again and I am remembering it all again and feeling it all again because I used the spirit of that place and of the people I met and I love so much to get me through some pretty traumatic moments.
That is what that school did for me. It taught me how to survive. Those drills.
We had to perservere in the hot valley sun. We were taught to believe. I had to learn how to believe again and I had to remember what developed in John Buckingham that day. I watched him go from hoping, to surviving to triumphing. I knew the process.
I repeated it, not once but twice.
It was those times, as many as six years with those guys, that forged an inner strength in me , at a time when most would have given up. Instead, I said "Hell NO".
I quit my golf course job, stop doing real estate and decided I was not going to do anything else until I changed my life. I drew on everything my father taught me and my mother taught me. I drew on all of the strength of the men who had been to Harvard School before me whose names were on plaques in the chapel or in the senior tower. History and tradition was in me. I dug deep and found it
I mention the school to remind me of what I am a part of- a strength and it is why I chose to talk about certain things to give strength to others. It is not just my stength. They are receiving the collective strength of others. It is a form of giving back to the community. It is just that they do not know they are giving this.
I did not plan on talklng about this but Doug's email made me feel it. I am glad I had a chance to experess these things.
I feel also that I will see my friend soon and I feel I have earned the right to back among my friends, men who I feel are extremely special and who have taught me so much for over 40 years.
Thank you. You saved my life and you dont even know it.
The mothers and the sisters of these guys played a HUGE part in this. I studied them. They were strong women. Very strong women. They taught their daughters to be strong women. I watched how they developed at Westlake and Marlborough. They had this dignity and inner strength that shined so bright. I marveled at them all of the time. I would drive on Muirfield all of the time during school and in subsequent years just to feel the spirit of those families and of those women. To this day, each time I go down Rossmore I must turn down Muirfield to smell "strength. There is alot of it on that street. They are gone now, but I feel the spirit and I soak it in. Yes,
I needed to say thanks to my friends. I needed to say thanks to their families. They played a big part in my triathlon and everything after that.
I mentioned a couple of the ladies of Muirfield. There is one lady. Her name is Jean Archer. I never met Mrs Archer. However, I have tremendous amount of respect for her. She would not even know who I am. That lady, with her elegance and dignity taught me how to fight. I did not need to know her. I knew and understood the history of her school, Marlborough and met many people from there. I had a chance to know her son, John, who went to Harvard, and her daughter, Pam, who also went to Marlborough and they were two of the most outstanding people I ever met in my life and I am still learning from them. Of course, both of them, would never remember me but having the honor of knowing them, only briefly, was priceless. From them, I was able to learn about their mom and how special she is and their father. It is funny how that family has meant so much to me and they have no idea. Muirfield was indeed special back then.
If I could ever meet anyone, I would choose to meet Mrs Archer. She and her husband Richard, inspired and motivated me to get my life back. One day if I am lucky, I will be able to tell her that.
The email from Doug has done alot. I can not begin to express how much.
I will live what it has done. I must get back to the grind stone. I believe this will be an interesting year. I will keep pushing. I will keep remembering. I remember the patches on my jacket. I wore that jacket alot the last few years. It is in a closet now. One day I will be able to pull it out again. I will rejoice in what those championships and the lessons they taught me:what my friends and their families taught me. It is a warm feeling to be a part of something and when it is as special as an all inclusive experience as those years and the crowning moments of those years, they are everlasting. Thanks Doug. Time for me to get back to work. Will talk soon.
Good night world. I love you.