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Updated: 02/24/02

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Not Exactly What I Had in Mind
by Rosemary Breslin


longer days

Sunday, 24 February, 2002

Uh oh. Houston, we may have a problem. That little Algae Eater I bought last weekend has done such a good job that he's run out of food. Now he chasing the angel fish around the tank trying to suck whatever algae or other stuff they may have on their skin. Rather amusing, considering how rude they were to him.

[The tank looks great, BTW.]

Went skating in the park this morning. Much cooler than last week, but it was nice, sunny and not windy. Did half "The Drives" - about 8 miles or so. Not nearly as many people this week. Wimps.

I skate along the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park. At one end of the bike/skate/running path is an area called Boathouse Row - a group of Victorian houses that are home to several rowing clubs dating back into the mid-1800's. At night they are outlined in lights, a really lovely sight reflected in the water.

Boathouse Row by Night

There are usually several sculls from various clubs out in the water every weekend, usually one or two person crafts, but as spring approaches, the bigger four and eight person shells are more common.

As I skated up the drive, I saw a big yellow eight person shell being readied for launch. It had a name painted at one end: Charles P. Colgan. I wondered about who Charles Colgan was and why his name was painted there. Was he a rower? Probably. When did he row? What did he win? Did he go by Charles or did he have a nickname?

A couple of years ago, my curiousity would have remained just that, but thanks to the Internet, here's what I found:

Charles P. Colgan was a former U.S. national and Canadian champion rower, Olympic rowing referee, and 45 year rowing coach. He died on 30 November, 1999 at his home in Ardmore, Pennsylvania after a brave battle with prostate cancer, at age 72. Charles Colgan came to fame as the stroke of the great University of Pennsylvania rowing crews in the late 1940s.

His passion, beginning in the 1950s, was to open rowing beyond the bounds of the then all-white, all-male Ivy League monopoly. In the ensuing 45 years, he initiated the first inner-city program for African-Americans in Philadelphia. By 1983, he extended that to the first rowing program in the USA for Special Olympians (mentally retarded athletes). From 1968 through 1994, he was an international referee or manager for 17 World Championship USA teams.

He and his wife, Mary, were married for fifty years, and had three sons and ten grandchildren. He went by the name "Chuck."

I was speaking with a friend of mine about the Olympic Games, speculating on how many of these althetes will be remembered beyond their 15 minutes of fame, outside of their sporting circles. Some althetes continue as a part of the public landscape: Jim Thorpe, Dorothy Hamil, Mark Spitz, Eric Heiden. But others, especially those in the "less glamorous" sports have their accomplishments recorded and quietly go back to their lives.

Chuck Colgan wasn't an Olympic Champion whose name brings instant recognition. But through the things that he did throughout his life, Chuck Colgan's legacy will continue on, even if the majority of the people that see his name on that bright yellow hull will never know anything about him.

~ ~ ~

Quote du jour:

"Fame is vapor,
popularity an accident,
riches take wings.
Only one thing endures
and that is character."

-- Horace Greeley (1811 - 1872)

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