That self-portrait of an artist doing a self-portrait of an artist (below) is from the Princeton, N.J. studio of Robert J. Velde, a fellow we turn to frequently when an especially amusing article needs especially amusing illustrations. As you will see (page 76), he was a natural choice to illustrate Joe Jares' nostalgic and merry reminiscence of life in a university fraternity house dominated by athletes.
It was only natural, too, that Bob Velde should have turned out to be both an artist and a sports nut. His father, who was a Pierce-Arrow dealer-distributor in Bloomington, Ill., had been a racing-car driver (Locomobiles and Stutzes), and his mother was a member of the same family as James McNeill Whistler.
In the early '30s the Veldes moved to Chicago, where Bob won his letter as left end on the Hyde Park High School team. At the University of Chicago, in the days when that school fielded a football team, he played freshman ball and majored in geology. He did lots of sailing on Lake Michigan as part owner of a 21-foot Crosby cabin sloop, and during summer vacations cruised all the Great Lakes.
Velde spent most of World War II at sea with the Coast Guard. He was commanding officer of various antisubmarine vessels—on the Greenland Patrol, on the Eastern Sea Frontier (where he won the commendation of Admiral Jules James), then in the South and Southwest Pacific. His favorite patrols were run between Zamboanga and the Sulu Archipelago and Borneo—partly because of the good fishing they afforded.
October 28, 1968
"I caught some good-sized sharks," he says, "and we used to harpoon giant rays from the bow of our ship."
It was not until after the war that he studied art and then with an eye to becoming an art director. He disliked his first job (with a New York fashion agency) and soon moved on to become head art director for Columbia Records. He didn't care much for that, either, and quit to free-lance as an illustrator. At the same time (like father, like son) he became interested in racing his MG/TC, "but my record would hardly have awed Juan Manuel Fangio or Stirling Moss."
In May 1954, along with his wife (who had been in the French underground and was imprisoned by the Nazis at Ravensbr√ºck), his 3-year-old daughter and his springer spaniel, he set sail from Mattituck inlet on Long Island Sound for Florida in a 24'6" Lawley sloop.
"It was rough and wet," Velde recalls, "and I had to send the family part of the way by train. I was caught in a squall on Chesapeake Bay, the boom swung into me after the down-haul snapped and fractured my wrist. Finally, I dodged in behind Gwynn Island (three miles off the mainland) with a couple of feet of water in the hold and luckily was able to get into the fishing dock under canvas." He picked up his wife and daughter at Norfolk and had a "very pleasurable voyage from then on."
Having settled in Coral Gables, he won several awards for international posters, raced his Porsche Super Coupé and did a lot of fishing. Now, back in the Northeast with his racing days behind him, he drives a Fiat-Abarth Spyder to the tennis courts where he plays a mediocre game with enthusiasm—enough, in fact, to make him appreciate the sitting-down part of watching pro football.