It seems that every writer at one time or another ignores Thomas Wolfe's dictum and does go home again—rejoicing in or lamenting his youth. SI writers are no less nostalgic than the rest, and occasional we have encouraged them to reach hack into their own pasts for material. The results have been worthwhile. New Yorker Gilbert Ro-gin gave us Confessions of a Stoop ball Champion in 1964. Dan Jenkins remembered his hilarious Texas golfing days in The Glory Game at Goat Hills in 1965 and in 1968 Joe Jares reminisced about Life in a Jock House at USC.
This week another staffer looks backward. Robert F. Jones takes a trip down a wet memory lane (A la Recherche du Tanks Perdu, page 76), going home to Wauwatosa, Wis., joining with some old classmates and swimming against Wauwatosa West's current stars. Photographer Heinz Kluetmeier, who lives in the Milwaukee suburb just a few blocks from where Jones grew up, was on hand with his cameras to record the reunion. Was truly going home possible or a Wolfean prophecy?
"It was as if our last meet was two weeks age instead of 20 years," said Jones. "The guys haven't changed. It was kind of reassuring to know there's some stability in the world. On the other hand, I've changed. I was the only one with long hair and a mustache."
Jones, who refers to himself as "Splash" in the story, did not make that big a one in his high school days. He stood 6'1" but weighed only 145 then. Today, although by no means shaped like a diving bell, he weighs 185. It would be telling tales out of school to reveal here how well Splash did in his comeback. We can, however, state unequivocally that Bob, who has a second story in this week's issue, definitely survived the rigors of the Ali-Chuvalo fight and the shorter-than-marathon party that preceded it (page 38).
May 14, 1972
Jones has specialized in motor racing for us, and he has dipped into ice hockey, hunting, fishing, golf, pro football, baseball and a hippie's peace pentathlon, but the Ali-Chuvalo match was his first plunge into boxing. Curiously, the trip to Vancouver took Jones back to another pleasant scene from his youth. In 1958 he and several fellow nasal officers used their leave time to drive from Seattle to Vancouver, a swinging town. "It was then," Jones says, "and still is."
Midway through attending the prefight party last week, Jones reported that he was sober and that he was not overly impressed with the long-distance drinking capabilities of Canadians. His old Navy buddies, he thought, would have sunk them.
Obviously, it is time to get Jones back to the present. Clear of eye and steady as he goes, Splash heads next for Indianapolis and the 500.
This week two SPORTS ILLUSTRATED authors will be honored by the American Academy and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In appreciation for a body of previous work—his short stories and the novel What Happens Next?—Gilbert Rogin will be awarded $3,000. For his novel The Bushwhacked Piano, "representing a considerable literary achievement," Thomas McGuane will receive the Rosenthal Foundation Award for fiction, worth $2,000.