Came the football dinner in February. It was held in the heavily paneled English Tudor dining room of the St. Elmo fraternity house. The varsity, the junior varsity, Head Coach Herman Hickman and about 100 select others were there. Church sat at the head table with the varsity.
Football dinners generally fall into one of two types. The team has had a good season and all the players are in for florid praise, or a bum season and the speeches run on about next year. But in 1950 Yale had won some and lost some and it was all fairly indecisive. No reason to cheer or to weep.
Neither was there any reason to expect that, when players were called on to say a few words, any one of them would utter anything memorable. Church might have been passed over in this speechmaking, but because he was so liked, he was called upon.
"They laughed when I got up," he remembers. "I was supposed to be the clown of the team and they thought this was going to be funny."
About all he had to say, as he recalls it, was to enlarge upon a letter he had received from his uncle, Kortright Church, who had been a Yale tackle in the 1910-11 season. Kilborn's father, Heyliger Church, had been an end on the Yale teams of 1914-16. Now here was Kilborn, Yale '51 and nothing much in football, remembering a family tradition and four years of failure at it and trying to say something rousing about it.
The letter from his uncle, expressing congratulations that a Church had again won his Y, said, "Football is one of the worthwhile things in life, like your hitch in the Marines." That gave Kilborn a take-off point.
"I know what he meant," he told his ready-to-chuckle audience. "The lesson of football is something one seldom gets from other experiences. Football leaves its mark not only physically but on one's character. It is not natural for a man to run his head into a stone wall, to hurt and be hurt and come back for more...[but] it is a way of finding the courage to meet a challenge and come back.
"Life is always a challenge and a struggle, and football seems to be a way of condensing the training for it in a short period. In meeting a challenge, man-finds within himself strength and weakness he never before knew."
This was by no means eloquence, but in simple words it fitted the occasion better than anyone had ever done it before at a Yale football dinner. Furthermore, it was a little like when the audience finds that Shakespeare has been putting wise words into the mouth of Henry's fool. The ordinary response to a speech is a burst of applause, fervent or perfunctory but in any case immediate. When Kilborn sat down there was only silence in St. Elmo's, a silence which those who were there remember as so prolonged it seemed to last for minutes. Then there came the applause, a roaring wave of sound. It lasted much longer than the silence. And afterward Kilborn Church was a legend around Yale. They still talk about him there.
Easel does it
Skin divers, swimming under the surface of clear, warm, rock-bound coves around the Spanish island of Majorca, have lately been encountering a startling underwater apparition?a painter, perched before an easel at the bottom of the sea. The artist, a black-haired, 35-year-old Majorcan radio repair man named Jorge Morey-Gil, began skin diving years ago and developed a passion for submarine photography. A few weeks ago, in an effort to capture the elusive colors of the depths more accurately, he began waterproofing canvases with linseed oil and painting below the surface. He wears flippers and an Aqua-lung, uses an easel weighted with ten pounds of lead, fastens his brushes to his bathing suit to keep them from floating away when they are not in use and carries a knife (with which he recently stabbed an inquisitive octopus) strapped to one leg. He is the soul of hospitality when a fellow skin diver glides near, and invariably nods and invites inspection of his work. Nevertheless, the sight of him, bubbling away, palette in hand, amid a school of nosy fish, tends to unnerve casual passers-by. "He scared the hell out of me the first time I saw him," said one skin diver. "I looked at his painting all right when he waved me over, but I swam right ashore and had a drink."