Aside from football, Perian brightens her column with social notes ("We were sitting in Toots Shor's when Frank Sinatra came in"), theater reviews (The Music Man left her "a trifle disappointed"), and idle chitchat ("After the boys left for Philly the wives and children who live in the hotel gathered in my room for the annual get-acquainted party—affectionately called the snake-pit hour").
"There are two audiences I'm aiming at," says Columnist Conerly. "One is the football fans—like the high school principal's wife and the librarian—who think Charlie and the Giants are the greatest things around. The other is the people who don't believe life in New York is all the fun it's cracked up to be. I want to show Clarksdale it's right about the Giants and wrong about New York."
Four-score rowing men met in Philadelphia last week to pay tribute to John Kelly, onetime bricklayer, unsuccessful candidate for mayor (Democratic), father of Grace Kelly and the greatest oarsman of them all. It was the 50th anniversary of Kelly's start in competitive rowing, and the Philadelphia Bulletin remarked in a genial way that just about the only notable oarsman not on hand was the coxswain of Noah's ark.
Otherwise, everybody was there: 10 former national champion singlescullers, an entire championship eight of 1925, a Philadelphia eight that won the world championship in Belgium in 1930, such oldtimers as Harry DeBaecke, who rowed for the United States in the Paris Olympics of 1900, such youngsters as the members of the victorious American eight from the 1955 Pan American games, including John B. Kelly Jr. Rain was falling as they stomped into the dining room at the suburban Bala Golf Club—big, broad-shouldered individuals who exuded an air of well-being as in gentle foghorn voices they expressed satisfaction at being present.
What was remarkable about them, however, was not the span of rowing history they covered but the fact that they all somehow gave the impression of being about the same age. Kelly himself, a tall, slender man who at 70 appears to be at least 45, started rowing seriously when he joined the Vesper Boat Club at 20; until he was 65 he was on the river every day that it wasn't frozen. Called upon to say a few words, Kelly suggested that there was a direct relationship between the sport of rowing and the general friendliness and well-being of the veterans present, and that it might be a matter of temperament and spirit as well as of muscles. "We leave our feuds on the river," he said.
The only disappointment in Kelly's own spectacular career was that he did not win the biggest singles event of his time, the Diamond Sculls at Henley in 1920: he was not allowed to compete. The legend became fixed in rowing folklore that Kelly had been barred because, as a former bricklayer, he had worked with his hands. It was true that Henley then had a rule on its books (long since expunged) that no one who had ever worked for wages could compete. If anybody was ever entitled to feel rancor it was Kelly in 1920. "I was just disappointed," he said. "I knew I was right that spring, and I thought I could win it."
In the 1920 Olympics, a month or so after the Diamond Sculls, he beat Jack Beresford Jr., who had won at Henley. He also rowed in the doubles that year, the only time in Olympic history that anyone rowed in both events and won both. One reason that Kelly's feat awed his fellow oarsmen was that the races were run in heats, and the heats were so close together that after rowing and winning his heat in the singles it was time to start one in the doubles. In Kelly family history the Henley controversy was magnificently laid to rest when, in 1947 and 1949, Jack Kelly Jr. went over and won the Diamond Sculls as emphatically as Jack Sr. might have won them in 1920.
Last week the British authorities, combing through the archives for the Kelly anniversary, came up with a belated explanation for Kelly's barring. It wasn't because he worked with his hands. In 1905 a Vesper crew became involved in a conflict with Britain's Leander Club over British definitions of amateurism, and a ruling went into the Henley books that members of Vesper were just not amateurs, old boys. Kelly had been automatically refused entrance for that reason, and no particular slight to Irish bricklayers intended. From London came the word: Kellys all welcome on our river nowadays.
Phantoms and Ghosts