A THANKSGIVING HARBINGER …

Posted on Nov 21, 2012

Here’s how long ago these Centaur Seasons were. I used to hitchhike back and forth to school. Who hitchhikes anymore, I mean, besides stupid teenagers in bad horror movies?

Just one of a few thoughts here on the day before Thanksgiving.

It was 111 miles from the driveway of my house in York, Pennsylvania, to the dorm parking lot in Center Valley. A two-hour drive. Sometimes on the hitch I made it in less than three hours. I don’t recall any 10-hour disasters, hanging by the side of the road. A few times people even drove me right to my house, or to the dorm parking lot. Really.  Once, heading back to York, I had barely stuck out my thumb when an older couple pulled over. (Older, I say; likely my age now. Yikes.) They were on their way to Florida for the winter, they said. I was right on the way. They dropped me less than a mile from my house.

I know, I know. Seems as alien as the story already told here by the Centaurs themselves — in onetwothree parts — about the time we had to push the bus twice around a New Jersey traffic circle to jump start the engine and then later, with the bus driver falling asleep, Jerry Wilkinson, junior forward, drove us the rest of the way home. Stuff like that doesn’t happen anymore. (But was it really so bad that it did?)

I don’t recall ever hitching home at Thanksgiving. Too dark too early. And we always had a practice late that afternoon.

Which was fine. I loved staying to the bitter end. I loved being there in that empty space, autumn darkness pushing in around me in a way that it didn’t when I was also surrounded by students. But without them there to fill it up, the place was strange and alien, difficult to recognize, everything off kilter, quiet and spooky. Coming around a corner you could walk into someone unbeknownst and get scared half to death.

The cafeteria provided a box-lunch dinner for any straglers. One year I wound up in The Atrium, the student lounge, for a picnic of sorts with Walt Pfiel and Jerry Wilkinson, both Centaurs during their years, and Mike Dowd, better known (exclusively known, really) as “Turtle.”

Turtle had been in the class of 1970, but due to some Coast Guard commitments he was back to finish up. He’d played on the first two collegiate teams, which put him in a Centaur uniform for, among other games, the 70-point loss to York College, bestowing upon him a certain star-crossed honor. Turtle had a shaggy afro, mustache and John Lennon wire-rimmed glasses. Rangy and long-limbed,about 6-3, the proverbial coat hanger stuck across his shoulders, in lots of ways he was a Phil-Jackson-the-player type.

So there the four of sat, by ourselves in a the gloaming of the Atrium, eating our box lunches.  Looking for some entertainment Turtle at one point grabbed three of the apples and much to our delight started juggling. He kept the apples orbiting in a tight cascade,  his large hands expert cradles, one, two, three. That prompted Walt to appropriate the apples and stand up next to the wall that surrounded The Atrium. Pretending to juggle, he threw the apples one by one over his head and down into the cafeteria.

That Wednesday practice was always a spirited affair. Not because we were glad to be there, but glad rather because we were about not to be there. We’d already put in nearly six weeks of preseason, with Saturday practices at a school that pretty much cleared out on the weekends. For the hardcore diehards who stuck around, it was always a huge point of pride that we had stuck around. Now we just wanted to get away.

We also knew we’d be back in four days, and with that it would all commence.

The start of the season. The end of the semester.

Five, six games. Three, four exams.

Christmas hovering. Everything crammed into less than three weeks.

Of all the days of Centaur Seasons, these were the best, every year. Getting to this Wednesday before Thanksgiving meant they had now arrived.

Happy Thanksgiving from CENTAUR SEASONS.

 

On November 21st, 2012 at 4:40 pm, Walt Pfeil said:

Steve

Hope you have a great Holiday. Little did I know that juggling those apples was a foreshadowing of everthing else that I would be juggling over the next 40 some years. It was symbolic that they were going over my head, as it seems that is where most things are still going.



 
     

Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS: A ‘memory blog’ of the basketball beginnings of a half-good, half-bad, all-new college team.

Once, I was a Centaur.

I played basketball for Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, Pa. I was on four of the school’s first seven teams, was MVP senior year and in 1974 graduated in the fifth class.

My junior year I kept a diary: A History of the Events of the 1972-1973 Allentown College B-Ball Season, as Chronicled by, and With the Personal Memoirs + Occassional [sic] Philosophizing of the Author, One Stephen J. McKee.  One-hundred-forty-five hand-writ pages. (Yes, I was an English major.)

But it occurs to me now: Were I today a “Bulldog” playing for “DeSales University” (both mascot and name changed in 2000), my private “History” would be not a diary but a blog.

So starting November 30  “…Personal Memoirs…” will be re-imagined as CENTAUR SEASONS

A blog before its time, posted 40 years after in real time.

Meanwhile, beginning on September 24, here at CENTAUR SEASONS the preseason has already tipped off, with stories, interviews and reminiscences of the people, the place and the purpose of those early years of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

Check back often. Sign up for CentaurSeasonAlerts. Email CENTAUR SEASONS to friends.

We were not a bad team, we Centaurs. We just weren’t very good. Winning was always the goal, if never exactly the point. How could it be, with victories so few?

Back then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was a couple of buildings in some cornfields.  Our commitment to the school’s basketball program was far greater than was the school’s commitment us. So what? We got to play college ball – and paid for the privilege! In return, we got to be part of a team, wear the red and blue, be Centaurs. And we got to create a place that was, right then, as much concept as it was college, making itself up as we went along.

What we got was a once-in-a-life-time chance.

All we had to do was keep showing up -- next practice, next game, next season. And so we did.

Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS.

×