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Remembering Tom Blackaller - 20th Anniversary
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Jeff Madrigali
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Sep 1, 2009, 11:41 AM

Post #41 of 55 (94226 views)
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Re: [Scott Kaufman] Remembering Tom Blackaller - 20th Anniversary [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I was sailing on the 1989 Admirals Cup team with Tom, where on a lay day a group of us went off for a game of golf. Tom loved golf at this point in his life, and we were having a great time of it.

We were making quite a lot of noise on the 4th tee, which was quite close to the 6th green when another group of English golfers on that green were putting out. One of the golfers, who was looking at about a six foot putt, yelled over to us, “Courtesy on a golf course dictates quiet. This is for birdie!” Well, we all shut up and watched him promptly miss the putt.

He glared over at us, obviously mad at us that we broke his concentration and had caused him to miss the putt. Tom could not take it so he yelled out as only he could, “F--- you!, next time we will just let the Germans overrun you!”

He was a really great guy.


Howard Palmer
*

Sep 1, 2009, 11:58 AM

Post #42 of 55 (94224 views)
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Re: [Jeff Madrigali] Remembering Tom Blackaller - 20th Anniversary [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I only raced with Tom once on Bill Twist’s “Bladerunner” designed by the relatively unknown team of John Reichel and Jimmy Pugh. It was the old SORC, 1981 I think?

After the St. Pete/Lauderdale race, Tom was asked by the press what had happened as Bladerunner ended up last in fleet. His irrepressible answer of “Hell we decided to go to Cuba for cigars” brought the house down. Next race was the Lipton Cup and we came first in fleet.

But what I remember most is that he always had time to say hello. I was just an unknown crew from down the islands but his voice would boom across some distant dock. “Hey Howard, how are ya?” and he would be over telling some story or having a laugh as we headed to the bar.

Howard Palmer, Barbados


Brendan Dobroth
*

Sep 1, 2009, 12:11 PM

Post #43 of 55 (94218 views)
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Re: [Howard Palmer] Remembering Tom Blackaller - 20th Anniversary [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

During a time when I was sailing with Tom in Nassau on Windward Passage in a Maxi Regatta, we later went out gambling at the casino. I was up a little over a $100, and Tom was up around $200....we thought we were doing well. He looked over at me and said, ”You know, if we stop now, and pool our money, we can buy a jib sheet for the boat.”

Ever creative.


Bruce Munro
*

Sep 1, 2009, 12:45 PM

Post #44 of 55 (94213 views)
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Re: [The Publisher] Remembering Tom Blackaller - 20th Anniversary [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I sailed with Tom several times, including the time my Ericson 35, Wanderlust, was on the cover of Yachting Magazine for the March 1977 edition while sailing in the Frank Stone Cup on San Francisco Bay. It is a great shot, but Tom cannot be seen in the picture. He had just sold me a new mainsail from North and he came with us to see how it looked. Tom and I traded time on the helm during the race. On the last beat to the finish, Tom was at the helm and he port tacked another boat. We got tossed notwithstanding Tom's emphatic arguments to the protest committee of his own yacht club. Despite that experience, Tom was one of the most gifted sailors I have ever sailed with.

Tom was also quite the man with the ladies. In 1980 Tom and I took my Peterson 2 Tonner, Leading Lady, to San Diego to compete in the San Francisco Perpetual Challenge Cup regatta. It was a match race against the San Diego Yacht Club, and they put up a boat called Dust 'Em owned by Dennis Conner and Chuck Hope, the then commodore of the SDYC, with Robbie Haines at the helm.

We won the race and were quite full of ourselves going back into the San Diego harbor. On the way we spotted a power boat loaded with lovely ladies in bikinis celebrating the pending marriage of one in their group. They were all flight attendants (called "stewardesses" in those days) in their 20s and they had been partying for some time. Tom got their attention and they came right over to us. Tom got them to come alongside and then he and most of my crew got on board their boat, leaving only a few of us (the ones who had wives waiting at the SDYC) on board to bring our boat back to the club for the trophy presentation.

A couple of the girls got on the boat with us (so we would not feel left out, I am sure) and the two boats, plus the Dust'Em proceeded to the yacht club. The scene was surreal when a boat load of our sailors came into the club on a power boat with bikini clad lovelies being extremely friendly followed by the two race boats. While most were amused, not all those at SDYC thought it was so funny. Tom was not the most popular person there as a result of his long standing rivalry with Dennis Conner.

Nevertheless, we all had a ball and took the trophy home with us to the St. Francis Yacht Club. There is a great picture of Tom and me in the St. Francis 75th anniversary book soaking wet after we were both tossed into the water in front of the SDYC. This was one of the most memorable events of my sailing life and certainly with respect to the time I spent with Tom. He was taken from us far too soon and I still miss one of the most colorful sailors of our time.

Bruce Munro




The Publisher
*****


Sep 1, 2009, 3:23 PM

Post #45 of 55 (94200 views)
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Some great stories here too: http://www.rememberingblackaller.com


Bill Campbell
*

Sep 2, 2009, 11:07 AM

Post #46 of 55 (93985 views)
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So we were sailing the America's Cup trials back in Newport RI in the summer of 1982. Tom and Gary Jobson were the honchos on Defender 12-US-33, and I was navigator for John Kolius on Courageous 12-US-26.

There had been a fair amount of smack talk, particularly after Courageous started to get the better of Defender on the race course. The movie "Das Boot" debuted that summer. It is a movie about a German U-boat crew and their struggles against the allies, the Atlantic ocean, and their own hierarchy during WWII. The great part about the movie is that you end up rooting for the Germans by the end.

The gentleman who sailed with me for four years at the Naval Academy happened to be the Commanding Officer of a submarine that was in Newport at the time, so we organized a day when the crews of the 12's could visit the submarine and the crew of the submarine could visit the 12's. We had a great time because each crew thought the other's boat was the coolest thing they had ever seen.

Anyway, a few of the crew had gone to the local theater to see the movie. About twenty minutes into the movie there's this huge commotion in the back of the theater. Blackaller and Jobson started shouting, "Where's Campbell, where the f--- is Campbell?" Gary and Tom both knew I had spent my years after the Naval Academy in the submarine force as well and was at the movie. We all sort of slunk down in our seats as they roamed the aisles. The loud commotion went on for a few minutes and they suddenly left the theater, being chased/escorted by the ushers and staff.

So they drove off into the night, only to be stopped by the local police for speeding and weaving their way back to Newport. The officer asked for ID and reached into the car to turn off the engine, at which time Tom put it in gear and started to roll away. The officer held on and was dragged a good distance down the road before he was able to get the keys and turn off the car. Needless to say he was not very happy and he handcuffed and escorted our skipper off to the pokey.

So the next morning, Max O'Meara, who was our mother hen at the compound, got a call to come bail out Tom from the local jail where he had spent the night drying out. Tom took a couple days off from the campaign while Max spent his days getting the incident swept under the carpet.


toddcozzens
*

Sep 4, 2009, 3:05 AM

Post #47 of 55 (92694 views)
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Like Pelle said, many of the best Blackaller stories are not fit for print. Here's one that is. 1979 - Pre-Olympic Regatta in Tallinn, Estonia, Soviet Union. US Sailing Team loaded with present and future stars - Blackaller, Buchan, Cam Lewis, Peter Isler, Dave Perry, John Bertrand, Steve Benjamin, Peter Wright etc. A young Paul Cayard and I were Star crews there. Blackaller immediately meets the most beautiful KGB agent and "befriends' her for the series.

After 3 weeks of cabin fever, Blackaller gets out on his balcony at the Olympic village building housing all the sailors facing the sea and starts a loud speech to all the Soviet guards lining the beach (to keep the natives from leaving, not to stop invaders) which goes something like this. "Now Lenin, he seemed like a pretty cool dude with some pretty crazy ideas - then you got this guy Trotsky who had a few screws loose but that Stalin - he really f__d you guys over bad. And what's with that Breshnev with that huge unibrow?"

The guards got pretty antsy as literally every team from every country came out on their balcony to either cheer Tom on or, in their own language, tell him to shut the hell up. Then a few projectiles started to launch toward the guards on the beach - most were bag lunches the Russian organizers gave us filled with inedible sausages and wooden bread. The poor Soviet guards started running around the beach asking each other what to do and finally reinforcements came and a few started pointing their guns up toward our rooms. Finally some high commander had the sense to get the guards off the beach and the whole thing simmered down. Tom almost singlehandedly ignited World War III!

A few of us went to Blackaller's room and sipped California wine and Jack Daniels - part of the stash we all smuggled (duct tape, Levi's, Marlboro's, etc.) in our trailers to sell in the forest near the mess hall for 10 times the official currency exchange rate. Even the normally calm Bill Buchan was in complete stitches. If there's one thing we all remember about Tom is - that laugh! I've never known anyone who tried to live every single moment of his life to the fullest - that was his greatest lesson to me.


Alan_Howlett
*

Sep 4, 2009, 7:22 AM

Post #48 of 55 (92621 views)
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I met Tom Blackaller briefly in 89. He was in Annapolis for the Formula 40 Prosail event. I'd been on the water watching as all the big names were in town racing. Exciting to see them flying hulls OVER the marks. Eventually Blackallers boat suffer a cracked beam. I drove around to Jabin's boatyard in Eastport, arriving just as they did. I took a dockline for them, watched, listened to Tom's colorful comments, and gave them the contact info and directions for a guy who could weld stainless steel. I recall offering to sell my soul to sail with them. I think he declined and lit a cigar...




Steven Black
*

Sep 4, 2009, 7:27 AM

Post #49 of 55 (92617 views)
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Did you know... there is currently no Wikipedia article about Tom Blackaller.


The Publisher
*****


Sep 4, 2009, 11:33 AM

Post #50 of 55 (92554 views)
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Photos courtesy of Sailing World archives: http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/.../tom-blackaller.html




Stan Reisch
*

Sep 4, 2009, 12:01 PM

Post #51 of 55 (92561 views)
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You might say it was a foggy day in old San Francisco town, when I met Tom. I had just launched my C & C 38, Entertainer, and was looking for someone to help me get more involved in racing. A friend of mine suggested that get a hold of a fellow by the name of Tom Blackballer, who usually could be found at the St. Francis Yacht Club. I found him, told him what I wanted to do, he looked at me kind of funny, as I am sure I didn't fit the image of a grand prix yacht racer.

He said, "Let’s take a look at the boat." He looked it over and indicated that we could do something with it. Not being quite sure what he wanted, he handed me a list. He said, get a hold of Commodore Tomkins and he'll have the boat ready in about two weeks for the first race. I always felt that Tom, the expert and consummate sailor and racer that he was, had somehow lowered his standards to race on a racer/cruiser. He put together a very talented crew, who thought he was crazy, happily took the helm, and we won many races together.

I was sitting at the bar at the St. Frances watching the 1977 Big Boat Series, where Dave Allen's Holland 40 Imp was dominating the Keefe-Kilburn Division and winning quite impressively. Tom came up to me and introduced me to Doug Peterson. He said, "I want you to build a boat to beat Imp and Doug is going to design it for you." I said, "Thanks Tom, but I'm just not ready for that." Tom didn't take no for an answer. Two weeks later, he called me and announced that he had put the deal together and told me to send a deposit to Carl Eichenlaub, so he could start constructing the aluminum 40 footer.

The boat was delivered in May of 1978. This was Tom's boat. We gave Lucy, my wife, the honor of naming the boat. As we were in the entertainment business she named her Leading Lady, a big red boat with Comedy and Tragedy masks on the stern. Tom put together an "all star cast" for the crew. On the first day of the 1978 BBS, Tom at the helm, we got off to a slow start, but by the time we were beating up the face of Angel Island, we passed Imp. With Tom's passion for racing, it was hard to imagine any other outcome. We won the next four races and the series. Tom congratulated everyone and said, "This a great boat and a great crew and we will go on from here." We went on to win the BBS in 1979 and 1980. Without Tom, I would never have known the thrill and excitement of yacht racing.

Tom was a truly a bigger than life character. Legendary yachtsman, consummate ladies man, race car driver, and connoisseur of fine food and wine. One evening we were to meet for dinner at the Blue Fox, a very up-scale restaurant. He was late as usual, and came in wearing a North T-shirt, jeans, Topsiders (with no socks) and a blue blazer (his usual attire). I'm sure his date wanted to crawl under the table. The owner of the restaurant, who had a very strict dress code, handed Tom a tie. He said, "Mr. Blackaller, please wear the proper attire the next time you come in." Tom handed him a $100 bill and said "Thanks George for the tie."

I am sure Tom and I were alter egos. I wanted to have his playboy lifestyle and he wanted to have the stable family life style I had. I think the coup de gras was one weekend when he came down to our house. He drove up in an original A.C. Cobra, bright blue with white racing stripes. He gave everybody a ride. During dinner, he left his leather wallet on the table. Our Doberman Pincher found and ate the wallet. I don't think I have ever seen Tom that mad. He turned every color of red you could imagine because in the wallet was Tom's date book, with all the names and phone numbers of his lady friends. I'm sure he never forgave the dog, let alone me.

Tom and I sailed many races together. When he was racing all over the world, he would call me and tell about his exploits. He was a great friend and taught me how to sail and race. Whenever I sail, I think of Tom at the helm, where he wanted to be. I miss him and I know his friends miss him. There is no one who could replace him. Rest in peace my friend. Someday we will all be racing together on that big ocean in the sky.


Paul Cayard
*

Sep 7, 2009, 8:18 AM

Post #52 of 55 (92387 views)
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Tom Blackaller was my sailing father. He grabbed a hold of me when I was 19. I knew how to sail but he taught me how to race. I left his umbrella when I was 28 to work for Raul Gardini. Tom had a huge effect on my sailing career. I was so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

I began crewing in Stars in 1977 and met Tom around the docks that summer. In 1978, I needed to learn how to match race to compete in a youth event in Newport Beach called the Governor’s Cup. Already a Star World Champion, extremely adept speaker, extremely good looking, a natural litigator, Blackaller was brash and intimidating. But I had just enough nerve to ask him to teach me how to match race.

I told him I would get two Santana 20’s down to the dock in front of his office every Wednesday at noon if he would sail against me for one hour. He agreed. So for about 8 weeks that summer, Billy George, Russ Silvestri and I learned from the King. At the end of it, I bought a bottle of his favorite scotch whiskey (yes, I could buy at 18, no fake ID required) and put it on his desk as a thank you. We finished second in the Govenor’s Cup after I put my fist through the wall of the protest room after jury chairman Dick Deaver threw me out of a race.

Later that summer, Tom asked me to crew for him in the Star North American’s in Toronto. The deal was that I had to drive the boat out there as he would fly in from Europe and, in fact, he would miss the first race. I was excited and of course agreed. Craig Healy and I drove the boat out there with Craig’s Laser on the roof of Tom’s old blue Chevy Malibu station wagon (aka the blue pig). We got to Toronto one week early. After getting a few reprimands for not wearing our T-shirts in the 100 degree heat while washing the boat in the boat park (very conservative - the Royal Canadian YC/ Paul Henderson), we took the boat out every day and trained against the likes of Durward Knowles, Ding Schoonmaker, Buddy Melges. Not bad for 19 year old kids from San Francisco.

Finally Tom showed up and we went out to race the second race. It wasn’t that simple but if I don’t move along here, this will turn into a novel. (Something about not wearing a blazer to get on the club launch that takes you out to the island that the RCYC is on - Henderson again) We were almost out of the regatta that morning thanks to Tom’s language.

Anyway, we get out on the race track and around the bottom mark the first time, we are in second. Bill Buchan with Doug Knight crewing are winning, Dennis Conner with Ron Anderson are in third, Buddy with Andreas Josenhans are in fourth, Schoonmaker, Knowles, Driscoll, Wright, Whipple, Allsop, etc. Now for the not-so-nurturing part of Tom:

Me to Tom as I slide out over the side into the mini hike, “How is the jib?”
Tom replies,“WHAT!” in a high pitched, almost female voice.
Me a bit more sheepishly now, “How is the jib? Is it on the marks?”
Tom, “Yea, anywhere in there is fine. If that was important, I’d be doing it!”
Me to myself, “Oh.”

Nothing said for about 10 minutes as I curled up into a ball and pretended to melt into the topsides.

I got into the big time thanks to Tom. He took me to my first SORC in 1982, he took me to my first America’s Cup in 1983 where I was a trimmer with Mike Toppa and Rod Davis on Defender. Tom gave me my first job in the industry working at North Sails San Diego with Lowell, Vince Brun and Gary Weisman, and he sent me to Italy to fill in as skipper for Lorenzo Bortolotti on Nitissima in the ‘84 Sardinia Cup where we were top boat. That set my career in motion as Gardini and Landolif noticed a new young sailor from California.

In 1986, Tom got another AC program together this time out of our home club, St. Francis. USA was a wild idea, a boat with two rudders and a “T-Keel”. It was right up Tom’s alley. He wasn’t patient enough to do the Cup the way Dennis did it….4200 hours on the water two boat testing. Tom wanted fast results. It almost worked even though we had NO money and the concept was far from fully developed.

Dennis was Tom’s biggest rival. Probably because they were both from California, because Dennis won the Star worlds three years before Tom, and because they were so different. This rivalry got taken to a higher and almost false level in the America’s Cup because the media loved to wind it up. But the truth is that there was a lot of respect there, at least on Tom’s side. There was even friendship at times. I remember being in the living room of Tom’s apartment in Alameda, CA in 1978 before the SF Star Worlds that year and Dennis and Tom sharing a couple of beers and weighing each other on the scale.

I could go on and on but one last thought….the side of Tom that few people saw. When the 1983 Cup finished up, my best friend and roommate Kenny Keefe and I were packing our bags. Tom came by and gave each of us a check for $1000 out of his personal checking account. We had not been paid one cent over two years and we were pretty much broke. I don’t think Tom ever had any real money, but he found it in his heart to give us a little bit of what little he had.

I know we have stars in sailing now, but I don’t think we have ever had someone with as much Star power as Thomas David Blackaller. He was ahead of his time and, unfortunately for us, he departed too soon.

Paul Cayard


geri conser
*

Sep 8, 2009, 6:17 AM

Post #53 of 55 (91519 views)
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Tom, what an absolute man of the future. I got the best photographs I have ever taken because of Tom in S.F.bay. A rookie photographer and green pilot, Tom let me sharpen my skills on he and his crew during a Big Boat series in the mid 80's. I slipped my 150 (Cessna) down to 50 feet off the deck and recorded the fear and astonishment on Tom's crew including Robbie Haines, Rod Davis, et all. On Tom's face was one of the biggest shit faced grin I have ever seen. We were soul mates from then on. I went on to record him sailing the first ProSail 40 catamarans when cats were the poor relative of the sailing world. Tom knew the thrill of sailing the bay in the high 20 and low 30 knots when multihulls were still in the baby stages of developement. Tom, we all loved you spirit of speed and you kick ass attitude of life.

I know you are enjoying the developement of all the new tech in sailing.

You live in our hearts and speed souls,

geri conser
aerial yacht photography
multihull sailor since 1967




Bob Billingham
*

Sep 8, 2009, 10:39 AM

Post #54 of 55 (91030 views)
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I met Tom Blackaller as a 3 year old sailor aboard Roger Hall's "Wings" a Serendipity 43 on SF Bay. We were sailing in the Stone Cup in 1982. Blackaller was probably a bit bored with the local IOR Championship and he brought Steve Pugh with him. Both of them were in a foul mood, egged each other on and just bitched out our amateur crew.

About half way through the race, I fumbled a winch handle and Blackaller reached down from the helm, grabbed the winch handle and struck me with it in the shoulder then thru it at me. I lost it and grabbed the handle - this asshole was going to lose teeth. As I cocked the winch handle to hit him, Roger Hall reached out from the rail and grabbed my hand, pulling me over backwards and I tripped over the traveler, by the time I got up on my feet the whole crew was yelling at me to get on the rail - so Blackaller got lucky.

In a debrief with the Owner, Roger Hall, Roger relayed to me that he thought our bow guy and myself were the only guys that were worth a shit. He also said for a few seconds he was seriously worried about me damaging him.

Later in my sailing career, I got to crew for him on the Star boat in some regattas in San Diego. He invited me to trim for him in an Admirals Cup but we were doing our Olympic Campaign in the Soling so I had to say no thank you - I always regretted that decision. I did a bit of grinding on US 49 before they went down to Perth in 1987. I built the condo in Sausalito he and Christine bought and was invited to dinner many times there.

Many years later, I asked him about why he was so nasty to the Wings crew that day. He said it was a way he put pressure on himself to win, especially with an amateur crew. He felt bad about it but he always relieved himself of any guilt by winning. I told him I could deal with that. He was a great guy to crew for (after the first time).

Our sport would be more fun if he were still around.

I miss him.

Bob Billingham


Curmudgeon
*** / Moderator

Sep 9, 2009, 3:22 PM

Post #55 of 55 (90621 views)
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In 79, Tom and I met up in Helsinki before heading over to Tallin for the Pre-Olympics. I was racing a Finn and Tom a Star.

Always game for some fun, we new we needed essential supplies and black market trading goods. I had a load of Levi's coming out of the Pan Am games in Puerto Rico and some duty free booze.

I was taking my Van over with one Finn on top and 2 behind. We had plenty of space to stock up and we did. I bankrolled the supplies as Tom made some excuses about not having cash. A typical position he preferred in all negotiations.

A load of magazines was secured, Time, Life, The Economist, Newsweek and others of a more male adult interest nature. A few more bottles of hooch were stashed and we were off on the ferry.

Next was customs in Tallin right in the port, one bottle of cheep scotch was offered up to the chief inspector who was quite intrigued with my rig and
gear- this helped, yet after passing on the serious magazines with SALT2 talks on the covers - old cold war stuff between Jimmy Carter and Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev. He found all the smutt in the mattress and took it- I protested as these were our tickets to the black market trading bonanza in the forest that we crossed on the way to the cafeteria. Soon A deal was struck to pick them up in 24 hours after "quarantine"

Being one to like a good joke and plenty of laughs, Tom soon wanted a bottle of Scotch for his personal use. We cut a deal and the Black label was his...A day later, I went into his room to play some practical jokes, we had all the magazines back and business was good, we were piling up the Rubles.
Having a set of WEST epoxy resins and some super glues in my tool boxes, I glued the scotch bottle to the desk and glued the cap on and glued his closet and all his drawers shut. A few hours later I followed him like a Russian spy back to the dorm. He had punched a hole in the top of the bottle and was using a straw to get a drink and was mad as a cat on a hot tin roof trying to open his drawers!!

He put 2 and 2 together and chased me down later that night, soon we had made up, laughed..

Tom devised a plan to use some duct tape and some of the pin ups from the magazines in the morning to get the guards all wound up. We spent most of our free time on practical jokes and black market sales- money was used for Champagne and Caviar purchases--these products were needed to entertain the locals... ( adult magazines were very much banned in the Soviet empire- so quite valuable) In the morning we woke up John Bertrand (US), he was needed to stand on my shoulders in the stairways, we then plastered the walls as high up as we could reach.. - figure 12-14 feet up in the mid landing.

Laugh- jeeze we laughed all the way to breakfast- upon our return, a dozen young soldiers fresh from Siberia were all bound up trying to sort out a way to get them down with a big fat General screaming at them..eventually with out a ladder, they used the human pyramid trick .....more laughs as they sorted out who was on the bottom and who was going up, we were in hysterics for days!!! From that day on -Tom and I were bonded together for life...and beyond, And I stopped needing to glue the caps on his Scotch bottles! - Cam Lewis



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