Daily Archives: Monday, June 3, 2019

  • And he studied with Robert Frost

    For one semester of my senior year, the great poet, Robert Frost, had a visiting chair in the English Department. That was serendipitous luck. As an English major I was eligible to attend the twice weekly evening meeting with the great man in the Rare Books Room of the Baker Library. None of us ever achieved a personal acquaintance with Mr. Frost, but I did have an advantage for being accepted.

    Here is how it happened. Seniors in English were to compete for the only fifteen students privileged to sit with the master. Each applicant could write a short essay on why he was specially qualified to appreciate the privilege. Mr. Frost would read the essays and choose the winners. I was a successful athlete but an average student. I was pretty sure I would be outgunned by the competition. So I took perhaps the first big chance in life at that time and reverted to guile. This is what I wrote:

    “Dear Mr. Frost:
    You were the guest of my uncle, Dr. George Waterman, on the occasion of your speaking engagement at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach (Uncle George was the President of that society) and you behaved very badly. I think you owe it to me.”

    I will add that I had listened to family gossip about his visit in Palm Beach. Uncle George’s wife, my Aunt Claire, was a tough nut. She kept a cook and demanded punctuality to dinners. Frost was not only egregiously late but occasional didn’t appear at all. Other outrages: he often stayed out until small hours of the morning and used their phone for long-distant calls to his girl friend. Aunt Claire loathed their independent guest. Frost reciprocated (although he honored and appreciated Uncle George, a good and enormously popular gentleman). My act was so brash that I almost drew back from dropping it in the faculty mailbox. But I did, and the call came to meet in his office.

    The next day I found myself facing Mr. Frost in his office. A pair of strikingly blue eyes, as familiar as the warm, humorous country face to most of the literary world, observed me for a few moments. He spoke, “So you are Dr. Waterman’s nephew? What do you think of that wife of his?”

    I had already considered such a question and readied an answer, “She was a World Class, mean and difficult tartar and she scared us all” I answered (taking another big chance).

    He laughed and asserted emphatically, “AGREED!” We both laughed (I with great relief). We topically talked for a few exchanges and he wrapped up the visit, “I’ll see you tomorrow evening. You’re in”.

    During that winter term we sat on the floor in front a big fireplace. Frost sat in a winged chair by the fire. He read to us from new poems he was working on, discussed their structure and composition, at times recited old and popular poems and occasionally took questions from his audience. It was never a structured study. It was just a privilege to be in the presence of literary greatness.

    Over the years I earned my bread partly as a speaker, narrating my 16mm films live on lecture circuits and later – with the advent of video – at seminars. I was frequently introduced effusively with reference to “…and he studied with Robert Frost”. That Dartmouth experience was never a classroom study. But the association with the legendary, enormously popular poet was a big boost.

  • How I Met the Sea Devil

    Lowell Thomas was one of the most successful newscasters on radio during the latter part of the 1930s. On the NBC Prime Time news my father was glued to the radio every week evening. Thomas was already an immensely popular world traveler and writer. He was the first to acquaint a world public with Lawrence of Arabia. He was, as well, the author of many books about heroes and adventurers he personally met in his travels.

    I seem to recall that I first read his story, about Count Felix von Luckner after I returned from World War ll in the late forties. It was entitled, The Sea Devil.It was as page-turner, the rip-roaring adventures of a warrior during the First World War. What distinguished him we was not only the unique and wild success of his combat experiences, but the old world integrity of a true knight’s honor. After the armistice he was not only respected and honored by Germany, the defeated nation, but by his victorious enemies. Only Rommel, the “Desert Fox”, the German general in North Africa, earned that honor after World War ll.

    Thomas had never heard of Felix von Luckner, nor was the name familiar in the U.S.  He first saw the great German hero when they coincidentally awaited different flights in Germany during their travels. He noticed that all the airport personal saluted the tall, broad-shouldered man as he debarked his plane and others crowded around him as they awaited their flights. Thomas inquired his identity and learned that the fellow traveler was non other than the famous sea raider of the recent war, known as The Sea Devil, and the most revered postwar hero in Germany. They chanced to meet and became acquainted at a hotel, again on their travels.  A friendship evolved. Von Luckner, visiting New York, visited with Lowell at his home. There the story of The Sea Devilunfolded.

    Thomas/’s book, With Lawrence in Arabia, published in 1924 (a year after my birthday)  was enormously popular and his best seller. He realized that von Luckner’s story was as exciting, heroic and compelling as the Lawrence of Arabia account.

    When I came across the book I could hardly have dreamed that I would actually meet the great man and have dinner with him and his wife years later. Let me give the reader a very brief outline of Count von Luckner’s adventures.

    Young Felix was born into the German nobility class in 1881. Both father and grandfather were celebrated generals, famous for their commands of the Von Luckner Cavalry. He disappointed his father…

  • Sea Salt

    Sea Salt By Stan Waterman
    Stan Waterman has spent more than half a century in, on and under the sea, and in these pages he takes you with him on the amazing ride he calls his life. There is excitement enough in his encounters with wild animals and weird people to fill a hundred lives and all their fantasies. To cite just one example, have you ever wondered what it would be like to dive in the open ocean with a huge school of certifiably anthropophagous sharks as they gorge on the carcass of a whale … at night? Probably not. But hang on, because when Stan recounts scenes from the filming of the classic 1971 documentary feature film, Blue Water, White Death, you’ll be there beside him, and astonished that anyone lived to tell the tale.

    Sea Salt is far more, however, than just a catalogue of critters and close calls. Stan has a profound rapport with the sea, and his command of language and literature eloquently conveys the depth of his feeling. The thoughtful, graceful writing sets the book a full step above most memoirs about the sea; not only does Stan appreciate good writing — you be pleased to encounter an occasional quote from Joseph Conrad or Henry Beston — but he’ll often turn a phrase or craft a paragraph that could well have come from the pen of a master.

    As you enjoy each grain of Sea Salt, I hope that your richest reward will be a sense of comradeship with the very special man who’s sharing with you the story of his utterly beguiling journey.

    From the dust jacket 

    Ever since donning a Japanese Ama pearl divers’ face mask as a schoolboy in 1936, Stan Waterman dreamed of undersea adventure. After service in World War II and graduation from Dartmouth he was the first in his home state of Maine to purchase and pioneer the new Aqualung underwater breathing system. Casting his sights down Robert Frost’s road less traveled, he abandoned life as a gentleman blueberry farmer, converted a fishing trawler into a charter dive boat and angled the bow toward the Bahamas. It was there, in the 1950’s, during those heady seminal years of underwater discovery that Stan first carried a movie camera underwater. Thus began a globetrotting life of underwater movie making that has entertained and enlightened audiences with a fertile feast of novel images for a half-century.

    For a decade he eked out a living traveling the back roads of America showing his hand-spliced films. In 1965 Stan took his family to live and play in Tahiti. Success was launched when National Geographic purchased rights to their tropical odyssey. A stellar string of ventures followed beginning with his 1968 collaboration with Peter Gimbel on the shark classic Blue Water, White Death. Later he directed underwater photography for the film version of The Deep, followed by ten years of production work with friend Peter Benchley for ABS’s American Sportsman — in the process he garnered five Emmys.

    Sea Salt is the handiwork of a born story teller with a flair for language as stoked with imagery and insight as his films. Liberally sprinkled with humor, verve and singular turns of phrase, his memories and selected writings deftly portray the joys and travails of living a full-bodied life.

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