Fresh . . in the USA-ay

Fresh from the City of Sin and Laughter (Harrismith, Free State, South Africa – you didn’t know?), where I’d spent my first seventeen years, I arrived in New York with Great Expectations.

I was READY – more than ready! – to see the big wide world. After landing we – the gang of Southern African Rotary Exchange students -were bused to a hotel in Queens. Someone – a Rotarian, I guess? – checked us in and then left us to go to bed for the night. Early the next morning we’d be boarding different planes to the various states we’d been assigned to.

Go to bed?! Fuhgeddaboudit!

But most did! I was horrified. “Excuse me, no WAY I’m going to bed. I’m in New York, the city that never sleeps!”. Even in Harrismith, Free State, South Africa I would not have wanted to go to bed in case the Holiday Inn was still open! Only one other guy – was he Gary or was he heading to Gary, Indiana, it’s so long ago now? – joined me and we went to the night porter. “Right! Where can we go for a night on the town, sir? We want to go for a walk, which way shall we head?”
Oh, I wouldn’t advise you did that, he drawled, I’ll get the hotel bus to take you someplace.

So off we went, noses plastered against the windows, fascinated. Our personal chauffeur dropped us off at a brightly-lit truck stop and asked when we wanted to be fetched. “Three Ay Emm” we said, pushing our luck. Check, he said without blinking. So we sat and watched a New York night go by drinking beer and slowly eating a burger n fries till he fetched us as arranged. So on our first night in wildest New York in a dodgy area we’d been warned about . . nothing happened.

After three hours sleep, we were taken back to JFK where we split up. Some of us boarded that huge NY Airways Sikorsky helicopter in the pic for the hop over to La Guardia airport from where I’d be going on to Chicago’s O’Hare airport and thence to Oklahoma City – and adventure! My late night truckstop friend was headed for Indiana – that’s him bustling to the chopper in the top picture.

Sikorsky chopper JFK airport 1973
Inside the 30-seater Sikorsky chopper

In Oklahoma my nearby exchange student colleagues were Evelyn Woodhouse from Durban, hosted by Fort Cobb, Helen Worswick from Marondellas in Zimbabwe, Jenny Carter from Bromley in Zimbabwe. They were in Mountain View and Carnegie. All bustling metropoli like Apache!

Also Jonathan Kneebone from Australia. And then there was the delightful Dotty Moffett from Ardmore in Oklahoma, who had been to Cape Town, South Africa with Rotary the year before.

Dayne & Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick, Jenny Carter, Jonathan Kneebone, Evelyn Woodhouse, Robbie Swanda at Wichita Mountains Preserve
Dayne & Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick (Zimbabwe), Jenny Carter (Zimbabwe), Jonathan Kneebone (Australia), Evelyn Woodhouse (South Africa), Robbie Swanda at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Preserve

We all met at a festive gathering of Rotary students in Oklahoma and then visited each other’s towns whenever we could.

Football Turnaround – So Glad You Left!

I played football in Apache Oklahoma in 1973 for the Apache Warriors. I was a warrior!

– Apache Football Team 1973 – I was No. 47 – and surplus to requirements –

The coaches did their best to bring this African up to speed on the rules and objectives of gridiron. No, you can’t take your spear, they said. KIDDING!! We played two pre-season warm-up games followed by five league games. And lost all seven encounters!

Myself I was kinda lost on the field, what without me specs! So here’s me: Myopically peering between the bars of the unfamiliar helmet at the glare of the night-time spotlights! Hello-o! Occasionally forgetting that I could be tackled or ‘blocked’ even if the ball was way on the other side of the field! They decided to play me more on the defense squad, less on offense, which makes sense when you don’t know what you’re doing. Then for some reason, I was also on the punt-receiving squad.

At that point I thought: Five more weeks in America, five more games in the season, football practice four days a week, game nights on Fridays. I wanted out! There was so much I still wanted to do in Oklahoma and in preparing for the trip home. I went up to Coach with trepidation and told him I wanted to quit football. Well, he wasn’t pleased, but he was gracious.

We were a small team and he needed every available man, how would they manage without me?

By winning every single one of the last remaining five games, that’s how!!

Our coach Rick Hulett won the Most Improved Coach Award and the team ended up with one of their best seasons for years!

I like to think the turnaround was in some small way helped by the way I cheered my former team-mates on from the sideline at the remaining Friday night games! But I suspect it was the fire in the belly of my teammates determined to succeed without me!

Apache Football
– much improved since I quit! –

These news cuttings are all post-me!! –

One of the games I cheered was against Mountain View. We beat them 23-7, the third winning game since I quit. That weekend Jenny Carter from Bromley in Zimbabwe, the Rotary exchange student from Mountain View was staying with us at the Swandas. We gave her a hard time at the Friday night game, and Sunday morning for breakfast we framed the Saturday news report of the game and put it on her place at the table!

edit:
I see Apache football has had some great results recently!