In deference to the 8:30 p.m. kickoff for the big game, the Shakespeare Club met at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 in the parlor of the Methodist Church. Peg and Martin Haffey had made arrangements for the meeting place for the evening. Relevant to nothing at all, Jim Busek, president, reminded the group that, coincidentally, that day would also have marked the 72nd birthday of Elvis. Since time was of the essence, a moment of silence was not observed.
Fully aware of the old adage, "Being forewarned is being forearmed," Jon Ditz put all present on notice that the Skinns have already recycled the hula dancer. She made her second appearance at the Ditz family's Christmas party and Joyce and Jon got her. She is wrapped and ready to make another comeback for the club's gag-gift party next year. The Veiths then whispered that the black wire-mesh bustier lamp is also wrapped and ready for its recycling trip next Christmas. The secretary, however, mentioned that the leg lamp is not going anywhere.
Bob Gentzel then introduced his friend and fellow boater, Jeff Huber, the evening's speaker. Huber, a member of the Great Lakes Historical Society, had given several programs on "The Mystery of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and Gentzel felt that such a mystery would pique the interest of the club members. He was right. Huber, using slides, gave historical background as he told the story of the doomed Fitzgerald along with its sister ship, the Anderson, both of which had left the ore docks, fully loaded and heading out onto Lake Superior on a cold November day in 1975.
The Anderson, under Captain Cooper, had headed out ahead of the Fitzgerald while the Fitzgerald, with Captain Earnest McSorley at the helm, was following about 10 nautical miles to the rear. When built, in 1958, the Fitzgerald was welded together and was deemed to be state-of-the-art in ship building. Shortly after leaving the dock, the ships found themselves heading into a low pressure system bringing with it ugly weather and what would prove to be "the perfect storm."
At one point, the Fitzgerald had passed the Anderson and was in the lead but, in the fog and foul weather, the crew of the Anderson had lost any sight of the Fitzgerald. McSorley radioed to Cooper that his ship's entire radar system was out. The plan was that both ships should hug the north shore and seek safe harbor in Whitefish Bay. They were facing a swell of 35 feet with 80 miles per hour gale winds. Cooper warned McSorley to avoid treacherous shoals in the area. Both ships were pitching wildly and they were 35 miles from safety. The last words radioed to the Anderson from the Fitzgerald were "We are holding our own." And then, in what was later assumed to be a matter of 10 seconds, the ill-fated state-of-the-art Fitzgerald went down.
The best guess, garnered from divers studying the wreckage, is that the ship had bottomed out and on a bleak Nov. 10, 1975, all 739 feet nose-dived into 530 feet of icy-cold water. The impact of the bow smashing into the lake's floor had broken the ship into two pieces and claimed the lives of all 29 crew members. Years later, a body was discovered. The ship's bell has been retrieved but mysteries remain as to why, when found, the door of the pilot house was locked in the open position, leaving everyone to wonder how strange that would be considering the stormy conditions under which the ship was sailing. The Anderson, realizing the fate of its sister ship, had circled around and searched for survivors but to no avail.
Sue and Jim Kasten, Marian and Dave Schild and Virginia and Carroll Poling then invited everyone to join them for a tailgate party to end all tailgate parties. With paper plates shaped and marked off as football fields and napkins featuring caricatures of referees, the tailgaters enjoyed Reubans, miniature roast beef sandwiches, pumpernickel bread and spinach dip, chips and salsa, chicken strips, broccoli and pasta salads, fruit kebobs, cookies, buckeyes, and wash tubs chock full of ice and filled with root beer and cream soda. Tailgating in the church parlor had to be a first. Fortunately, the celebrating all took place in the hopeful atmosphere of pre-game bliss. For those who hurried home to watch the game, it soon became obvious a wake would have been in order. However, we still claim bragging rights for the OSU marching band.
The club will meet again Feb. 12 at the Gerken Center with Ann Blackwood presenting the program.