Green Lake Girls Crew

Terri L. Wade-Bonow

The deep, calm, emerald lake in Seattle so inviting and glass like at certain times was the home for many recreational pursuits for me in my youth. I walked around it, swam in it and rowed my heart out across it. Green Lake is one of Seattle’s most favorite parks. Its expanse of water and green space in the center of a dense urban neighborhood draws many people from all over Seattle. The park serves as a natural preserve for hundreds of species of trees and plants, as well as numerous birds and waterfowl. The 2.8-mile path around the lake provides a perfect recreational spot for rowers, runners, bikers, skaters and walkers. Over the years many people have used the athletic fields or visited the park for boating, picnics and swimming.

The Green Lake small craft center was a favorite spot to hang out and where I developed my athleticism and team spirit in my youth. I joined Green Lake girl’s rowing team with my school friends and sister, Lyn, from 1965-1968. I was fifteen at the time and it was a long walk after attending Roosevelt High School, which was about 1 mile from my home, to Green Lake then another 3 miles west of my house. This occurred 3-5 days a week. Then, daily we would row around the lake 3-5 times practicing rowing techniques and methods for getting strong and in shape. Later, I realized what a daily workout I had. As a strong youth it came naturally to me. No wonder I always asked for one of my school elective to be library so that I could get my studying and homework finished before my rowing commitments, and later my part time job. The enthusiasm of my team mates was palpable and I loved the team effort of pulling a single oar in unison together in a beautiful rhythm on the water. The dipping of the oars, the sound of the locks as we pulled the oar in synchronicity with the delicate insertion of the long oar into the green blue water was a silent prayer to beauty water and physical coordination.

The three boat types that the girls rowed and excelled in were in Pollock boats named a 4 person, an 8 person and a pair which I rowed with my sister. These boats were selected for; and the girls were trained and coached by a great empathizer, and a smart organizer for the team teenage girls, Coach Les. Later through his job at the U.W. Financial Aid Department he was able to get me a grant and loan to attend the University of Washington. The Green Lake team took buses and trains to compete in National rowing events from Lake Merritt in Oakland, to Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. We did well even though as teens we were competing with University women. I remember we had a strong 8 person boat that glided into second place barely missing first. My sister and I came in strong second place in our matched pair. The vigor, athleticism, dedication, responsibility and teamwork that I had learned in these competitions and practices stayed with me for life. The qualities of crew work carried over to helping in my family as a second child of a single divorced mother of 4 daughters, excelling in school to continue on with a BA from the University of Washington in History, and later a Master’s of Library Science from San Jose State University in Fullerton, California. Mothering, marriage and career development also benefited from the experience being a team player in the fantastic sport of crew.

The downside of the sport is that I got a very bad injury from rowing. I had fallen in the 1965 while sliding on cement in the snow in front of my home with a boyfriend. Enjoying a rare snow storm in Seattle, I must have loosened a spinal vertebrae because I went down hard on the ice and cement trying to “ski” in the lovely snow. Then with all the hard pulling of the oars and the incredible athleticism that I accomplished, a disc in my 5 lumbar slipped and bulged against my sciatic nerve. I received a laminectomy or spinal surgery to take out half of my bulging disc and to relieve the nerve pain. When I healed I was able to walk, hike and enjoy swimming and accomplish much ease of movement over my life. Now, however, at 65 years old I suffer from nerve limitation in my left leg and can’t sit for a long time and am becoming limited in my walking ability. This is sad and disheartening as I always have been athletic and enjoy  movement and physical explorations. Senior Sneakers, an exercise class, long walks on the Northern California beaches, and swimming help me stay nimble.

Today, I enjoy watching the various crews in Seattle, and now in Eureka at the Bay where Humboldt State University and Humboldt Bay Rowing Club have members gliding beautifully coordinated team across the large sea water bay. It still brings up joy and a sense of peace watching the athletes row.


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