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Zan Thompson

Beverly Hills Jocks Return With Support

November 08, 1987|ZAN THOMPSON

A breakthrough far more important than opening the Jonathan Club and California Club to women happened in Avalon on Catalina Island on Oct. 17. While the belligerent women were crowing about riding in the main elevators in those two lofty men's clubs, they were missing the real leap forward for equality. For the first time in 40 years, women were invited to attend the gathering of the Beverly Hills High School Athletic Supporters Society meeting 26 miles across the sea beside the bay.

The Athletic Supporters Society is the, well, supporting body of the Jocks Olympics in which former Beverly Hills High Norman athletes meet for a day of golf, tennis, the basketball throw, a 5K run and a putting contest, followed by the awarding of trophies, 8-inch-high miniature bronzed athletic supporters on imposing bases.

As the years go by, the putting contest and the basketball throw have more entrants than the run or tennis. But the important thing is that there are 800 members, many of whom march proudly behind the Jocks' Olympics orange-and-white banner.

Membership is limited to classes and team members of the '30s and '40s. When later classes want to take part, the kindest thing they say about the Athletic Supporters Society is that they are old fuddy-duddies. That's true, but it's their club, and Justin McCarthy and Jack Herbst made it up. And if the younger fellows want to take part, let them start their own organization.

And with membership approaching the 1,000 mark, it takes a year's hard work to put an Olympics together. These creaky and proud jocks share another bond, World War II. They flew in the skies over Berlin and Tokyo, hit the beaches in the Pacific and at least one or more of their members participated in every military engagement in that war. Another bond is their devotion to their coach, Sax Elliot, who left his mark of fair play and going the extra mile on every one of these Beverly boys.

The 40th reunion and the first to which the Beverly girls received their own invitations began with opening ceremonies in the theater at the Casino, which has been polished and shined and refurbished until it looks as it did when the big bands played transcontinental dance music and the girls in the twin sweater sets and the boys in the saddle shoes jitterbugged on that vast dance floor.

Even the mermaid on the front of the Casino has been redone in subtle undersea tones in tile made and set by Richard Keit of Thousand Oaks, who has unearthed the old skills and techniques that made Catalina tile unique.

After the invocation and the welcome by Justin McCarthy, the dynamo who, with his wife, Joanne, does the scut work of finding the jocks and sending out bulletins and updates, the march of the gladiators began.

The members of the Jocks Olympics trotted up--oh, all right, some of them walked carefully--onstage, went to the microphone and gave their names, sports and years.

Harry Wills, class of summer '28, was the senior man on board, looking vigorous and vital. He played varsity football and said, "There were 15 men on the squad and two guys were injured most of the time, any two. We played offense and defense all the way, of course. Through the inspiration of my coach and my fellow players, we went 0 for 8."

It wasn't until my senior year at Beverly that I knew there was any yell but "Block that kick." I felt so sorry for the poor, tired football players and I didn't even know what they were trying to do.

Harry Wills, who in 1928 was the first student body president, also played four years of track and field. He ended his remarks by saying, "The coach never told me but I think he felt I peaked when I was about 14 1/2."

Jack Herbst said, "We lost almost all the games in '38 and '39, but we sure had a lot of fun."

After that, the winning years came along and lots of Bay League champions took the microphone and told their stats.

Coach Elliot was there, and the nostalgia and warmth in that great auditorium was as comforting as a C. C. Brown's hot fudge sundae.

Then we had a barbecue at Descanso Beach and, later, the Benny Goodman arrangement of "Let's Dance" opened the evening at the Casino. "In the Mood," "Little Brown Jug," "Green Eyes," "Have You Met Miss Jones"--all the melodies you danced to while the three-gardenia corsage on your shoulder sent up the sweet perfume of youth and romance led the Athletic Supporters and their dates out onto the floor until "Good Night, Ladies" and "I'll See You in My Dreams."

It was a day and a night of fun and memories, which buffed the edges off any sadness. I even remembered geometry, not with enthusiasm, but at least not with blithering fear.

I saw Sugarlump Morgan, '42, tall, stalwart and funny as ever. And I met his wife, Mickey, for the first time and liked her a lot. That alone made the trip pure gold. That isn't always true, you know, that everyone automatically likes the spouse chosen by a best friend.

Superior Court judges, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, it didn't make any difference. For 24 hours we were all just Beverly Brats wearing the orange and white and singing the Fight Song that Washington State stole from us.

Let's hear it once more for Justin and Joanne and Jack, who did it once more for the Jocks.

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