Saturday, June 25, 2011

From my Grandfather Wee Coyle's Collection

In 1940, Gil Dobie the University of Washington football coach from 1908-1916 with a record of 59-0-3 met with a group of his former Washington players at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle. Making the long trip by train from Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts the event, which was organized by his players, was led by my grandfather, legendary Washington quarterback Wee Coyle (1908-1911).

The event was well-covered by both Seattle newspapers, The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (namely by sportswriter Royal Brougham at the P-I). During his Seattle visit, Dobie met with UW head coach Jim Phelan and toured the campus, as well as Husky Stadium.

Recently while going through boxes of my grandfather’s memorabilia I found the original thank-you letter written by Dobie to my grandfather and an old photo taken at the reunion.

If you are looking for something that shows the affection the 'old gang' had for their coach and he for them, this is it. He (Dobie) takes a train clear across the country to see his 'boys,' and those same 'boys' have organized a reunion for their coach some twenty years after they played for him. Why? Because on those dark and stormy nights as he drove them to exhaustion on the practice field, every one of them thought about quitting, for they didn't think they could live up to his severe demands. But they didn't quit (including the ones who didn't even letter), and eventually, they found themselves, ordinary guys from various backwater cities in the northwest, with the best records of any of the teams that ever played college football. That's what instills character in a man; the point being that when you are ready to quit, for some reason there is one last thread that is holding your will together and you just won't let it break. And once you have fought off those of moments of doubt, you will fight to win, especially when you have a man like Gil Dobie driving you towards excellence.

Also, see the adventures of Wee Coyle) from Rich Linde’s website

Will Lomen

Left to right: Maxwell Eakins, Gilmour Dobie, Wee Coyle

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Adventures of Wee Coyle - Chapter I

I have been asked by Rich Linde, the author of the (mostly) football Husky website, to write a memoir about by grandfather William Jennings "Wee" Coyle who quarterbacked the University of Washington football team from 1908 to 1911. During those years, coached by the legendary Gil Dobie, the football team's record was 26 - 0 - 1 with their only blemish a 6 - 6 tie against their in-state rival the Washington State Cougars in 1908. Also, Wee Coyle may have been the only starting quarterback in college football history to go undefeated for four years.
Inducted into the University of Washington's Husky Hall of Fame in 1980, he was honored for earning eight letters (four in football, three in baseball and one in track and field) which is more than any other athlete in the school's history. During World War I he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism" in action on July 9, 1918 near Cheppy, France. Also, he served as Lieutenant Governor of Washington State from 1921-1925 and then managed the Seattle Civic Auditorium for 25 years. In 2009 he was posthumously inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame.
The recollections I have of the stories my grandfather told my brother Terry and me are the basis for this family memoir. I don't know how long it will last but this is a start. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed hearing about it.

The Adventures of Wee Coyle: Chapter I
by Will Lomen 

Growing up in Seattle
On April 25 1889, William John Coyle and his wife Mary Kate Jennings Coyle arrived in Seattle, Washington from Sutter Creek, California, with their two sons Frank, age three, and my grandfather, William Jennings ("Wee") Coyle, who was just fifteen weeks old. They settled into a house on Broadway and Terrace on Seattle’s First Hill. Six weeks later on June 6, 1889, a fire ignited in a cabinet-making shop near Front Street (now 1st Avenue) and Madison Street. The Coyle’s had a “ringside seat” as they ate lunch and watched the Great Fire destroy thirty blocks of downtown Seattle.

My grandfather always told my brother Terry and me that he watched the fire from “Profanity Hill”, so-called because of the language lawyers would use as they made the long hike up the hill from their downtown legal offices to the King County Courthouse on 7th Ave, between Terrace and Alder Streets. Then he would smile and say, “Actually I don’t remember it because I was too young but my brother Frank remembers it.”

Midst a setting of boom town energy, William Coyle set up shop as a mining-equipment machinist, and helped rebuild the city. Meanwhile young Frank and his little brother Willie ran the streets of “Profanity Hill” while attending Pacific School on 12th and Jefferson, the current site of the Seattle University Women’s softball team.

As little Willie honed his speed, which would serve him well in his future athletic endeavors at Seattle High School and the University of Washington, the neighborhood bully, a girl named Maureen, gave him a nickname that he would carry, in abbreviated form, for the rest of his life. As with most bullies, their first prey is the neighborhood’s smallest -- but, in Willie’s case, he was also the fastest. As the days passed and little Willie ran rings around the very large but very slow Maureen, she became increasingly mad and frustrated. This left her with only one way to save face, another weapon in a bully’s arsenal: name-calling. One day Maureen screamed at the elusive Willie, “You’re a little wee wee! You’re a little wee wee!” I don’t know whether my grandfather had a clever retort but the name stuck, and he carried the shortened version “Wee,” with pride, for the next eighty-plus years. As he grew in stature (to 5’10” and 150 pounds), he kept his speed and translated his elusiveness into skills that were ideal for a running quarterback, a ground-covering centerfielder, a swift track runner and a quick and crafty basketball guard.

One day as Wee and his brother Frank left a confectionary shop on Madison Street, they were suddenly confronted by Maureen. She was flanked by two shorter boys, one wearing overalls and the other with a large nose and a bulging Adams apple. They sensed blood. Maureen smiled devilishly, thinking she had Wee trapped.

Immediately he extended his paper bag of sweets. “Hi, Maureen, want some candy?” her quick-thinking nemesis said.

Being no different than any other kid, she peered down at Wee and his brown bag, probably thinking she could pound him into the ground after she took his candy. “What do you have in there?” she asked.

“Peppermint sticks,” said Wee, “help yourself.”

Maureen reached into Wee’s bag and took out a white peppermint stick colored in a red spiral design. She stuck it in her mouth and licked it.

“Good, huh,” said Wee as he inspected his large adversary.

“Mmm,” she uttered, sizing him up carefully.

He noted her large floral dress and the single yellow ribbon tied in a bow just above her forehead.

“You look real nice today,” said young Willie. “That’s a pretty ribbon.” Next to him Frank shifted uneasily, most likely staring at him in disbelief.

Maureen’s eyes narrowed, then her demeanor relaxed as Wee continued staring at her earnestly. “My mother told me it would look pretty,” she said.

Young Willie nodded. “Your mother was right,” he said amicably.

Her two partners hadn’t considered that anything could make their large leader look pretty but they knew better than to contradict whatever mush Wee Coyle was serving. As if they were going to say, “He’s lying Maureen, the ribbon makes you look ridiculous!”

Maureen dipped her head demurely, never before having received a compliment on her appearance from those not close around her, like family members and the like.

Realizing that his younger brother’s line of baloney would be short-lived, Frank took Wee’s elbow and moved around the threesome. “Yah, you look great Maureen,” he said. “But we’ve got to get home in a hurry or we’ll get in trouble. Nice seeing you.”

Still paralyzed from Wee’s compliments, Maureen and her pals let the Coyle brothers pass by.

Immediately, they began to sprint up Madison Street. “Thanks for the candy,” Maureen yelled after them.
Wee raised the brown bag over his head and called back. “You’re welcome, Maureen, see you later.”

In 1897 Seattle’s population had grown to 65,000, including movers and shakers like Joshua Green (Mosquito Fleet); bank owner, Jacob Furth, president of Seattle National Bank; James Lowman, the owner of the city’s leading stationery store; Eugene Semple, former territorial governor; and John McDougall of the department store McDougall and Southwick, all building large, homes on First Hill.

However, unaware of their neighbors' financial standing, Wee and Frank would run past the impressive mansions each day with barely a blink. With nickels clutched in their fists, earned from a day of doing chores for their neighbor Mrs. Hamill or weeding Mrs. Langdon’s garden or running errands for Mrs. Ullman, the boys headed for a streetcar that would take them to the adventurous parts of the city. Taking the cable car down James Street, they could transfer to the First Avenue Line for a trip to the end of Pike Street where vendors gathered daily, forming the basis for the future Public Market. Here vendors sold exotic toys and knick knacks, and the boys could have lunch for 2 Cents at the fish monger’s shop. If they felt like taking a longer trip, they could continue part way up Queen Anne Hill and climb trees in Kinnear Park.

On other days they took The Broadway Line that went north from Mill Street (Yesler St.) and meandered through Capitol Hill to the west side of City Park (to be named Volunteer Park) and Lake View Cemetery. Sneaking under the fence and looking at all the tombstones could be as spooky as either of the boys wanted to play it. One day Frank snuck behind a large stone tombstone that read: MAYNARD and said in a long drawn out moan, “Willie, I think this place is haunted; I sure hope we don’t get stuck in here tonight.” Crouching low he continued crawling across the freshly cut grass. Glancing around the cemetery in the fading sun light, Willie suddenly realized his brother was nowhere around and, in spite of himself, he felt a shiver run down his back, his eyes widening. “Frank, stop it,” he said. “I know you’re around here. Come on, stop hiding.” Then gradually the moaning increased into a howl and Willie called, “Frank stop it; you’re scaring me!” Knowing it was time to end the charade, Frank popped up from behind another tombstone which read; HORTON and exclaimed. “Boo!” Willie jumped a foot, then stared at his older brother in relief. Smiling, he exclaimed, “You rat, I’m going to get you!” Frank laughed then took off running for the opening in the fence. Willie followed in hot pursuit but couldn’t catch him, for his brother was also swift afoot.

On special days the Coyle family would dress up and take the Yesler Line to Leschi Park, where they would listen to the band or look at the animals at the small menagerie that the cable car company had developed. Frank and Willie looked at the enormous Taylor sawmill to the south and told their father it looked like a fun place to work. William Coyle took a long look at the ramshackle structure then turned to his sons. “You don’t want to work there boys. I know a man who worked there and got his hand cut off.” The two brothers stared at each other and grimaced, immediately revising their career desires and expectant opportunities.

One day after school, when Wee was ten years old, he took the East Madison Line cable car to Madison Park and Lake Washington with his Pacific Elementary School mate Ralph “Penny” Westover. Frank was off playing with his older friends, and Wee and Penny looked forward to exploring the Amusement Park and the surrounding woods, without a lot of the grownups around who visited on the weekends. A mile from Madison Park the cable car reached the bottom of Madison Street, and the boys leaned out of the street car anticipating the thrill of passing over the trestle that spanned Madison Valley and the salmon stream down below. On both sides of the tracks were thick forests that stretched north to Union Bay and south and over the top of Madrona Hill.

“I wonder if we could shoot a bear down there,” Penny called over the clickety-clack of the street car wheels.

Wee hustled over to the open window and stared into the thick, green woods. “Yah,” he said with a smile, “Or maybe we could track down some wolves.” As they crossed the wooden bridge, Wee pointed down at the river that flowed towards Union Bay. “My father caught a fish down there once and we ate it for dinner.”

Penny stared down at the flowing river, then looked at his pal. “You never told me about that. What kind of fish?”

“It was a salmon,” said Wee. “And my mother cleaned it and she cooked it in her oven at home.”
Finally, Penny knitted his brow and pursed his lips. “Hey, the next time your father goes fishing we should go with him.”

Wee nodded immediately and said, “OK and maybe we could camp out too.”

The boys reached the end of the line at Judge J.J. McGilvra’s 21-acre site, which was bisected into north and south sections by Madison Street all the way to Lake Washington. On the north side was a football field and the “Madison Street Ball Park”, Seattle’s first baseball field, a crude diamond built in 1890.

Willie glanced over his shoulder and could see a group of boys playing football on the crisp fall day. However, Penny and he were headed for the south side and the “Amusement Park” where a large Victorian structure on the Lake, known as the Madison Street Park Pavilion, was located. Also occupying the site was an ornate boathouse, piers jutting out into the lake, a lake side wooden promenade, a beer hall and twin bandstands with seating for a thousand people . The boys each purchased a bottle of sarsaparilla and wandered south toward the woods surrounding Judge McGilvra’s mansion at Laurel Shade.

Hustling back to the cable car an hour later, the two pals could see that the boys were still playing football. Wee and Penny noted that the boys were bigger than them but it didn’t stop Wee from calling out. “Can we play football with you?”

The older boys stopped their scrimmaging for a moment and looked at the short ten-year old with his dungarees flapping around his ankles. “Come back when you get bigger “short pants,” one of them said with a laugh.

Wee and Penny stared at the older boys for a moment then trudged away toward the street car stop. After a few moments, Wee stopped and turned back toward the field and yelled. “My name’s not short pants; it’s Wee Coyle!” Penny stared at his friend briefly then followed up with, “And my name’s Penny Westover!”

The bigger boys continued playing, not having heard the boys or even caring.

The two friends fell in next to each other with a little more spring in their step. “Wee sounds better than shorty anyway,” said Penny.

Wee put his arm around his friend’s shoulder and grinned. Then his eyes narrowed and he said, “Someday I’m going to play football on that field.”

Eight years later, on January 1, 1907, junior quarterback William Jennings "Wee" Coyle stepped confidently into the huddle on that same muddy Madison Park field, grinned slightly and stared at his Seattle High School teammates. “This is it boys. There’s less than a minute left and we’re not going to get any second chances. Those fellows from Chicago think they’ve won the National Championship but I know they haven’t. Are you ready?” His focused gaze took in each of his teammates and unanimously they muttered and grumbled with agreement and belief at what their captain had just said. “All right,” he said with conviction, “thirty-four cross buck on two.” As the Seattle eleven broke the huddle eight thousand hometown fans, who surrounded the field and packed into the overflowing stands, rose as one and let out a booming roar for their local boys. Wee slapped his fullback Penny Westover on the shoulder and the Seattle High School eleven marched resolutely toward the scrimmage line, dug in and prepared their march for the North Division Wolves’ goal line seventy-four yards away.

Friday, February 11, 2011

REVIEW - Gilmour Dobie: Pursuit of Perfection

In a post I wrote on November 21, 2010 I mentioned a book I had read about in The Seattle Times titled, Gilmour Dobie: Pursuit of Perfection. The book had caught my eye because Gil Dobie was my grandfather William J. "Wee" Coyle's football coach at the University of Washington for four years from 1908 to 1911. During that time and until the end of the 1916 season Dobie's teams were undefeated until he was forced out after a Machiavellian conflict with the school's president Henry Suzzallo. The book promised not only individual and sports drama but also political intrigue; a promising combination of themes.

After purchasing several of the books for Christmas presents I read it myself and posted the following review on


The University of Washington football team’s record one hundred years ago is similar to that age old question: If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Since very few people know that the U of W was undefeated for nine straight years, a long time ago, does that mean it didn’t happen? The answer is an emphatic NO because the answer to that age old rhetorical question has now been provided by Lynn Borland in his heavily researched, historic, psychological book titled, Gilmour Dobie: Pursuit of Perfection.

Borland’s writing covers every game that Dobie coached at Washington from 1908 to 1916 which resulted in a national collegiate record of 59-0-3 that has never been broken! Borland has a unique way of making each game an individual example of Dobie’s genius. It’s one thing to be a coach but it is another thing to be a master tactician and motivator of single minded young men in game after game, season after season. In his final years at Washington there were people in high places who took Dobie’s record for granted and his leaving in 1916 could have been taken from today’s headlines.

Dobie’s teams didn’t dazzle their opponents with a myriad of fancy plays and trickery. His style, honed in his closed practices where he would drill his team mercilessly with endless repetition, was to use a minimum of plays that were executed to perfection. From the first snap on game day his team would begin the process of grinding the other team down with either perfectly performed off-tackle runs or the relentless pursuit and submission of any foe carrying a football. By the fourth quarter Dobie’s well-conditioned lads had the other team frustrated and exhausted as the Huskies continued their march down the field.

Even though "Gloomy Gil" predicted disaster to his players prior to every game, Borland has found a way to make the coach’s latest psychological ploy seem different than the one he used on the team the week before. Dobie’s greatest fear was of his players overconfidence or thinking of themselves instead of the team and he was an expert at humbling a cocky young man whom he would demote to the second team but would reassign to the varsity on game day.

Instead of reprinting individual articles from Seattle papers that promoted Dobie’s coaching genius, followed by rebuttals from the East negating Dobie's skills while at the same time promoting their legends; Stagg, Rockne, Warner etc., Borland has combined the individual game accounts into one coherent and linear text. This total narrative puts Dobie’s career in the proper context which provides evidence that the man deserved to be included with the greatest coaches ever. This also gives credence to the U of W's claims of having teams that could compete with any of the highly publicized teams of the East. In 1941 Dobie chose his 1909 team, quarterbacked by my grandfather William J. “Wee” Coyle, as his “all-time greatest” and this included two national championship teams he coached at Cornell. Borland documents Dobie’s continued success from 1917 to 1938 at Navy, Cornell and Boston College and continues to delve into the unique occurrences that shaped a unique man.

One feeling that is consistent throughout the book is the obvious respect and love the young men had for their coach who was a father figure and a man for whom they would reach deep inside themselves on a muddy field, in the fourth quarter and the undefeated streak on the line. Obviously the young men of Washington were positively influenced by Gil Dobie and they held that memory in a special part of their heart for the rest of their lives. I know my grandfather did as, with a peaceful smile, he told his grandsons about a special time in his life.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

McCrohan/Lomen Timeline

Everybody talks about writing a family history and everybody has boxes of family documents, photographs, letters and scrapbooks that are in no particular order. The boxes are sitting in the garage, basement or attic getting mustier every year as all the good intentions are talked and thought about but on which are rarely acted. During the holidays and family get-togethers we all talk about getting all of that family stuff organized before next year but suddenly it is a year later and the boxes haven't moved.

In 1990 Gwynne called me at work and told me a lady named Dawn Arrowsmith had just called and identified herself as my half-sister and that she was a twin to a sister named Dianne. Gwynne was giving me a "heads up" and wanted to know if I wanted to call the lady back. I thought back to 1987 when my cousin Margot Hill had arranged a meeting between my half-brother Chris Lomen and me. Born in 1960 Chris and I shared the same father (Jerry Lomen) but it was from a marriage of which I wasn't aware since my mother and father had divorced in 1953. My mother gained custody of my brother Terry and me and I hadn't laid eyes on my father since. My father had had a reputation of a guy who "got around", had a wicked smile and a way with the ladies. Chris is a good guy and we hit it off. It was interesting to hear things about my father although there wasn't anything that made me fell like I had missed much my not having him around as my brother and I grew up. 

Our mother Rosanne took us to our first Little League baseball and football practices, encouraged us to go to camp, read to us at night, took us to church, volunteered for the P.T.A., helped us with our homework, played catch with us, swatted us on the butt now and then, taught us how to drive a stick-shift 1951 four-door Studebaker and didn't encourage any guys to be hanging around the house checking out her good looks and direct charm. In other words Terry and I didn't much miss not having a dad around. True, mom "threw like a girl", we couldn't tackle her and I don't ever remember her giving me the "birds and the bees" talk but she was there for all of the important stuff. She never missed a football or baseball game or a cross country or track and field meet from when we were in grade school to seniors at Garfield High School. One summer I remember her being nailed at least three times by foul balls and wild pitches and she had the black and blue bruises to prove it. It was comforting being on a field or a track and looking up into the stands and seeing her there lending support for our next play or before the start of a race.

Knowing my father's reputation I wasn't surprised that I might have other siblings and I automatically believed that Dawn and Dianne were my sisters. Finding out I had two sisters was exciting and the conversation I had with Dawn a few minutes later started out with her answering the phone and me saying, "Hey sis' it's your little brother Will. Where have you been all these years?" She told me about a relationship my father and her mother Irene May had had in Alaska that resulted in the birth of she and her sister Dianne on July 23, 1941. Dawn and I had a nice chat and shortly after, she and Dianne visited Gwynne, Caitlin, Charlotte and I at our house in Seattle along with Chris and his wife Vicky and we had a good time sharing stories and getting to know each other. Over the years we have traded birthday and Christmas cards, organized a family reunion at Hood Canal and just generally kept in touch talking about our families and other normal brother and sister stuff. Dawn is married to a great fellow named Roland Reiss, they live in Los Angeles and have grown children and grandchildren and Dianne lives in Vancouver, Wa. with another great husband Rod Keely and they also have children and grand kids. Another person at that Hood Canal reunion was Geri (Gerene) Shafer another half-sister who tracked me down in 2000 and guess what, she's married to a terrific guy named Roger, they live in Dubuque, Iowa and they also have kids and grand kids. Geri's mother Muriel and my father Jerry married May 12, 1943 in Fairbanks, Alaska and Geri was born October 10, 1944 and were diviorced a few years later. So in the space of ten years I gained one younger brother and three older sisters and a whole bunch of extra in-laws, cousins, nephews and nieces. 

It's comforting knowing there are good people out there who share at least one of the same parents with you. I've wondered what it would have been like to grow up with brothers and sisters in a larger family. Along with my brother Terry who was two years younger than me there would have been Dawn and Dianne who are six years older, Geri who is three years older and Chris who is thirteen years younger. I'm sure it would been very interesting and exciting. It would have been cool having all the older guys hanging around the house visiting our older sisters.

I mentioned my cousin Margot earlier and she and her sister Maryel (Mary Elizabeth) are the daughters of my dad's older sister Rosemary. Margot is nine years older than me and Maryel is five years older. They both have families in Seattle, with whom we stay in regular contact, and we all get together every Easter at one of their homes. That yearly event has graduated from a group numbering in the teens to an event with grandpas, grandmas, mothers, fathers, kids, nieces, nephews, husbands, wives and cousins now numbering in the high twenties.

When we have the Easter potluck at Margot's some of the adults inevitably end up in her back hall asking questions about all of her relatives photographs hanging on the wall. They include her husband Tim Hill's relatives also and she pauses as she remembers each name along with some pertinent information as to how they connect with the Lomen's, David's, Hill's or Weaver's (my paternal grandmother Vella's maiden name). At some point I may mention or maybe I've always kept it to myself but I've often thought, "There should be some McCrohan's up here too." Who are the McCrohan's you may wonder? Well if the 1918 national flu epidemic hadn't killed Frank J. McCrohan on December 19, 1918 in Nelson, B.C., Canada then the Lomen name would never have been connected to his wife Vella Vernell Weaver McCrohan, daughter Rosemary McCrohan and son Francis (Jerry) McCrohan. Frank's death certificate indicates that he died at the age of 33 of an "Embolism in the Main" which is a blockage of the main artery of the lung by something such as a blood clot. Apparently his father, Eugene McCrohan who lived in Whitby, Ontario outside Toronto either was with him when he died or handled the identification and the burial of his son in Nelson, B.C. which is 150 miles north of Spokane, Wa. on the extreme West Arm of Kootenay Lake in southern British Columbia.

After her husband Frank McCrohan died it was understood that Vella would move from Nelson, B.C. to Whitby, Ontario and live with the McCrohan family. I don't know the family relationship as to if she felt comfortable with that arrangement or being an American citizen she definitely wanted to get back to her roots in Pendleton, Oregon or what, but soon after Frank's death she received a letter from a former suitor Ralph Lomen. Family lore says that in the letter Ralph sympathized with her husband's death then told her that if she was interested she could use the enclosed train ticket for Spokane, Washington and meet him at the Davenport Hotel. I don't know if Rosemary and Jerry went with her but Vella met Ralph in Spokane and they must have rekindled their former relationship because they were married March 12, 1919.

I know my briefly recounted history is getting confusing and that is usually what happens as we all stand in Margot's back hall trying to connect dates and names and faces as each year everything gets a little hazier and harder to remember. Last Easter someone mentioned that we needed a family Timeline to keep track of where everyone came from and where they have been. That idea stuck in my brain when an event that I had hoped for for many years crystallized into a reality; Margot and Maryel wanted to meet my sisters Dawn, Dianne and Geri. They had already met Chris but my cousins wanted us all to get together so that we could share all the names, dates, photographs and memories we had accumulated over the years. The date was set for December 4, 2010 for lunch at Margot's and I knew that I now had the motivation for a family Timeline.

At that point I started taking notes, organizing family memorabilia and planning how to set up and create the Timeline. Finally Dawn and Dianne came to town staying at the Foxglove Bed and Breakfast on Capitol Hill, Chris arrived at our house from Spokane but Geri was unable to attend because of previous family commitments.She wanted to be here very much and stayed in touch by phone to get all the details. The lunch with Chris, Dawn, Dianne, Margot, Maryel and myself was also attended by Margot's husband Tim and my wife Gwynne. Gwynne was there because she has been with me for the entire family adventure and has a terrific memory for names and dates and Tim was our official photographer who recorded the event.

After eating a terrific meal, highlighted by a unique and very tasty soup Margot adapted from the 1982 edition of "The Silver Palate Cookbook". (Recipe included below:) we all just sat around the Hill's dining room table and got to know each other. We shared the photographs we had brought and the memories we had of the man with whom we all had something in common: Francis (Jerry) Lomen. To Margot and Maryel he was the favorite uncle who would show up unannounced from some exotic location with stories and laughter; to Chris he was a gruff father who grew sick and died when he was thirteen; to Dawn and Dianne he was a name in their mother's Baby Book; and to Will he was a man who was a shadowy figure standing on a hill at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery overlooking his youngest son Terry's funeral.

As we laughed and talked I marveled at the normalcy of the get-together; brothers, sisters and cousins just chatting away as if we had all known each other for our whole lives. We all have physical and personality similarities and looking at the old black and white photographs those similarities are also apparent: mouths, eyes, noses, smiles and stature. A photograph of Vella who looked to be in her twenties could be Dianne except for the sepia colors, high button shoes, ankle length woolen skirt and the high-necked lace blouse. I took a lot of notes and began to form my plan for the Timeline.

One of my prime inspirations for a record of our family was a book of which I had been aware since I was a teenager. Written by Judge Gudbrand J. Lomen and titled: Genealogies of the Lomen, Brandt and Joys Families the book was an exhaustive 361 page record of three families who had roots in Norway going back to the 1600's and their subsequent lives in Norway to their immigration to America. The Lomen family travelled to Minnesota and put down roots in St. Paul with Judge Lomen, identified in the book as G.J., eventually moving his family to Nome, Alaska to pursue business interests. Judge Lomen had started the family project before his family moved to Nome but he stayed in contact with principals at the Mohn Printing Company in Northfield, Minnesota who eventually published the family history in 1929.

The book is filled with black and white photographs of stolid looking, unsmiling men some of whom are in uniform and women with medium cut hair and pearl necklaces resting on formal dresses and children in sleeveless blouses and Sunday formal wear and bow ties. Last names like: Hjelle, Botne, Evenson, Fauske, Berentsen, Odegaard and Andersen serve to remind me of one thing; I am related to none of them. All of these fine looking people have only one connection to me: my step-grandfather Ralph Lomen. A man who married my father's mother, Vella Vernell Weaver McCrohan, and never adopted her children Rosemary and Francis (Jerry) McCrohan. I don't know if they were given his name for convenience sake, but it was probably to avoid confusion and the embarrassing questions that result from parents and children with different names. I am no more a Lomen than I am one of those Scandinavian names in Judge G.J.'s amazing and detailed record of his ancestors. I'm an Irish McCrohan on my absent father's side with some English from the Weaver's side and Irish and English from the Coyle's and the Dalby's on my mother Rosanne's side.

Before I found out about my original grandfather, Frank Jeremiah McCrohan, people would ask, "So Lomen, what nationality is that?" After I would say Norwegian people would look closer at me with my black hair, fair skin and green eyes and say, "Norwegian? You look Irish." Sometimes I would say, "Yah I guess it was the Irish visiting Leif Erickson in Norway or the Vikings making a stop in Ireland on the way to "The New World." That usually didn't answer any questions and nothing against the Norwegians but I feel more like an Irishman than a Scandinavian.

As I got started on my Timeline I envisioned having my first chapter end in 1973 when I started working for Dick Vaughan in the commercial furnishings business, moved into the family house in Madison Park and met Gwynne. Those were all notable events in my life but as I waded into the fourth week of my project I realized that I was going to have to revise my expectations or my Timeline was going to grown into book form. A new date made sense; September 2, 1969, the day I left the Marine Corps for civilian life. This gave me a much more realistic chance at finishing my project and I sprinted toward the finish.

Now I have finished my Timeline and have forwarded it by email to Dawn, Dianne, Geri, Margot and Maryel and have mailed an original to Chris in Spokane. They will all read it but Dawn will be the first one to add her branch to it then she will forward it to Dianne who will forward it to Geri, then to Margot and then on to Maryel. Chris will add his branch, mail it to me and I will meld it into the final copy. This way we will have one original that will be added to consecutively instead of me receiving six different branches and  having to add each branch separately.

That's the plan anyway, so at least the family Timeline has been started. I think when my brother, sisters and cousins have read my branch they will be inspired to add their memories. Hopefully next year in the back hallway we will have something to add to the black and white photographs.

Carrot and Orange Soup

4 Tablespoons sweet butter
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
12 large carrots, 1 ½-2#, peeled and chopped
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup fresh orange juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
grated fresh orange zest to taste

1. Melt the butter in a pot. Add the onions cover and cook over low heat until tender
and lightly colored, about 25 minutes

2. Add carrots and stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Pour the soup through a strainer and transfer the solids to the bowl of the food processor fitted with a steel blade. (I just drained the liquid into a separate bowl and ran the carrots through the food processor in batches and put everything back in the soup pot.)

4.Add the orange juice, salt, pepper and zest then reheat. (The original recipe said to add more stock for “desired consistency”. Since I had no more stock, I served it thick rather than add water.)

Says 4-6 portions but it made 8.

With the proper guidance I think I can make these photos clearer but for the moment "what you see is what you get". Also I am considering providing a link to the TIMELINE.

View Dawn, Dia...JPG in slide show
Left to right, Dawn, Dianne, Chris, Maryel, Will and Margot

View Margot 12...JPG in slide show

View Maryel 12...JPG in slide show

View family ph...jpg in slide show
Left to right, Dianne, Chris, Dawn and Will

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


One of the benefits of the internet is that it is easier to find a "kindred spirit" who has the same interests as you or maybe enjoyed the same book as you did when you were a kid. It used to be that one had to hang out at the nearest Star Trek convention and dress up as a Klingon to meet an equal who shared your affection for a subject that wasn't "mainstream". We're not talking about people who flock to the latest "trendy author" book signing or mindlessly fork over $15 for the latest "hot director's" movie without even reading a review. No, we're talking about people who have affection for a novel that was written in the 30's, with "cutting edge" science fiction, that wasn't written by H.G. Welles or Jules Verne and that ended up with the main character being vaporized by a lightning bolt from the heavens. Yes, a narrow subject for specialization or interest but still unforgettable.

The novel GLADIATOR written by Philip Wylie and published in 1930 is about a doctor who is trying to invent a serum that will turn a man into a superman. Don't laugh, the book was written before Superman was invented and is credited for giving Superman's authors Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster the idea for their comic book in the mid-thirties. While still in his mother's womb, Hugo Danner (a unique and cool name) is inoculated with a special formula by his father who is a scientist with a mad dream. Born with inhuman strength and invulnerability like Clark Kent, Hugo must promise his parents to not reveal his incredible powers. This frustration at being different adds to the angst of what a typical teenager would experience.

Although I was a childhood fan of Superman, Batman, The Green Lantern and every other comic book superhero, the idea of a man with super powers and not being able to fit into society was foreign and unbelievable to me. I mean isn't that all any young boy would ever want; to be incredibly strong and invulnerable and to help people against the bad guys? When Hugo, frustrated and confused by his inability to connect with kids his own age and unable to reveal his powers, rampages goes through the forest and begins uprooting enormous trees and hurling them into the air I had an empathy for his rage. Not because I was so frustrated or confused as a teenage boy but because it was so surprising. In a comic book that frustration was never addressed but in GLADIATOR it was taken a step further and translated into a teenager who could kill anything he wanted but was held back by a slim thread of humanity.

One of the most dramatic events I have ever read was when, as a World War I French Foreign Legion soldier, Hugo infiltrates the German lines at night and, with his bare hands, lays waste to an entire enemy unit in hand to hand combat. The idea of one man being able to turn the tide of history to defeat a regime that wanted to enslave the world was incredibly bold and exciting. With his inborn sympathy and respect for humans it was understandable that he would find himself sickened by his actions. Then his amazing plan to fly a plane to the German leader's lair and kill him and his henchmen was dazzling in its nerve and exhilarating in its audacity! That he couldn't follow through on his mission because of the Armistice prevented Wylie's readers from experiencing an event that would have been courageously classic; a hero who is going to save the human race singlehandedly! That was his one shot at glory and if he had been allowed to accomplish that daring mission could he have revealed himself to the human race and if so how would he have been received? A hero or the ultimate villain?

At one point in his life he was incredibly frustrated that the only work he could find was as a circus freak, a strongman who amazed the masses but couldn't help them or protect them or be their savior. All he was ever really good at was being a fighter, a killer, a gladiator who had been hired out as a soldier to stop a madman. He wanted to be so much more and it seemed that the only logical step was to wear a costume, hide his identity and appear monthly in a flimsy magazine that only kids read; but those people didn't exist then and he wouldn't have fit in there because he had too much dignity. Somewhere deep inside of himself he thought that he was special not in a conceited way but in a manner that was beneficial to the real humans who would never accept him. The book ends years later as Hugo, still unable to fit in with normal humans, climbs to the top of a mountain in South America during a raging storm. With his hands stretched over his head he screams to the heavens that if he is not a God then for God to strike him down where he stands. After a moment a lightning bolt rockets from the sky and strikes Hugo dead. Very emotional for a teenage boy.

I read GLADIATOR in the sixties as a teenage boy and unlike the hundreds of books I have read since then it is one of the few for which I have genuine affection and one that I can still remember a series of specific and dramatic events. There are a couple of other books that have also been occupying a special part of my brain for all those years: The Terrible Game by Dan Tyler Moore and The Second Son by Charles Sailor, and I think that these three books are memorable because they all featured memorable heroes. We can talk about those years as being when a young boy is impressionable, vulnerable, excitable, physical etc. etc. etc. but one thing I think that a boy is looking for is a hero. Hugo Danner of GLADIATOR may not have been a superhero but I remember he had some heroic qualities. And granted my recollection of this unique story is hazy and maybe I've glamorized Hugo and his memory but everything you remember as a boy seems bigger; especially your heroes

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I sent this email to a fellow named Lynn Borland who had just published a book titled, Gilmour Dobie: Pursuit of Perfection which covered the coaching career of legendary University of Washington football coach Gilmour "Gil" Dobie. It was Sunday morning November 21, 2010 and suddenly I was reading an article in The Seattle Times about the coach my grandfather William Jennings "Wee" Coyle used to tell my brother and me stories about when we were kids. As a high school quarterback at Seattle High School (later to be renamed Broadway High School) they beat North Division High School of Chicago for the National Championship and as the starting signal caller for four years at the U of W my grandfather's teams never lost a game. Along with the stories about Gil Dobie and his undefeated career at The University of Washington this was very heady stuff for young boys to process. Never losing? How could that happen? And then while his team's are still undefeated Dobie is suddenly forced from his "pursuit of perfection" after a confrontation with the school's president Henry Suzzallo.

This book will be on my Christmas "wish list" and it is available at the University of Washington Book Store to fill other people's lists.

Dear Lynn,

What a great way to start a Sunday morning! Instead of more depressing news about the Mariners, the Seahawks or the Huskies, although they whipped U.C.L.A. Thursday night, here was an article about someone whom I knew was a genuine Seattle hero and who cares if what he accomplished was over a hundred years ago.

As a kid growing up in Seattle my grandfather, Will Coyle, regaled my brother Terry and me with stories of Gil Dobie as we paged through his University of Washington athletic scrapbooks. As your article in The Times confirms Mr. Dobie was a man to be feared and respected. The tone and the manner in which my grandfather spoke of his former coach suggested that those days were very special to him. Days where you worked your butt off for a man who was tough but fair, grudging in his praise but in the process instilling in a young man the certainty that if you did what he said without complaint, that he would take you to accomplishments that you would never forget.

I remember a story my grandfather told me about when he had gone to visit his girlfriend the night before his last home game of his college career. Minnie Dalby was a fellow University of Washington student and they would eventually marry and raise their two daughters Mary and Rosanne in Seattle. Knowing staying out late with the opposite sex was not part of Coach Dobie’s recommended training regimen but being a senior and the starting quarterback gave my grandfather a young man’s cocky confidence that he would not get caught. After a night of platonic courting my grandfather boarded the street car for the trip home and found himself staring at the dour face of Gil Dobie. Without hesitating young Will found a seat and stared straight ahead contemplating his fate. After a few stops my grandfather, using every bit of his peripheral vision, saw his coach silently disembark and disappear into the night. To make a long story short my grandfather slept poorly, played well in a Husky victory and was joined in the post-game shower with his fully dressed, smiling, cigar smoking coach who said, “You know Coyle I saw a fellow who looked just like you last night on the street car. That couldn’t have been you could it?” Will Coyle never disagreed with his coach so he said, “No sir!”

Remembering a book I had downstairs I dug it out and dusted off a copy of The History of American Football by Allison Danzig 1956. Opening the front cover a small packet slid out. Wrapped in thin, transparent paper were two photographs: one titled Coach Gilmour Dobie 1908 (the same photo in your article) written in my grandfather’s distinctive handwriting and the other titled Assistant Coach Joe Cutting. Where the photo of Dobie was taken on a grass surface the assistant coach’s photo was taken on a muddy field with a small grandstand of what may have been Denny Field in the background.

I paged through the book recalling as a boy the amazement at seeing my grandfather’s name in print (Bill Coyle) and the confirmation of my grandfather’s stories about the legendary Gil Dobie in not only sentences but paragraphs and pages as he continued his success after leaving the University of Washington. “Why did he leave the Huskies?” my brother and I asked. I don’t recall my grandfather’s answer or what role, if any, he played in Dobie’s departure and I don’t recall ever being aware of the Machiavellian struggles going on at the time. As you suggest, “My, how times have not changed”.

I also remember specifically the name Gil Dobie being applied to the Seattle youth football division that had formerly been called Little League. Both my brother and I played for six years with the beginning division being called Pee Wee, the middle division Gil Dobie and the older division was called Bantams. Our grandfather came to most of our games.

Thank you for your carrying the torch for Husky football and your remembrances of a man whose success rivaled any coach in the history of college football. Now let’s get this year’s Huskies to a bowl game and rebuild the University of Washington tradition for football excellence.


Will Lomen

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Letter to Rush Limbaugh

Dear Rush,
Back in the days before I was enlightened by your wisdom I was a typical working stiff who had "feel good" opinions about busing kids all over town for racial diversity,  that rich people were greedy, that unions protected the workers against evil corporations and Reagan was a failed actor who didn't know what he was talking about.

Initially I started listening to you as I traveled around my territory during the Iran-Contra hearings. Being an ex-Marine I inherently sympathized with Lieutenant Colonel North and respected his "stand up" bearing and directness with his questioners. I lost interest because I felt I had no connection to the issue and was more interested in KJR sports radio.

One day I turned back to your show and had a great time listening to your "red neck" jokes and I pulled over and wrote down as many of the sayings as I could remember. That weekend we had some friends over for dinner and after we had eaten and were diving into the post-dinner liqueurs I pulled out my red neck list and announced I would read one of the "you know you're a red neck if...." lines. To make a long story short we passed the list around the table reading the wisdom individually, then some of us stood up and roared them together. It was a great evening and the people who were there still bring up the classic "red neck" evening.

From that point, for twenty-some years, I have been an avid listener and a true believer. I now find it an honor to consider myself a conservative and I admire your commitment to your beliefs and the eloquent way you express them. I know you have a lot of listeners and I'm sure you gain new listeners every day. However I think at this time in our Nation's history you can gain even more.

As you say most Americans live their lives in a conservative manner but have a desire to help their fellow countrymen who need a helping hand; not with government handouts with strings attached but with a genuine love for their neighbors. Some of those people might consider themselves Liberals or Democrats but only in a reflexive manner not ideologically. I used to be like that because it felt good to be someone who looked out for the little guy and I believed that the "all benevolent" government was looking out for them too. Now I realize "big brother" wants the "have nots" to be beholden to him and never wants them to get ahead and off the "dole". Not to mention the Americans who drive our engine of democracy, the thousands of small businesses of the free-market system who just want to be left alone without being taxed into bankruptcy.

I think you need to offer a RUSH LIMBAUGH GUARANTEE to anyone who will listen to you for a month. You will warranty that that person will become a "ditto head" or "a believer" or "a Conservative" or a "Truthster" after 30 days of listening to your show. You could offer to donate $100 to the charity of your choice if they do not become a "Truthster". I know it is a sucker's bet because I think that anyone who is honest with you about their beliefs (as in not being "a mind numbed robot") and is willing to give you a shot will be a dedicated convert in a month (probably less).

The reason you separate yourself from the rest of your conservative brothers and sisters is your sense of humor, your positive attitude, your ability to talk and listen to your callers and your skill in turning a negative caller into someone who is an ally. You have a way of defusing an angry person who doesn't believe in you into someone who may be a little embarrassed about their hostility and willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. It is a rare skill and one that will convert many more "Doubtsters" into "Truthsters".

Stay healthy, Will