TVCC – The Early Years.
by Jack Wright.
Reprinted from the May 2000 TVCC newsletter, contributed by John Hubbard.
In 1967 Lowell Bennington and I had been friends for several years, teaching Red Cross water safety and first aid classes. Lowell then went to work for the Red Cross Chattanooga Chapter as its Safety Programs Director in Dec. ’66. The Red Cross had a Small (Water-) Craft safety course, mainly for small rowboats and such, but included flatwater canoeing too. Both Lowell and I had listened to my uncle, Bill Workman, tell about ‘real’ canoeing, on mountain gorge whitewater.
Like today, canoes were very expensive for young people still in school or just starting their careers, so we borrowed canoes here and there, and had paddled mostly flatwater. This scenario is typical of most of the people who started TVCC; they’d done a little fishing or floating, but had not really searched for fast moving or challenging whitewater. Such people were the John Alden family, Jean Dolan, Bob Wagner, Alan Crawford, and LaVonne Lambert.
So, on this tranquil local scene, one day comes Don Bodley, moving from New York to be an automotive engineer at TVA. Don was active in outdoor clubs in NY, and was Chairman of the Whitewater Committee for American Youth Hostels. He had also attended the Red Ridge College of River Canoeing, in Philadelphia, the apparent mother source of most US instruction on moving water. In the midst of large Detroit iron, he drove a really ‘practical’ Nash Rambler station wagon. You could hardly see the tiny car, under some kind of ‘rack’ on the top, and a stack of 3 aluminum canoes, and on top of that, a kayak, like a cherry topping the cake! What a strange sight for us local yokels. We’d hardly ever seen even 1 canoe on top of a car, much less 3, plus a kayak. What kind of weird deal was this?
Well, I glimpsed this strange Nash “Bodley Mobile’ in traffic around town, looking almost like a pied piper, trolling for paddlers. One day, I couldn’t stand it any longer, chased him down, and stopped Bodley at the side of the road. We talked briefly, and I got Don’s name and phone number, then hurried to call Lowell and tell him about it. Lowell wanted to know more, so he called Don, and the rest, as they say, is history. During the phone call, they hatched the idea of a local club. Lowe typed a Red Cross Public Notice for the newspaper, asking anyone interested in forming a canoe club, to meet at his office at the Red Cross, in the summer of 1967.
We don’t have a list of persons attending that very first meeting, but we do know that TVCC was formed at that meeting. Don Bodley was really the moving force behind the idea, and was elected the first President. Membership grew quickly mostly by word of mouth. We consider persons who joined the club during the first year as Charter Members. Some who still paddle here today are John and Irene Alden, Lowell and Ila Raye Bennington, Don and Judy Bodley, Alan Crawford, Jean and Don Dolan, Walter and Maggie Popp, Bob and Mary Shepard, and Jack and Birdie Wright. Others were Don Guess, John Hertzing, La Vonne and Jean Lambert, Anne and Jerry Phillips, and John Shultz.
I wish there were space to elaborate on each family. Just from what little I know, what full, colorful, and satisfying lives they lived. From varied backgrounds in all walks of life. They’ve made rich contributions to so many aspects of society in general, and paddlers in particular. It looks to me like this is still true of the club leaders today.
Next month we’ll look at the first few weekend safety training courses the club organized. After that, we’ll paddle the Hiwassee, the way it was in 1967, and a few years after. Then in the following months we’ll take on the much-feared Nantahala and Chatooga rivers, as they were in what Maggie Popp refers to as the ‘golden age’ of canoeing.