1950 Season

Norm Sonju
Norm Sonju
  Cliff Rathkamp
Cliff Rathkamp
 Results | Summary | Photos | W Winners 

Season Results

Eastern Sprints 10

Season Summary

Bucky's Birth

It was 1949, Ivy Williamson replaced Harry Stuhldreyer as Head football coach.  I was the UW Pep Chairman appointed by the Athletic Board.  It was my job to produce and emcee the Pep Rally before every home game.  The Pep Band, football team, football coaches and a program were held on the steps of the Memorial Union.  The cheerleaders were all male in those days and they came to the Rally too.  The Rally was held about 7 pm and about 2000 students would attend. 

I began to run out of ideas to entertain the group after using Ivy, the players and various Campus dignitaries for program material.  Homecoming was approaching and I needed ideas for this coming event.  To digress a bit,  the mascot at that time was a live Badger who entered the stadium on chains and spent only a few minutes  above ground until he dug a hole and disappeared for the rest of the game.  

I took a date to the Union for supper and a movie and spent a few minutes in the art gallery admiring  a display of African masks made of papier-mâché.  I thought to myself what great idea for a Badger head.  We could get a cheerleader to wear it and have a  contest to name the Badger.  My friend Connie  Conrad, an art major, constructed  the head.  Bill Sagal, the head cheerleader, wore  it and I selected the name (as one of the entries), advising a group to use (include) it in the contest. 

Buckingham Palace was in the news so that became the Badger's formal first name.  U. was a substitute for "you".  So his name was Buckingham U. Badger,  Bucky for short.  We used 50 towels to fit the head onto Sagal's shoulders and introduced Bucky at the Pep Rally and the Homecoming Game.  He was an instant success.  Bill  Sagal  was the first Bucky and I was his creator. Connie Conrad made him possible and as the years have passed his uniform has become more sophisticated.

Bucky is the most well known mascot in the World.  He is the UW's best public relations specialist.  He deserves an honorary degree in Political Science.

Bill Sachse (UW ’50)
Crew W Winner in  '48, '49, '50

The UW crews got on the lake late this year - April 17, after a severe winter. Cornell got on Lake Cayuga about 12 days before.

April 17, the 39-member crew held its first annual spring vacation dinner and pep rally. Captain Cliff Rathkamp reaffirmed the squad's determination to “Row the fastest and get there first.” Coach Sonju also spoke, saying, “To win races, we're going to have to want to win more than the crews we race.”

The UW varsity's season began May 7, the race having postponed a day and moved to Lake Monona . The course started just east of B. B. Clarke Beach to the finish line opposite the foot of Broom Street . Wind still made the water pretty rough at the beginning and end of the course.

Henry McCormick wrote:

Off to a sluggish start and seemingly unable to match Columbia 's beat or smoothness, the Badger varsity was better than two lengths behind at one point. The Badgers' blade work was poor, particularly in contrast with that of the more experienced Columbia boat. The Wisconsin varsity shipped so much water either during the race or on the return row that it had to stop near the East Madison Milwaukee station and dump out the water.

The Badgers ( 6:45 ) lost to Columbia (6:39.5) by 1½ lengths.

The Columbia frosh jumped off to a deck length lead at the very outset of the race and at the end of about half a mile had pulled in front by a half boat length. At the one-mile mark, with Columbia rowing at 34 strokes to the Badgers 32, Wisconsin had pulled within six feet of the easterners. For a moment, it looked like Wisconsin might grab the lead and score a fine victory, but the more experienced invaders had just enough power to stave off the Badger rush. The UW frosh (6:45.5) lost to Columbia ( 6:45 ) by six feet.

Columbia 's captain, Frank Haas, was the first coxswain ever elected to the captaincy in almost 100 years of rowing at Columbia . Wisconsin elected its first coxswain, Harold L. (“Jerry”) Coulter, in 1926, thirty-four years after the varsity sport began.

May 13, on the 2,000-meter course of the Severn River in Annapolis, MD, the Badgers placed 10 th of 12 at the Eastern Sprints (then called the “Fifth Annual Championship Regatta” and conducted under the auspices of the Naval Academy Athletic Association) behind winner MIT(6:28.8), Harvard, Princeton and Penn. UW's boating: Delos W. Barrett, (bow), Rollin Cooper (ECAC program of 1950 – p. 5 – shows Michael B. Torphy as No. 2 seat) , James A. Schmidt, Peter H. Wackman, Robert D. Espeseth, William R. Sachse, Cliff F. Rathkamp, Harry C. Mussman (stroke) and Duane Daentl (cox).

UW did not take a JV8 or freshman boat.

On May 20 on a 1-mile course on Lake Nagawicka in Delafield , Wisconsin , the UW frosh lost to St. John's Military Academy by ¼ length.

May 21, the Badger varsity lost to the Lincoln Park Boat Club (unofficially, 5:25 ) by ten feet. The race was over the Lincoln park lagoon mile course. The Chicagoans took an early lead and had a length advantage at the half mile. The officials' boat was overturned by the wash from a motor boat shortly after the race started, causing an interruption in the official clocking of the event.

Wisconsin flew to Seattle to race Washington May 27. Madison airport, which had four flights per day before the war, now had 19 per day. The Badgers took a new eight shell with them. As boatbuilder Stan Pocock (accompanied by his boatbuilder father George) describes, “Having heard about the new eight that Kurt* Drewes, the Wisconsin rigger (born in Munich, he emigrated to America in the 1920's to settle in Madison) and interim Badger crew coach during the war years 1943-44, had built with the help of the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, we were anxious to see whether they had come up with something good.

(*Author's comment: The German “Kurt” was Americanized to “Curt” somewhere along the way in Madison .)

As soon as the Wisconsin baggage car was dropped off at the siding by the University of Washington power plant, we rushed up to have a look. Dad climbed up the side of the car and peeked in the window. I heard him give a chuckle as he exclaimed, ‘They've painted it red!' For a true woodworking boatbuilder, paint usually means that someone is hiding something - inferior lumber, bad joinery, quarter-inch putty, one thing or another. After the bought was brought to the shellhouse, we gave it a close inspection and found that it had much to hide. The basic premise around which it had been built was not bad, the hull being made up of several layers of thin mahogany veneer laid diagonally over a mold and bonded together under pressure. Either the glue they used didn't know when to quit shrinking, or the mold was badly shaped, or a combination of the two.

Whatever the cause, the boat was a great, lumpy, red mess. Kurt, a good workman, had received no help from the experts. Actually, the system was later adopted by other builders who perfected it, and boats built in this manner became standard in many shops worldwide until the advent of the use of plastics.

The May 27 race between the Washington and Wisconsin was a disaster for the Badgers. The wind blew - as usual - and the big red boat sank. The Badgers weren't much slower than the Huskies, but their boat was designed for smooth-water rowing. Even the Huskies, in one of our Standard eights designed for the rough waters of the Hudson , were taking on water. It was a matter of which crew sank first, rather than which crew would cross the finish line first. When our cox'n saw the Wisconsin shell founder, he had the presence of mind to have his crew ease off, and they paddled home, the winners. The red boat took most of the blame for the loss.

Royal Brougham, the columnist writing “Morning After” in the Seattle P-I, had a typically caustic remark to make in his column the following Monday: something to the effect that the Badger crew ‘smelled worse than a Wisconsin cheese.' Later in Marietta , Ohio for the IRA regatta, I saw him surrounded by the entire Wisconsin squad, who were giving him a spirited talking-to. Their subsequent Varsity win there on the Ohio, controversial though it might have been, must have been sweet.” (Note: Wisconsin IRA victory was actually the following year in 1951.)

Washington 's varsity averaged 177 7/8 pounds and 6' 3 1/8”, while the Badger varsity averaged 178, but a height of only 6' 1 5/8”. Wisconsin flew, brining only their oars; a shell will be borrowed from Washington to save on shipping costs. Because of rough water, the event was postponed by half an hour. In spite of this, the Badger shell was nearly swamped by the rough water. UW coach Norm Sonju signaled ‘way enough” to his Badgers at the halfway mark with Washington leading by five lengths. The stoppage saved the crew from having to abandon ship and also saved possible damage of the borrowed Pocock-built shell. Washington was declared the winner, with a time of 12:36 . It was Washington 's 15 th straight victory over the Badgers.

At the same regatta, the UW jayvee eight (11:26.1) lost to Washington ( 10:42 ) by 11 lengths over 2,000-meters.

Also on May 27, in Madison, UW's frosh (5:13) avenged an earlier loss and beat St. John's Military Academy (5:26) by 2 ½ lengths on a one-mile course beginning at University Bay and finishing behind the old red armory on Lake Mendota.

June 10, the Cal Bears came to Madison for a 2,000-meter race on Lake Mendota . “Seldom has there been as stirring a race on Madison lakes as the varsity brush between the Badgers and the Golden Bears. The greatest lead held by either shell was less than a length; California expanded its lead to almost a length with about a quarter of a mile to go, but the Badgers' driving finish cut this to about half a length.”

Wisconsin ( 6:41 ) lost to California (6:39.5) by a deck length against California . Wisconsin frosh ( 7:11 ) lost to the Cal jayvee (6:55.4) boat by 4 lengths.

On June 17 on a two-mile course on the Ohio River at Marietta , Ohio , Wisconsin placed third in the Marietta Regatta behind winner Washington.


The IRA's:

The June 17, 1950 IRA's had moved to Marietta , Ohio and found a 2-mile flood-swollen Ohio River course. The first collegiate crew race held on the Ohio River was in 1931 with the Washington varsity defeating Marietta College . Wisconsin raced on the Ohio River soon thereafter in the spring of 1932 a three-way race against Penn and Marietta College .

Reasons given for leaving the Hudson , were the absence of tides and currents on the Ohio and the availability of an observation train. The first race on the Marietta course was in 1878 when Marietta College made its debut in the crew sport here when its four man outfit lost to Duquesne (Boat Club?) before 4,000 spectators.

“Here on the waters over which George Washington once rowed as a surveyor almost two centuries before, college crews met.” Crew began on the Ohio River at Marietta College in 1878 with a four-man crew pitted against Duquesne University before 4,000 people. Financial stress suspended crew at Marietta for many years but resumed, this time on the Ohio River , in 1931. Since that date, crew powers such as Washington , Wisconsin , Penn, MIT Rutgers and Boston University have rowed against Marietta and others on the Muskingum and Ohio rivers. The course runs northeast to southwest with a small turn south-south-west at about one-third the way through the course.

Sportswriter R. G. Lynch, writing on the front page of the June 18, 1950 Milwaukee Journal Sport's Section, described the varsity eight event:

(Wisconsin) jumped away from the stake boat at the gun in great style and in a short distance was one of four crews which put open water between them and the other eight shells. Wisconsin and Washington in lanes 1 and 2, Stanford in lane 9, Penn on the far side of the river, had a length on the rest at the half mile. Then the Badgers and the Huskies, nose and nose, pulled away in a duel which had the crowds cheering wildly.

Washington had led the freshman race from start to finish and the jayvee race, too. The Huskies had been favored all along to win the varsity event. Now, before the eyes of unbelieving spectators, an underrated Wisconsin crew was challenging Al Ulbrickson's great undefeated crew, and it was the thrill that the cowd had almost given up expecting.

The two crews continued to pull away. At the mile, Washington led by half a length and Wisconsin was three lengths ahead of the rest. In the next half mile, the Badgers began to fade. Washington opened a two length lead and Cal, Stanford and MIT were closing in, hardly more than a length behind Wisconsin . The crowd yelled for the Badgers to stick it out and it seemed that they did, for they appeared to pick it up again.”

The final varsity eight results: Washington (8:07.5), Cal (8:14.9), Wisconsin (8:15.7), Stanford, MIT, Columbia , Cornell, Penn, Princeton, Syracuse , Rutgers and Navy. Wisconsin 's third place finish, instead of the fifth place awarded Saturday, pending photo reviews, was confirmed, the Monday after the finish, using movies. The movies weren't developed until Monday, June 20, so many news accounts of Sunday, June 18 were incorrect. Cal defeated Wisconsin for second place by a matter of inches.

When pressed, coxswain Duane Daentl agrees Wisconsin did ‘jump' the start in 1950. Apparently, Daentl and the entire boat, knowing the difficulty of a re-start, decided to burst out a shade early off the start.

The next day, many coaches brought Wisconsin coach Sonju the newspaper photos showing Wisconsin a full length in front just off the starting line, with some team's rowers still leaning on their oars. On the train home, Coach Sonju came over to Daentl and asked, quite innocently, ‘How did you guys get such a fast start?'

Daentl describes the judge-starter as being ‘chapped off' with Wisconsin for that start. At every subsequent race start, Daentl remembers, the judge-starter would instruct all boats at the starting line, ‘Let me be clear! Any false starts will be called back; two false starts and you're out!' And he would make a point of staring at us (the Wisconsin shell) as he spoke.

In the junior varsity eight finish, the order was the same as in the varsity race - Washington , Cal and Wisconsin .

The flash flood on the Muskingum River sent a torrent pouring into the Ohio at the three mile starting line, causing the varsity and jayvee events to be shortened to two miles each. Tree branches, planks and smaller debris carried down by the Muskingum made even the two mile course hazardous. Coast Guard boats pushed and towed rafts of debris to the shore right up to race time. The four or five mile an hour current pushed stake boats out of line and necessitated a drift-in start for the freshman race, which took up so much time that the program finished two hours late. The boat train along the shore, which pulled out of town at 1:30 p.m. , did not pull in again until 6:45 p.m. The UW freshman were 5 th in the event, 2 ½ lengths behind winner Washington.

UW's varsity boating at the IRA's: Delos Barrett (bow), Pete Wackman, Jim Schmidt, Mike Torphy, Bob Espeseth, Bill Sachse, Cliff Rathkamp, Bob Nelson (stroke) and Duane Daentl (cox). Spares were Rollin Cooper and Ron Gephardt.

In 1950, 10 of the 14 college crew coaches in the 1950 regatta were former Washington oarsmen, most of them former pupils of Rusty Callow now at Pennsylvania . Wisconsin coach Norm Sonju was one of these ten.



Varsity 8

L to R:
R.Y. Nelson,
Cliff Rathkamp,
Bill Sachse,
Bob Espeseth,
Pete Wackman,
Jim Schmidt,
Roland Cooper,
Del Barrett (bow).
Kneeling S to R:
Mike Torphy,
Duane Daentl (cox & capt.)
Norm Folts

Varsity 8


Pictures from 1951 IRA program

Pictures from 1951 IRA program

Pictures from 1951 IRA program


UW finishing 3rd at IRA

UW finishing 3rd at IRA


Frosh 8:

The photo is the 1950 frosh crew taken during spring break in 1950.
We went to a store in Madison looking for distinctive caps, but
could not find 8-of-a-kind.
The oarsmen are: standing L to R; Jim Healy(str.), Gene Ackley, Bob
Hood, Bob Roehrs, Vic Steuck, Paul McKenzie, Kermit Klingbiel, & Wm.
Kneeling L to R: Dick Bastian, Norbert Gehrke (cox) & Jim Van Egren.

Healy, Steuck, Ackley, Van Egren and Hood all later won Major Ws.
Later in the season Healey was changed from stroke to 7 and Kline
was dropped from the squad for stepping through the bottom of a
shell for the second time!

-Bob Hood

Frosh 8


IRA start

IRA start



Delos Barrett
Paul M. Benson
James C. Connell
Rollin B. Cooper
Roy Duane Daentl
Robert Espeseth, Sr.
Norman Folts
John B. Gittings
Donald E. Haack
Frank Heuston
Donald G. Heyden
John C. Jung
James Kress
Earl L. Lapp
James B. Langdon
Robert Y. 'R.Y.' Nelson
Clifford F. Rathkamp
William R. Sachse
James A. Schmidt
Michael B. Torphy, Jr.
Peter Wackman


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