The aim of tonight's event is simple - give fans and former skaters the opportunity to talk and get to know one another before the program starts. I step outside to take a few pictures of Kezar and strike up a conversation with another fan. Instant rapport. Already this evening I have met Ric, Steve, Bill and Matt. Darnay McPherson is here along with former Pioneer, Lowell Shepherd. Cliff Butler arrives, followed shortly by Myrna Vandenberg and her sister. As we all get to know one another all heads turn towards the entrance at once as Burt Wall and Barbara Mateer Wall appear. I just stand there - stunned. This is so cool! I am standing around talking to the people I have admired for years! People I have never even imagined I would meet. And the stories they tell . . .
The program begins with a welcome from Gary Powers and continues with remembrances from Keith Coppage and Jerry Seltzer. We salute the Bay Bombers and we stop to remember Ann Calvello. Surely her spirit is in this building tonight. As all the former skaters talk I look around the building. I don't see the basketball court. In my mind I see a Roller Derby track. Throughout the evening snippets of Roller Derby games from the past play in my mind. I hear the voices of Walt Harris, Ken Kunzelman and Donald Drewry. In my mind's eye I see Charlie, Joanie, Annis, Ann, Tony and "Peanuts." It's just the way I knew it would be.
All too soon we say good-night to Kezar. We pack up and head back to the hotel. The weekend is off to a great start.
There are two themes that are emerging for this weekend: Roller Derby and food. Roller Derby is a constant. Food is often forgotten until the end of the day. We don't eat often but we do eat well.
When I enter the hotel restaurant/lounge Ric points out four women sitting across the room. "Go over and introduce yourself." Ordinarily this is something I would never do but food can wait this time. So I walk over and introduce myself to Jan Vallow, Barbara Baker, Annis Jensen and Harlean "Whirlybird" Khein. I have died and gone to Roller Derby heaven. Being hugged in greeting is something I expect back home with old friends, not meeting my idols in San Francisco, but as Jan Vallow said, "We're all friends, now."
Having been given my instructions by Jan Vallow, when Gary finally appears for dinner I call him aside and tell him to follow me. It is my pleasure to formally introduce Gary Powers to Jan Vallow. After all, Gary introduced me to calamari the night before. Not often do I have the opportunity to go one-up on Gary.
We are invited to join them after dinner. All through the meal the conversation centers on how good all the skaters look, the Kezar event and our hopes for the remainder of the weekend. It's kind of strange but there is never an awkward moment when we join the ladies. Questions are asked and answered without hesitation. Observations are made and insights are shared freely. Fans and skaters talk like they have been friends for years. The most important thing we do have in common --- we all love the Derby.
The hotel bar closes and we move to the lobby to continue our conversations and slowly, one by one, drift off to our rooms.
More later . . .
Today's a big day - first the round-table discussion and later the awards banquet. But first, breakfast. Something tells me that lunch will only be a passing thought today.
Fans and skaters begin arriving on the mezzanine around noon for the discussion group. Gary is leading the discussion and taking our questions are Annis Jensen, Bert Wall, Jan Vallow, Harlean "Whirlybird" Khein, Darnay McPherson, Earl Pearson, Bob Solomon and Keith Coppage. This is just too cool.
One of the highlights of the round-table is when talking about fans interfering in the game Annis Jensen tells us that anytime a fans comes inside the rail, "They're meat!" All the skaters were candid and eager to share their thoughts, opinions and recollections with us. For the better part of two hours we are treated to one great skating story after another. I am having a great time!
Round-table's over. Time to set up for the awards banquet. Hotel staff is busy preparing the tables. We just need to give the room that special Roller Derby touch. We hang two huge banners from the mezzanine railing. The rest of the posters go up on the columns surrounding the dining area. Duct tape is good for anything. I realize I have lost my cellphone.
We are just finishing up and the guests are beginning to arrive. First is Carol Meyer Roman and her family. The whole family, including J.J. the youngest, is excited about this evening. Everyone's eyes are drawn to Mark Roman who bears a remarkable resemblance to his father.
Got to go do a quick change of clothes for dinner. When I return the room has filled considerably with fans and former skaters.