This month I would like to share some insights about my life, about my directions in life and how all of this has affected my relationship with this community.
As a broadcaster of Warrior football and basketball over KPOD Radio, I would say "I love this community and its people." Everything that I have been involved with in Del Norte has used that statement for my motivations.
I will be 78 this July, and I think that as we grow older we tend to think about all of our previous experiences in life and their impacts on us. I feel today that I have been blessed by the Lord in the talents that He gave me and the great opportunities to use these talents in a positive manner for me, my extended family and this community.
I loved my mother, Laura, and my older brother, Bill, and younger brother, Wes Jr. I left home in the spring of 1946 in Yonkers, N.Y., to come out with my father Wes to Reno, Nev., to pursue a whole new life of adventures. My dad created for me a great foundation on who I was as a young boy of 10 years old, what I could become as a teen and the possibilities out there as a young man. Even though he was a rough and tough structural steelworker and a welder, my dad was a gentle, encouraging and strong mentor to me through those important years.
He did it all with me in the Nevada desert and mountains that year on our prospecting adventures looking for gold and silver. Learning to shoot a .22 pistol and packing it in a holster through the hot desert days made me learn
responsibility and the trust that my father had in me as a 10-year-old. The cold of the desert night was always met with a mesquite fire, a hot pot of campfire coffee and a hot dinner fit for a "king and his son."
These experiences at that young age had a major impact on me as a person - to learn responsibility, honesty, integrity decision-making and the desire and ability to work hard physically and mentally.
By the time I approached young adulthood, my father prepared me well to face life's challenges. I wrote my book, "Kneebockers," five years ago to thank my father, Wes Blackburn, for his love and his dedication in raising his son in a great way. He died in 1976.
Through the passion that was created within me I spent a life teaching, coaching, broadcasting and finally contributing to this community as a Fish and Game commissioner and a member of the Board of Supervisors for eight years. I know that the good Lord and my father and mother are smiling down at me each day, which I live one day at a time.
I had passion as a young golfer in the Bay Area and learned the game through practice and watching great golfers play. Tens of thousands of practice shots and untold rounds of golf led me to become a golf champion in high school, junior college and at Humboldt State University and in our communities. I love the game of golf, and I love teaching the game to others. My 18 years as a high school golf coach were very rewarding.
Another passion that became a part of my life was guiding on the Klamath and Smith rivers. I learned how to fish with my dad early on. I learned how to row a boat for five years as a dock boy at Shorty's Camp on the Klamath through my high school years and during my first year of junior college.
I started guiding at Requa resort with Alvin and Juanita Larsen in 1956. We started fishing seriously from the middle of July into September on the Klamath. I loved the circus atmosphere of the mouth of the Klamath. It was very busy with boats and shorecasters and very dangerous with outgoing tides and waves. It was exciting to guide with many Indian friends each year. We were friends, colleagues and had great fun. This passion lasted for 30 years, and I have many great memories.
Another great passion was teaching physical education and coaching, mainly golf and basketball. As I entered the profession at Redwood School in 1961, I quickly learned that to coach you needed first to be a teacher. By that I mean coaching is teaching, and the first thing a great teacher teaches is to work with each kid on finding out who they are as a person by teaching about self esteem and confidence.
As I became a veteran teacher and coach, it was great to work with young people and see the development of who they were and see them grow with confidence in their abilities and to be the best they could be.
My years of teaching, coaching and broadcasting kept me in touch with young people for a good part of my life. I know this provided fulfillment in me as a person, and I know the excitement today of seeing former students and athletes. I love this energy that is there with teaching young folks and the energy I received through all of my interviews on the air with players, cheerleaders, drill team members and other students.
I could always sense their enthusiasm for what they were doing and sharing some of their desires on where they might be going as they became adults. I must say in recent years, the negative remarks about our educational system by media pundits and government officials disturbs me greatly when most of these folks have never been in a classroom.
During my teaching and coaching career I was accompanied and associated with many top educators. I watched these people work hard with kids to show them who they were and give them that incentive to be the best that they could be in life. It's important to be honest with your students and let them know that you expect them to work hard in their efforts to learn whatever the coursework is, whether it's the "three Rs," physical education, shop, band or advanced studies. Pushing oneself will lead to rewards that will be with you forever.
My old basketball team motto, "let's be winners even if it must occasionally be in defeat," has stayed with me all of these years and I feel that it has stayed with most of my former players.
John Wooden of UCLA, an icon in coaching basketball, was noted as a great teacher. According to "Wooden: A Coach's Life" by Seth Davis, Wooden said "I really liked teaching English, and my passion could have been as an English teacher for my whole life." That really struck me as most of his life was spent coaching basketball.
Currently, my passion in life is centered on being a part of projects like the Last Chance Grade bypass, pushing for a completed airport project, fighting for the completion of the 199 and 197 highway projects, the state of Jefferson effort and terminating Sutter Health from this area. Remember, I love this community.