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Letters from Jim Fullerton ‘58 and Roddy Dashnaw ‘54 

Reno connects with Jim Fullerton ‘58 and Roddy Dashnaw ‘54 

Recently, legendary Northwood hockey coach Jim Fullerton became a member of the Rhode Island Hockey Hall of Fame, the sixth Hall which has honored him. The induction led to an exchange of emails between Jim's son, also Jim, '58, who finished his prep education at Choate when his dad left Lake Placid for Providence, and Rod Dashnaw '54, who played for Coach Fullerton at Northwood and Brown University. I was privileged to read the letters and thought they might be a pleasure for our alums and friends to peruse since the correspondence speaks of memories of Northwood in the 1950s, suggests the staying power of friendships made, and offers insights from decades lived as the gentlemen and team players (well beyond the world of rinks and fields) that Coach taught them to be. When I contacted them, they graciously agreed to publication. Such rich and leisurely correspondence has sadly become rare today in a world in which, as e e cummings phrased it, technology has inclined us to focus on "much and quick.” Enjoy!     - Stephen Reed, Director of Alumni Relations     

Letter from Roddy Dashnaw to Jim Fullerton  


Funny, but playing in the old Auditorium had some real crazy times of a positive nature. It made us feel we were a part of Providence in a way that was enjoyable and did not always have a town and gown feel. In many ways, it was like Northwood getting on the bus with coach driving through that snow-covered road at what seemed like NASCAR speeds while making the wild turn by your family home to get to the Olympic Arena. And those crazy Scrag Wagon trips to Dartmouth and other away games. On the Dartmouth trip my year was below zero; we had no heat, and David Hicks, who did not drive nor have a driver's license until one the week before the trip, got one just for us to have a driver. He hit a patch of ice just before we crossed the bridge into Vermont, spun 360 degrees, and ended up in a field about 10 feet off the road. A farmer had to pull us out, and that was an experience you don't get much on the streamlined fancy vehicles today. 

Perhaps I romanticize. But life for me is always a bit better with romance. Also, in life, having the best of everything does not necessarily make for the best results, and I do not mean only in plant facilities like Ivy League schools. I taught some kids of first families of America with staggering wealth, which is a good example of too much of the best. And I know you know where I am going with this. Always good to hear from you. I met some people recently at a wedding who regaled me with their lives working for Marriott, and they had some wonderful stories to tell. I am sure you could do the same. In many ways, the hotel business must have been very satisfactory. I certainly enjoyed my time working in such a capacity while I was going to school. I met some very fine people also. Be well, old friend, and stay as healthy and safe as possible in this best of all possible worlds?  


Letter from Jim Fullerton to Roddy Dashnaw   


As you well know, especially from your teaching days at Brunswick and perhaps Phoenix Country Day, young men can be weighted down with inherited baggage caused by excess. At Choate, 85% of my peers came from significant wealth (at least material wealth). Their concerns often made me chuckle. Issues like, will I get into Yale or be a failure in parent's and neighbor's eyes? Am I dating the proper debutante; are her credentials up to par? I was in Lausanne last summer; would summer in Paris do or relax on Riviera? If I can't get into flying Foot CC, would dad be okay if Westchester CC accepted me? Should I open an account at Brooks Brothers, or would Gant of New Haven work. Are my year-old shoes okay for the upcoming tea dance at Miss Porters with Lester Lanin orchestra where Muffie invited me, or should I hop over to J Press for the latest Italian bootery?   

On the other hand, none of those absurd issues affected me. College choices came down to more practical levels like cost, hockey, minimal math, or science. Summer meant work in the service industry and from age 14. One new suit a year or two years from Kennedys or L.L.Bean sturdy khakis. Old shoes? Kiwi polish works. Mary looks nice and is friendly, and goes to public school. Tea dancing for the hoi poloi, let's grab a frosty beer at Joe's Grill. No accounts with extended credit as no method of paying off, so no worries. Cash and debt. And on it goes. I must have been seen as a featherweight and buddy of Alfred E. Neuman, the What Me No Worry Kid.  

I often never had a dime in my pocket at Choate or Cornell and certainly no spare coins for the first several years in a career position. Managed to be married and start a family on a private's pay with no dual-income included in the three-year commitment to Uncle Sam. I started my hotel career as a neophyte salesman and worked horrible hours with sub-par income to reach the next rung on the long ladder. Smart enough to latch onto a sturdy extending ladder, Marriott.  

I, and you too, Roddy, learned a thing or two about values, goal setting, "vicissitudes of life," picking up from defeat, and other time-honored values.  

All taught by family and other wonderful mentors along the early narrow path that later widened to a respectable boulevard.   

You smartly chose to extend the mentorship to the next generation and beyond by offering your talent via private secondary schools. Wouldn't Coach and other dedicated educators be thrilled? And think of your former students and their parents who learned from you. Know that you are owed a debt of gratitude by so many.  

Both of our views in the rear mirror are a-okay thanks to others and a caring God who helped direct traffic.   

Northwood was far more blue-collar than Choate due to economics. That early '30's vintage "Grey Ghost" Mack bus was a classic, and one time the driver (well-known barker of commands) took the "T" turn too quickly, plowing into a snowbank. All-out and give a push... ice time waiting. The box on wheels was replaced by a used yellow Studebaker school bus. Possibly the only one to hit the roads and with a definite thud. The rumbling Scrag Wagon International pregnant woody wagon/bus never extended heat beyond the front seat. It might have been good transport in Mississippi but not a cold mountain vehicle. Some rattle trap on wheels. Travel Northwood hockey style was akin to Okie farmers heading for the promised land during the Depression Era dust bowl. A Steinback odyssey creating forever memories. Blue-collar? More like a sweat-stained flannel collar offering practicality and worthy education. Masters and God's brush and palette made the mountain school a worthy entity.  

What is wealth? Good to have? Dangerous? Valuable? Tarnish-able? Respectable? Nothing wrong with tasting most "treats" if kept in moderation and applied for the right causes. We never worshipped the mighty dollar and better for it. Some did gain material wealth and generously shared it. Some became addicted to gold and lived worse than King Midas. Life as we made it not half bad.  

Must be a slow day in Fullerton household to ruminate so lengthy but thanks for putting a coin in the slot to get me started. Vroom. Vroom. Sputter. Sputter.  

By the way, attending weddings vs. funerals must be an experience to behold. You doing the chicken dance seems improbable but possible. The Eighties is where it's at. And that ends with a preposition. Uh oh.   

Jim Fullerton 🏒