So I get a regular email from Huckberry, which normally I trash without reading because it’s usually little more than an attempt to get me to buy overpriced togs and faux survival gear for blue-collar poseurs and cubicle dwellers—and I say this as someone who generally likes what they have to offer. It’s just…I can’t bring myself to spend $200 on a “Norwegian Kindling Splitter.”
Today I scrolled through their latest missive to see what was on sale, and my eye landed on an article entitled “How to Fall Asleep in 2 Minutes or Less.” Naturally, I clicked. And beheld the following:
A couple years into WWII, the U.S. military realized it had a problem on its hands. Due to the enormous pressures of aerial combat, many of its pilots were accumulating levels of stress so debilitating that they were cracking under it. The tension caused them to lock up in flight and make fatal mistakes — accidentally shooting down friendly planes, or becoming an avoidable casualty themselves.
In an effort to stem the loss of pilots and planes, the military brought in Naval Ensign Bud Winter to research, develop, and test a scientific method for teaching relaxation. Before the war, Winter had been a successful college football and track coach, who had also worked with a professor of psychology on techniques to help athletes relax and perform better under the stress of competition. Stationed at the Del Monte Naval Pre-Flight School in California, his mission now was to coordinate with other coaches and professors to create a course that would similarly instruct cadets on how to stay calm and loose under the pressures of combat.
Which led me down the aforementioned rabbit hole, from which I’m still trying to extricate myself.
First, Lloyd C. “Bud” Winter coached my grandfather, Hal Davis, at Hartnell College before Davis went on to become a standout at Cal. And second, the Del Monte Naval Pre-Flight School, now known as the Naval Postgraduate School, is about a 20-minute drive from where I grew up. In fact, my fifth-grade class took several field trips there (and to the nearby U.S. Naval Research Laboratory) to launch weather balloons, hang out in the anechoic chamber, that sort of thing.
Now, I obviously knew about Winter’s career as a USATF Hall of Fame coach, but I had no idea of his work in the area of relaxation techniques—never mind his involvement in training naval pilots during World War II.
But wait. There’s more.
While at San Jose State, Winter coached Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were in turn coached by Payton Jordan at the 1968 Olympics. Jordan himself competed against my grandfather—handing him only his third (and final) loss in 1943—and the two became lifelong friends. In fact, I have in my possession a letter Jordan wrote to my grandfather on December 6, 1998 in which Jordan says about Davis that “there was none better.”
I could go on. But there’s work to be done, and I’m not doing it. I blame Huckberry.