This page is dedicated to all the former George Washington High School OARSMEN that have shot their a**, flipped a whitefish or caught a crab, but especially to the coaches who spent so much of their time teaching us to row.

This article was prepared for publication in the Summer 1999 edition of the George Washington Alumni Association Newsletter. Unfortunately (or fortunately) due to its length and the other articles received for publication, it was decided to be moved here.

Background: The Winter 1999 edition of the Newsletter carried this picture (See boathous.htm) on the last page. A lot of confusion ensued, which led to the article below.

What was with the picture?

For some of you that received the last George Washington Alumni Association (GWAA) newsletter, you may have wondered about the picture on the back cover (especially if you haven’t been back to Alexandria in recent years). The aforementioned picture happens to be the “NEW” Alexandria Schools Rowing Facility at the end of Madison Street in Old Town Alexandria.

Before proceeding to the “New”, I think we should take a step back and look at the “Old”, since we are an Alumni Association. I plan to accent some points through the use of the World Wide Web (WWW). Web sites will be highlighted in bold type. For those without access to the Web, check with your local library or grandchildren.

Rowing started at George Washington High School (GWHS) in 1947 due to the joint efforts of Julian “Whitey” Whitestone and Jack Franklin. They not only provided the coaching, but were also instrumental in acquiring the equipment, making repairs, and most important - finding a location to house the team. In addition, Whitey also provided language training while on the river. Coincidence or not, the Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC), at the foot of King Street, became the first Boathouse for the rowers of GWHS. (See for a modern day drawing).

With a great location on the water, it had everything an oarsman could want - locker room, showers, a bar (off limits), workout room, racquetball court and storage for the equipment.

Soon after the crew program began at GWHS, a rival program began just up-river at the Potomac Boat Club in 1949 under the leadership of Charles “Charlie” S. Butt, Jr. The Generals of Washington-Lee were the first “local” crew that the Presidents’ would defeat. Since most high school crews were located in Philadelphia and points north, in the early years, most of GW’s early races were against W-L and various college freshman boats.

Success was easy for Whitey and Jack. Their Varsity 8 shell won the National Schoolboy Rowing Championships in 1955 ( see for a photo of the winning oarsmen and the 1st GWHS Boathouse). With the success of the crew team and the opening of Hammond High School in 1956, Jack left Whitey to become the coach at Hammond. By this time, former ODBC oarsmen Louis “Sonny” Weiners, and Dearcy “Dee” Campbell GWHS ‘44 had become assistant coaches. (Sonny remained at GW while Dee moved on to Hammond and remains involved to this day with the TC Williams crew.) With two high school crew programs being housed at the ODBC, the Boat Club was feeling the effects and decided that after the 1963 season, the high schools would have to re-locate to another facility.

Although I’m not 100% sure, I guess the City of Alexandria felt sorry for us and decided to let us use a small out building behind the nearby “Old Torpedo Factory”. About a block north of the ODBC, the “new” boat house (see Old Boathouse ) was still a great location. We could still run our distance runs down Union Street, ogle at the diners in the Seaport Inn on Friday evenings, “borrow” signs from the box cars sitting on Union Street, visit the Snack Bar on King Street, goof-off at the old Jones Point lighthouse (see: old Jones Point lighthouse ) and play basketball at the court on Lee and Gibbon streets. This boathouse had everything the ODBC had except the charm, the bar, the racquetball court and the crusty old members. Former GW oarsman and alumni, William “Billy” Burruss, (‘59) returned from college to become a coach (and math teacher at GW) beginning with the 1965 rowing season. GW now had a young coach that could keep up with (or ahead of) us when we weren’t on the water. Frequent distance runs to Belle Haven Marina Park now replaced our basketball games on Lee Street.

Rowing was still gaining in popularity as the years went by. With the opening of TC Williams in 1965, the boat house was at about 250% capacity. Check out the boat house and crowd of spectators at the 1968 City Championships (see: 1968 City Championships ). By the way, that is a GW shell beating a Hammond shell! (at least at this angle). The City Fathers finally decided that the high schools needed a rowing facility that they could be proud of. Rowing was moved to the new boathouse in the Fall of 1986. The upper boats had been rowing full time from the Occoquan boathouse from 1984 - 86. The current “NEW” boathouse (see: "NEW" boathouse ) was dedicated in 1988 and has served the community and school very well.

A quick update on the coaches mentioned. Whitey is still local but in failing health. Jack is also local. Sonny is married and living in Florida. Dee when not coaching the girls of TC Williams, is also living in Florida. Billy has retired from teaching math and moved to Maryland.

Richard J. Comisky, III ‘65

p.s. The TC Williams Crew website has several pages that might be of interest to all former oarsmen.

Do the words Crew Follies, Aletha Agee and Sweet Patooties bring back vivid memories? (Go to - Scrapbook )

They also have a person in charge of the oarsmen alumni. He is interested in contact from any and all former oarsmen. Contact Jack Wilmer

In addition to the Scrapbook and Alumni Directory links above, be sure to see:
a few of the oldies
a way of staying in touch
boat christening at old boat house

Boottypen Boat Types and the gifs files to create the Boottypen Boat Types

A special thanks to all that helped contribute to this article - current and past coaches, former oarsmen and those current and past members of the Alexandria Crew Boosters that have made rowing possible for the high schools.

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November 5, 2002.
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