Marty Dobrow

SCA 1978 Yosemite National Park

Educator, Author | Springfield, MA

SCA 1978 Yosemite National Park, SCA 1979 Olympic National Park

An associate professor of communications at Springfield College, Marty Dobrow is the award-winning author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Six Minor Leaguers in Search of the Baseball Dream and Going Bigtime: The Spectacular Rise of UMass Basketball, as well as numerous stories for The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated, espn.com, and many others. 

On his SCA memories:

There were so many. My time in SCA was a transforming, mesmerizing experience. I was a very sheltered suburban teenager in that I don’t think I’d ever spent the night outside, and then all of a sudden I’m on a plane to San Francisco and meeting up with this wonderful group of teenagers. It was three weeks of my life, three indelible weeks, so beautiful, such worthwhile work, such great bonding with wonderful people. It really expanded my sense of the world.

One memory that stands out was a time when Mark Updegrove and I worked in conjunction with a Pacific Crest Trail crew doing physically hard labor. It was really demanding work and way out, about four hours from nearest dirt road. After one session, we were all sweaty, and there was a group of three or four of us, all guys, who headed back to base camp but first bathed in this stream. As we were out there, the storm clouds were rolling in. We’re all out there buck naked and the sky opened up with the largest hail I’d ever seen raining down on our bodies.

I thought of that recently. Mark is a renowned civil scholar and president of the LBJ Presidential Library. This past April, he was able to leverage me an invitation to a Civil Rights Summit in Austin. President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Bernice King, were all there and the highlight was President Obama’s speech. As Obama was speaking, there were three other chairs on stage, and sitting in them were Michelle Obama, John Lewis and Mark Updegrove. I have this image of this guy dodging these hailstones buck naked and here his is on stage with President Obama and these great leaders.

On reuniting with his former crew mate:

Mark and I had really enjoyed each other’s company, and years ago we’d paid each other one visit. I visited him at his home in Pennsylvania; he came to visit me in New York, New Year’s -78-‘79. I believe we had one other contact, when I was teaching at the Quaker school, but that would’ve been the last of it.

I have charted out my career as writer, journalist and professor and became very interested in Civil Rights story. Doing research, I came across an article that referenced a Presidential scholar named Mark Updegrove, and I thought there can’t be too many of these guys. I Googled him and gave him a call. It was like no time had passed.

He asked me what I was working on, and when I told him about civil rights, he said “That’s fascinating because we’re planning this big conference; maybe work out you can come.” I went. I was able to present my research, and then moderated a panel with Julian Bond and Bernice King. Funny that SCA is opening professional doors all these years later.

On SCA’s impact on his life:

It certainly activated very strong sense of environmentalism. In years to come, I worked on a farm in Vermont and at a Quaker school in New Hampshire. Even now, with my life somewhat removed from those times, it still really informs my sensibility and alerts me to the preciousness of the natural world and treating it with respect and we have an obligation to pass on these gifts. This is an absolutely beautiful planet, and we have all these wonders in this country.

Our crew leaders, Scott and Kathy Weaver, really made the program come alive for us. Scott was this absolute towering figure, a man of the mountains. He would thunder in the morning this quote: The sun is up, and so should you. It’s not grammatically correct, but that has become a quote that has been repeated many times in my household.

Out of the blue earlier this year, I looked up Scott and Kathy. I thought finding them would be impossible given their common names, but they live in Springfield, Vermont, about an hour and half from where I live. I went up there this winter with my family, having not seen them since we bade farewell in August 1978. That was a real thrill to reconnect with them.

The nature of SCA is that it’s such an intense, 24/7 experience with no distractions. It is just the people you are with and the natural world. It simplifies the universe and intensifies the connections in a way that’s really wonderful and every kid should have a chance to experience.  It was a challenge for me. I was certainly no one’s idea of the ultimate SCA intern. I had a lot to learn. But it was a great, great experience. I’m thrilled there is a celebration of 75,000 volunteers; I’d like to see that number grow and grow.

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