In keeping with Webb Weekly’s literary objective of presenting informative stories about local people and the things they are doing, the past two issues of this newspaper have detailed books that have recently been published by two of the area’s most renowned individuals. Much is known about the authors themselves but how they got here and what motivated them to do what they did is, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”
Initially, the two men, Don Daughenbauch and Bill Byham were strangers. They eventually converged and settled in South Williamsport more than sixty years ago, drawn by one common denominator — education. They were both teachers, and employment opportunities landed them on the south bank of the Susquehanna River. But the two men shared other similarities. Both were raised in small Pennsylvania towns, Daughenbauch in Millerstown and Byham in Kane. Both were collegiate three-sport outstanding athletes, Daughenbauch at East Stroudsburg, where he was a forward on the school’s first undefeated soccer team, and Byham winning seven varsity letters in baseball, basketball, and football at Bloomsburg.
At South Williamsport High School, Daughenbauch taught science and Byham social studies. Both continued their love of sports onto the Mountaineers’ athletic teams, Daughenbaugh on the football field, Byham on the basketball court. Students who had the pair in the classroom can recall their varied teaching styles, but it was what they did outside of the classroom that led them to literary projects.
During the summers, Daughenbauch ventured west to the streams and rivers of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, where his love of fly-fishing soon gave him the earned reputation as one of the country’s most sought-after fishing guides. His tales of fishing experiences he shared over the years with the likes of Presidents Carter & Nixon, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other well-known people are highly entertaining. In writing the forward to Daughenbaugh’s book Great People, Great Rivers, Cheney wrote, “He was the finest fly fisherman I ever met.”
While the love of his life was his wife, Nellie, Byham devoted his time away from the classroom to his other loves of baseball, basketball, writing, and broadcasting. From his first radio gig on the old WMPT station, he hosted “Sports Digest,” highlighting the accomplishments of area athletes, always signing off his program with his most familiar “that’s 30” greeting. He went on to broadcast the Little League Baseball World Series on local radio for 56 consecutive years. LLB would go on to honor him by naming the broadcast area at Volunteer Stadium in his name.
But despite all their accomplishments and accolades, both men went about their respective books with reluctance.
Daughenbaugh admitted he had no intention to write a book but was finally urged to do so by friends reminding him he had many great tales to share. Sadly, Byham’s fictional book Bucky Deacon’s Dilemma did not come to completion until a few years after his passing, when friend and colleague Tom Speicher learned about the uncompleted project and took up the challenge to complete what he had begun.
I was a student of both men. Byham was my high school basketball coach, and our lives were closely intertwined until the day he died. I have recently reacquainted with Daughenbach and have enjoyed spending time with him at his home along the Loyalsock Creek.
The fact that both men needed a push to give birth to their books has a strong similarity to my own life. During World War II, my dad, Ralph “Doc” Lowery, kept a journal of his wartime experiences that included landing on Normandy’s beaches and fighting the bitter Battle of the Bulge. He often told me he thought about writing a book but always brushed it off by asking ‘who’d read it?’ He died without ever completing that book. I decided to take up that task.
In 2019, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Normandy during the 75th anniversary of that historic time. That was followed by a trip to Belgium and Germany to the very spots where Dad’s 28th Division fought, and so many men died. It was emotional and moving. I finished writing his story, entitled My Stretch in the Service – One Soldier’s World War II Story, and distributed it to relatives and friends in his honor. Webb Weekly was kind enough to publish four episodes of that story in the November 2019 editions.
Similar to Daughenbach and my dad, friends had urged me to write a book about some of the many baseball experiences I’ve had over the years; but I never did figure ‘who’d read it?’ But during the monotony and isolation of the 2020 COVID summer, I decided to give it a try. With the help of friend Adrienne Wertz, the result was a 234-page hardcover Circling the Bases, Bringing Memories Home, a personal reflection of baseball in the Lowery family. It found its way under the Christmas trees of family and friends.
A personal friend, Many Feinberg, once relayed to me how she has kept a daily journal since the time she was a young girl. She doesn’t know how that got started, but it has provided her the opportunity to pass on what her life has been like. When she told me that, I wished I had done the same.
Everyone reading this has interesting tales to pass along to the younger generation and those yet to come. Family history is something that should be remembered and cherished. Think about taking the time to put instances in your life in some kind of recordable fashion. If you aren’t adept at writing, there are many individuals out there, like the Tom Speicher’s and Adrienne Wertz’s who helped me who can do the same thing for you.
Sports are fun, but the memories they produce are even greater.