Sunday, November 15, 2009


I’ve had 2 bosses in my life that really had an impact on me. Both were father figures. Dennis Connolly, the owner of The Broadway Oyster Bar who I’ll get back to, and Dave Verner.

Calvin “Calmodee” Britt, head Goon Squad member, calls Dave “The Prince of Darkness who’s forgotten more about skydiving than most jumpers will ever know. Dave’s also the father of world champion skydiver Kirk Verner.

Verner ran Archway Skydive Centre in Sparta Illinois and eventually Vandalia. I taught the static line first jump course for him.

I’d spend the entire day with my students. When the class ended I’d take 3 at a time up in a small Cessna and put them out of the plane. Verner would talk them down with a radio.

Verner was famous for his penny pinching. He’d run around the drop zone collecting beer and soda cans. He had the most demonic grin as he flattened them with his little hand pumped crusher.

Verner helped me out of several jams, especially when my car broke down. He threw wildly successful chili parties every winter. I remember leaving there so drunk one year that I drove my little Suzuki Samurai right into a ditch. Luckily I could put it in 4 wheel drive and get out.

Verner could never turn down any business. One time I had a class of seven Japanese engineering students from Parks College. I was teaching them exits from a mock up airplane when I began to get the feeling they didn’t understand a thing I said. I scanned the group and noticed one of them seemed to understand English. “You seem to understand me,” I said. “I understand every word,” he replied. “Great, explain it to them.” “I’m Korean!” he exclaimed.

Anyway, I taught them the commands for steering and landing and Dave talked them down safely.

Pics are me boarding a blue Cessna 182 (this was one of the planes I put students out of), Dave telling one of his bad jokes to a group of jumpers (he’s wearing the green hat), Me standing in front of a red Cessna 185—gotta jump off here.... Our friend George was the pilot of this airplane. I spent a 3 day weekend at a skydive camp 10 miles from Vandalia being coached by Jack Jeffries. He was the team captain of Arizona Airspeed. They were the world champion 4-way team for several years and Kirk was a member. We were practicing our moves at the Greenville airport when George landed his C-185. He had just watched a load exit the plane back at Vandalia when he noticed a glove finger in the back of his plane. He picked it up only to discover it still had a finger in it. Our friend Steve Otke had his finger in the plane’s door hinge and he exited leaving it behind. George flew straight to show us.

The last pic is the Verner family. I got it from Dave’s FaceBook. It shows Dave, Kirk, Dianne (Kirk’s mom), and Kirk’s son. Kirk’s wife Melanie took it.

When Kim and I got married in freefall, Dianne tried to talk us out of letting Dennis Jett be our minister. Dennis was a bit of a Viet Nam vet psychedelic that seemed to have been ordained by mail in San Francisco. Dave told her to shut up and let us have our day.

P.S. I just remembered. There's a scene in the movie Drop Zone where several skydivers form a large spinning round formation over Washington, DC. The single jumper spinning the opposite direction in the center of the formation is Jack Jeffries.


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