The obituaries for Byron "Whizzer" White since his death on April 15 at the age of 84 have been as widely varied as the Colorado native's long career. On ESPN's SportsCenter, for instance, White was remembered for his gridiron accomplishments with the University of Colorado and the NFL -- and, oh yeah, the station's anchor pointed out that he also happened to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice for thirty years.
Just as humorous were rival claims in the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post taking credit for White's nickname (which has everything to do with athletic prowess and nothing to do with urination). According to an April 16 story by Rocky staffer Lisa Levitt Ryckman, "White resented the nickname 'Whizzer,' given to him by Rocky Mountain News sportswriter Leonard Cahn." (Ryckman repeated this anecdote in her April 20 coverage of White's funeral.) An April 16 editorial in the Post referred to "then-Denver Post sports writer Leonard Cahn," however, and a story the same day by Gwen Florio, Howard Pankratz and Dave Curtin stated that White's "string of records on the football field prompted a 1935 Denver Post story that dubbed him 'Whizzer,' a monicker [sic] fans quickly adopted."
So what's the real truth? Frank Haraway knows. Haraway worked as a sportswriter at the Post for an astounding 44 years, and when he was hired full-time in 1938, his boss was none other than Leonard Cahn. "He was at the Post when he nicknamed White," Haraway remembers. "Then, just a few years later, he switched from the Post to the News, where he spent something like 35 years."
Another mystery solved.
Green at the gills: It may be some time before well-meaning Colorado landlubbers who wrote checks to help save Ocean Journey are able to balance their checkbooks. The aquarium, which nearly closed on April 2 after a string of financial foibles before "saving" itself the day before with a declaration of bankruptcy, is still waiting to hear if, how and when it will be able to cash those contributions, according to Ocean Journey spokeswoman Kimberly Thomas. The attraction, which remains open and has even ramped up some new exhibits, will be back in bankruptcy court on May 9.
In the meantime, the checks and pledges -- which range in value from $5 to $1,000 -- are in the possession of the Greenway Foundation, a nonprofit organization that runs Punt the Creek and other events and activities dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of the South Platte River; most of the money was handed over at a March 23 rally organized by the aquarium's volunteers. But Jeff Shoemaker, the foundation's executive director, hopes to let would-be donors know what will happen to their uncashed checks very soon.
"I have, in physical checks and pledges, about $25,000 to $30,000," he adds, "and I am awaiting a letter from [Ocean Journey's] attorneys, because they are in bankruptcy court and need to be careful with the wording." The letter will ask donors to make one of three decisions: to restrict the money to be used for the reduction and elimination of the aquarium's $63 million in debt, in which case the checks will be cashed and the money kept in a money-market fund until Ocean Journey works out a solution to its problems; to release the money to Ocean Journey's operating budget; or to get their money back. "Obviously, we are hoping not too many people choose door number three," Shoemaker says.
Back in early March, when the aquarium was still planning to shut down the next month, the Greenway Foundation offered to help out Ocean Journey, in an attempt to show people that "individual by individual, a community can make a difference," Shoemaker explains. "The message is as strong as the money."
These days, the aquarium itself is just trying to get back to normal, planning new exhibits, rescheduling events that had been canceled in preparation for the closure, hiring new staff to replace people who found new jobs when they thought the aquarium was about to go under, and singing a happy tune.
What tune? "Ocean Side," of course.
To do his bit to make a difference, local hip-hop music producer Reggie Roc of Roc P.I.L.E. Records got some of his performers together to record the song on CD. About 1,000 copies were then donated to Ocean Journey. So far, the aquarium has sold about 300 copies; the other 700 are for sale in the gift shop. Considering these lyrics (you can hear a clip from the song at www.rocpilerecords.com), the $5 price is a bargain:
A yo! I want to see the sharks too!
In that water sky blue,
Colorado rarely has a spot that I could slide through.
Kids looking sad and lost,
Denver got to pay the cost.
Celebrity's is closing down and Lakeside done fell off.
Never seen a Jelly fish,
I put one on my Christmas list,
But chances slimmer than the gills of fish of getting it.
Ocean Journey's leavin' us and taken away our crustaceans,
Bout to leave these kids on the corner, man, it's frustrating.
Sail across the ocean side,
Teach me what I don't know.
Show me why the birds fly high,
Take me where the river runs low.
Yo! What about the Green Backs I never seen,
Little ghetto kids, white, Asian, Latin, Arab and black,
Living in Colorado might never get to see and learn,
About the creatures living in the sea, yo!
It's strange to me, Ocean Journey's like closing the doors,
What about those that want to learn more (ugh).
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My little brother wanna see the sharks.
Can't be found at the zoo or the local park,
So I gotta break his heart.
Sink or swim, kid. Glug, glug, glug.