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American Experience: The Boys of '36

In 1936, a team of young rowers from the University of Washington surprised the nation when they beat out Ivy League competition to represent the United States in the Olympics, held that year in Nazi Germany. Once in Berlin, the team beat significant odds to win the gold medal. The most recent episode of PBS's American Experience commemorates the 80th anniversary of the so-called "Boys of '36" with this moving documentary about the experiences of these rowers and the significance of their feat. Unlike many of their Ivy League counterparts, the University of Washington rowing crew hailed from families hit hard by the Great Depression. The team's buffer, Joe Rantz, was abandoned by his family while still a boy. Timothy Egan, who authored a book on the Great Depression, notes that many young men joined the University of Washington team as a way to secure a meals at the university. On this website, visitors can watch this documentary in full and view accompanying resources, including a remarkable photo gallery and interviews with contemporary rowers.
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Date of Scout Publication 2016-08-19
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