“This is the start of World War II,” William W. “Bill” Boddington remembers saying at the closing ceremony of the 1936 Olympics. “Simultaneously, with the dimming of the Olympic flame, power was switched on from a hundred or more searchlight batteries, and the rays met right over the center of the stadium. It was an electrifying and terrifying moment.”
Bill’s love of sport took him to the 1932 LA Olympics, not in his chosen sport of soccer but in men’s field hockey. A bronze medal in 1932 inspired him to try out for the Berlin Olympics in 1936 where at the closing of the games the Nazis showcased their militarism which convinced him to see Europe before the imminent war he foresaw. He quit his job and secured a trip to the mountains he explored after the Olympics. Bill spent a year in Florence learning to speak Italian and enjoying the culture. He would return to these mountains as a soldier in 1944.
After Pearl Harbor he tried to enlist in the Army Airforce but at age thirty-one he was told he was too old. While sorting out his affairs he stopped in the Graybar building in NYC. In Bill’s story this is how he became the first man to enlist in the Tenth Mountain Division.
“Minnie Dole”, an old friend, was the creator of the Tenth Mountain Division. He was in the Graybar building pitching the idea of the mountain troops in 1941 to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They gave Dole the green light and the Division was created. Mr. Dole hopped on the elevator heading down. A floor or two below, my father steps in. By the time it reached the bottom, as he later told the story, my father had enlisted.
It was fate that brought the New Jersey boy to Colorado to train at Camp Hale. It brought him to Colorado Springs on leave one weekend where he met my mother, Jo. That meeting blossomed into a love affair sealed by a valentine’s day demonstration of his love by arranging with his future mother-in-law to have my mother on the train to Leadville and to have her look out the window when it stoped for water. There she saw a huge heart stamped into the snow and outlined in pine branches. As mother watched, he skied like Cupid’s arrow through the heart down to the train. That’s salesmanship of the first order! And that same romantic imagination allowed him to start a family, while opening a wholesale building materials distribution business, Boddington Lumber Co. The company was then, and was when it sold, owned by its employees, which was relatively rare in the 1950-60’s. He was a visionary in the trust he placed in his employees to do the right thing. It worked like everything he had learned in the 10th Mountain Division; teach them all they need to know then sit back and watch the success. That philosophy also worked well for him on the many boards and civic ventures he enjoyed and at Colorado College (where he coached for eleven years as a volunteer, taking the teams from club status to varsity.) Colorado Springs was fortunate indeed to have an energetic and completely ethical man part of the community.
Generously Submitted by Tim Boddington