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She battled bias to become first Filipino to win Olympic gold

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					                                                                                                                                                                            CENTRAL CITY

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                       She battled bias to become first Filipino to win Olympic gold
                       ® CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1                               from home on her treeless block to Nickel                                                                                                                    and educational films.                               last minute, Basconillo said, the Philippine
                                                                             Baths in the Mission District for free Red Cross                                            SOUTHSIDE                                                            Her career ended when the Draveses               Consulate called and wanted to have them for
                       coach. The last upshot of that discovery was          swimming lessons. What she really wanted                                                                                                                     decided to settle down in Southern California        lunch.
                       naming the Folsom Street park between                 was to be a ballerina.                               Newspapers covered meets with gusto, and            with the ever-popular water shows — but             and raise a family, first living in Glendale and         The dedication festivities for the almost fin-
                       Columbia Square and Sherman streets last year,            “But we were a poor family,” she said. “We       clubs had money.                                    couldn’t sign until after the amateur Games.        Encino then in Tarzana for 35 years before           ished $3.7 million project went from 3 to 5
                       Victoria Manalo Draves Park. She and her hus-         had no money for lessons.”                                As Taylor, Vicki entered some AAU meets,            They first accepted an invitation from the     moving to Palm Springs in 1995. Lyle remained        p.m. The 2-acre park has a playground, basket-
                       band attended the grand opening in October.               She had fun with her girlfriends playing         scoring modest results. She improved over two       Manila Jaycees to visit the Philippines. They       a coach and swimmer director. The Olympic            ball court, softball field and picnic area, with
                           I visited the Draves in early March.              tag, jumping rope, and visiting a park play-         years but WWII brought everything to a halt.        got the red carpet treatment over 29 days, stay-    gold medals got put away in a drawer. Lyle           bathrooms to be built before summer and a
                                                                             ground nearby — she’s not sure where. She            The clubs disbanded. She didn’t dive for two        ing in a Malacañang Palace suite and then vis-      says they are worth $1,000 each.                     ball field drainage problem to fix.
                       AT HOME IN PALM SPRINGS                               was crazy about the parallel bars and swinging       years.                                              iting her father’s relatives in Orani, Bataan,          Occasionally she got called for celebrity            Daly called the park a neighborhood trans-
                           They live in a ground-level yellow condo          on the rings.                                             But diving remained popular because of         where he was born. She performed in several         appearances. A picture hanging in the hallway        formation “milestone” along with the rebuild-
                       at the edge of Palm Springs near the evening              “I went to Franklin Grammar School,              the many sponsored exhibitions for service-         public exhibitions, four in a stadium whose         shows Draves in the middle of a formal group         ing of Bessie Carmichael school. And it was
                       shadow of the barren San Jacinto Mountains to         which is where the park is now,” she said.           men, and quality held firm. After the war, the      walls were riddled with bullet holes, reminders     shot at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1968.        appropriate, he said, that it be named for one
                       the west. Kim Draves, one of their four grown         “Bessie Carmichael was the principal and I           sport regained its footing and prejudice, as        of the war with Japan. Lyle brought in local tal-   She helped raise $700,000 for the City of Hope       of the city’s “distinguished women and U.S.
                       sons, was vacuuming and his daughter,                 really liked her. She was tall, slim and pretty,     Draves saw it, pretty much disappeared in her       ent to round out a show.                            She’s flanked by sprinter Jesse Owens,               Olympic athletes,” an inspiration to young
                       Kimberly, was watching television in another          and she always talked warmly to the children.”       life. Competing as Manalo, she went to see               “It was a wonderful experience,” Draves        Weismuller, football player Tommy Harmon             people.
                       room. Lyle Draves was picking up stacks of                Draves also attended Commerce High               coach Charlie Sava at Crystal Plunge in North       said. “And I dived for the president (Elpidio       and race car driver Sam Hanks.                           The mayor, unable to attend, wanted to
                       magazines and “Vic,” as he calls her, swept           School and San Francisco City College.               Beach to see if she would practice free there.      Quirino) at the palace swimming pool.                   Across the hallway is a framed photo of her      make sure he talked to her, so park rangers
                       away newspapers from an easy chair for me,                The new park supplanted the school               He coached the Crystal Plunge champion                   “But they kept us up every night nightclub-    son, Dale, in superb form diving into the ocean      whisked the Draveses to City Hall for a private
                       then sat on the couch.                                named after Carmichael, which is now on              swimmer Ann Curtis (Cuneo) who also became          bing until 3 or 4 in the morning,” Lyle said.       from an 84-foot cliff in Acapulco.                   chat. “The mayor said, ‘It’s about time the city
                           At 82, her pretty face is barely lined and        Seventh Street and has a strong program in           an Olympic champion in 1948.                             Back in the states, her pro debut was at           “All the boys took to diving,” she says. “But    recognized you,’ ” said Basconcillo, who was
                       matronly round under silver hair. She looks 20        Tagalog, which Draves doesn’t speak.                      “I couldn’t pay him anything, but he           Chicago’s Soldier’s Field. She also performed in    baseball took its toll on their interest.”           there.
                       years younger. The framed pictures in the hall-           Her mother, Gertrude Taylor, was English         accepted me,” Draves said.                          the L.A. Coliseum with headliner Esther                 Next to it hang two plaques honoring her
                       way, some from a 1949 Life magazine center            cockney and came to America after her                                                                    Williams and did the General Motors conven-         volunteer work with Little League.                   BACK AT THE TONGA ROOM
                       spread, show her graceful diving form. One            younger sister arrived and got a job as a maid       GLOWED LIKE A GOLD MEDAL                            tion in Detroit. She, as a performer, and he, as        San Francisco might have forgotten Draves            At the Fairmont, the Draveses dined with
                       shot shows her entire 5-foot-2, 110-pound             at the St. Francis Hotel. Mixed dating was               At the 1944 AAU championships, the men’s        a show employee, toured America and Canada          if it wasn’t for tenacious Fred Basconcillo.         two friends from her childhood days, Nellie
                       frame sitting sideways on a diving board, one         taboo then. The sister dated a Filipino man and      1942 platform champion, Korean Sammy Lee,           in 1949 with the Buster Crabbe show.                Although he failed to get the Sixth and Folsom       Pacheco and Anna Wolf. They ate in the Tonga
                       knee bent. She’s looking over her shoulder in         was warned against it. She married him any-          later a two-time Olympic winner and coach,               (Crabbe was the handsome Olympic gold          park named after her, he pursued her acclaim.        Room, ironically the spot that once held the
                       the standard swimsuit girl pose of the era.           way.                                                 saw her dive and befriended her. As he intro-       medal swimmer who became a movie icon of            In May 2005, San Francisco City College flew         pool she used as the sole member of the Phil
                       “Vicki Draves, the Olympics’ prettiest champi-                                                             duced her to his coaching friend, Lyle Draves,      the ’30s and ’40s as Flash Gordon and Buck          her up to speak at its commencement and gave         Patterson Swim and Diving Club.
                       on, joins a professional swim troupe,” the cap-       SOMA FILIPINO POPULATION GROWING                     who ran the swimming and diving program at          Rogers. After one movie as Tarzan, though, he       her a Distinguished Alumna award. It was the             It doesn’t matter that the new SoMa park
                       tion reads.                                               Taylor associated with the same crowd and        the prestigious Athens Athletic Club in             lost that role to fellow gold medal winner          result of Basoncillo’s behind-the-scenes work        doesn’t have a swimming pool, she said.
                           “We almost got the cover when we were             met Teofilo Manalo who had come from the             Oakland, he said, “She’s got gold medals writ-      Johnny Weismuller. In the ’50s, Crabbe was          with lawyer friend and author Rodel Rodis, the           “I never thought about it,” she said. “But
                       with the Buster Crabbe tour,” Lyle Draves             Philippines with a string band. They dated and       ten all over her.”                                  promoting his swimming pool line.)                  school’s four-time-elected trustee who was           my goodness, it’s not every day you get a park
                       growls like they’d lost a close race.                 he decided to stay and find work as a chef.              Lyle took her on as a student. He was an             “It had portable water tanks and 80            then board president.                                named after you. I’m just glad it wasn’t posthu-
                           They’ve been a team more than 60 years            They got married.                                    electrical engineer by day and a coach by           employees,” Lyle said. “Ten men could set it all        In May, too, the Recreation and Park             mously.
                       and sometimes he loses the battle to not                  “Mixed marriages were frowned upon,”             night. She was a secretary by day in San            up.”                                                Commission approved naming the park in the               “I got some breaks, very much so. And I’d
                       embellish her comments. He is a story himself,        Draves said.                                         Francisco.                                                                                              middle of the 1000 block of Folsom.                  say to any young people, if they have dreams
                       the architect of her career who in 1989 fol-              But the family seldom wandered out of                “I took the streetcar to Third and Howard       EUROPEAN TOUR, BIG MONEY                                The whirlwind day of the park ribbon-cut-        to follow them, see them all the way through
                       lowed her by 20 years into the International          SoMa, where the Filipino population was              after work and rode the A train across the bay          In 1950, they toured Europe — Zurich,           ting, Oct. 27, 2006, Basconcillo picked up the       no matter what it takes. And always be fair and
                       Swimming Hall of Fame as a coach. He’s 92, a          growing. Her dad was gone two and three              to the club,” she said.                             Paris, Rome — heady stuff for a poor Filipina.      Draveses at the airport at 8:30 a.m.. He had         kind.”
                       tough guy from Iowa you’d still want on your          months at a time as a chef on ships, then land-          “I got her at 7 p.m. and kept her until 10,”        “They paid us top salary, too,” Draves said.    paid their airfare, Supervisor Chris Daly’s office       Meanwhile, the resurrection goes on.
                       side. Despite 44 operations and licking cancer,       ed a houseboy job cooking and cleaning for an        Lyle said.                                          Their combined weekly check was $750.               was springing for a suite at the Fairmont Hotel      Basconcillo says he is determined to get her
                       he looks 10 years younger. He lays that off to        Army colonel in the Presidio.                            Before she could return, though, the street-        The Draveses also did private exhibitions       and the hotel was comping their dinner. At the       into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. I
Vicki Manalo           swimming at least twice a week in the two                 “We didn’t have a car,” she said. “We            car stopped running. She walked the 10 blocks
Draves shows her       condo pools, neither of which, he grouses, has        walked to all the Filipino social functions and      in the dark, arriving home at 11:30, a practice
                       a diving board because of skittish liability fears.   to dances in ballrooms.”                             Lyle didn’t like. So he started driving her home.
1948 Olympic gold
medals that her
husband Lyle says
are worth $1,000
                           But he seldom can get “Vic” in the pool.
                           “I never was comfortable in the water,”
                       Vicki Draves said. “I wasn’t much of a swim-
                                                                                 Her life turned around maybe because of
                                                                             dashing diver Jack Lavery, or just the eager
                                                                             desire to be expressive through graceful move-
                                                                             ment.
                                                                                                                                  One night she was sitting a little closer to him
                                                                                                                                  than usual, he said, and then suddenly she was
                                                                                                                                  holding his hand. It was the start of their
                                                                                                                                                                                      Growing up brown in San Francisco
                       mer.”                                                                                                      romance. They were married in 1945, the year
each.
                           Before she was 10, she took the short walk            In summers, whenever the weather was
                                                                             nice, she and her mother took the streetcar to
                                                                                                                                  her father died of a stroke.
                                                                                                                                      Draves made 50 to 100 dives a night. Lyle
                                                                                                                                                                                      Man behind naming of Victoria Manalo Park
                                                                             Fleishhacker Pool by the beach for the afford-       says her main problem was “lining up,” mean-


                                                                                                                                                                                      F
                                                                             able nickel fare. The sea-water-fed, 1,000-foot      ing hitting the water in a position that scarcely         RED Basconcillo of Daly City is the man       the new Folsom Street park, the Filipino com-        was because they somehow knew he didn’t
                                                                             pool with racing lane floats and diving plat-        makes a ripple. But he knew she had potential.            behind getting the SoMa park named            munity asked him to spearhead a move to call         pay, until one day he finally read the signs.
                                                                             forms was spectacular. The Far Western               And it soon showed up. She won the U.S.                   after Victoria Manalo Draves. He “grew        it Draves Park. He did and was successful.                On the historic morning in 1948 that
                                                                             Swimming and Diving Championships were               National Diving Championship platform title in      up brown” in SoMa, just like Draves, and                 Basconcillo was raised on Russ Street and       Filipinos were allowed to buy property in San
                                                                             held there and local clubs participated.             1946, ’47 and ’48, adding the springboard           remembers as a kid seeing newspaper head-           later moved to the Western Addition. As a kid        Francisco, he said his father bought a Bayview
                                                                                 Outside was a grassy park where people           crown in 1948 before heading to Detroit for         lines about her. As an adult, he often won-         and as an adult, he felt the bite of discrimina-     house from a close Italian friend that had just
                                                                             liked watching the Adagio Team, a local              Olympic tryouts. She competed against 30            dered where she was.                                tion and stereotyping.                               gone on sale. Thrilled, Basconcillo and his
                                                                             vaudevillian acrobat act that practiced to           women and was one of four who made the                   Basconcillo, 70, retired in 1988 after a            “I grew up brown, as I say, and I had a         mother went to see it that noon. The real estate
                                                                             music. “I was watching and someone asked if          team and went to London. Sammy Lee was on           career as an iron worker and local union offi-      chip on my shoulder. A lot of instances came         agent answered the doorbell and yelled at
                                                                             I’d like to try a lift,” Draves said. “I said yes.   the men’s team.                                     cial. He then got involved with the Filipino        up for me. I’m sure Vicki (Draves) had her           them, “Get out of here! We don’t sell to
                                                                             And I did the swan.”                                                                                     American National Historical Society and            experiences, too.”                                   Chinamen!”
                                                                                 Lavery, 5-foot-9 and blond, a diver with the     MAKING HISTORY                                      delved into the past. His specialty was uncov-           At age 10, Basconcillo had a job at the              The former owner set things straight by the
                                                                             Fairmont Hotel Swimming and Diving Team,                 The Olympics had been suspended since           ering unsung Filipinos who had contributed in       downtown Olympic Club wearing a white                end of the day.
                                                                             was standing by. He was a nice-looking col-          1936 because of the Nazi-led war in Europe. So      big ways to their communities but had gone          jacket and delivering bar drinks for tips. Once           Basconcillo had other examples. Attending
                                                                             lege guy with a pleasant personality. Vicki          the 1948 Games were a nostalgic resurrection        unnoticed, usually because of discrimination.       he was late and ran in the front door. He was        a large AFL-CIO function in the mid-1970s after
                                                                             Manalo was 16.                                       made poignant by the shattered backdrop of a             Draves had won two gold medals in diving       stopped and rudely admonished that the help          being elected president of Local 790 of the
                                                                                 “Jack Lavery saw it and asked if I’d like to     bomb-pocked city in the throes of recovery.         at the 1948 Olympics, the first Filipino to win     used the kitchen door and moreover that              shop ironworkers in Washington, D.C., a man
                                                                             learn how to dive,” she said. “He was my first       Scarcities prevailed. Finding things like wool      anything at the Games. Yet as the years wore        Filipinos were not even allowed in the club.         stared at him, then came over and asked who
                                                                             crush. I said yes.”                                  socks or meat was impossible.                       on she became unknown in her native San             He recalls taking the humiliation with tears         he was. Basconcillo said he was an ironwork-
                                                                                                                                      “There were no fancy Olympic facilities         Francisco.                                          running down his cheeks.                             ers’ official.
                                                                             ONE-MEMBER DIVING CLUB                               like what existed before,” Draves said. “But             Basconcillo began a search. He found                Another time he was walking down Market              “American Indian?” the guy asked.
                                                                                  Lavery introduced her to Phil Patterson, the    everything was so organized and precise and         Draves and her husband in 1999, living in Palm      Street toward the Ferry Building with his older           “Filipino,” Basconcillo said.
                                                                             Fairmont team coach.                                 the way they greeted you made you feel so           Springs, he told a now-defunct NorCal Filipino      sister and saw a crowd yelling and milling near           “Umm, I thought you’d be with the culi-
                                                                                  “Phil accepted me but he wouldn’t let me        important.”                                         television station. Then he accompanied a sta-      the Mechanics’ Statue. Against his sister’s wish-    nary people.”
                                                                             on the team,” she said. “He created the Phil             “Their buildings were bombed to hell and        tion reporter to Palm Springs for an interview      es, he went for a look.                                   Basconcillo wanted to swing away in these
                                                                             Patterson Swimming and Diving Club and I             they bent over backwards for us,” Lyle says.        and met Draves for the first time. He delighted          “I was just 6 or 7 and I saw a blonde           instances but held off.
                                                                             was the only member. He told me, too, that I             When Draves won both the platform and           in hearing her life story from her and her hus-     woman lying in the street with her head on the            “It was my first introduction to union poli-
                                                                             had to change my name, use my mother’s               springboard gold medals she made history, of        band, and seeing her historic pictures.             curb and the crowd was stomping her head,”           tics,” he said. “I kept asking myself, Why do
                                                                             name, Taylor. He was a very prejudiced man.”         course. They celebrated with dinner out at a             Five years ago, Basconcillo lobbied for the    he said. “Blood was running everywhere.              people do this?” he says. “And it’s just igno-
                                                                                  Draves did these things to learn. Maybe it      hotel with her mother’s older sister and her        recreation center at Sixth and Folsom streets to         “It was because she was with a Filipino.        rance at the root. I’m probably guilty of it
                                                                             hurt her father; he didn’t say. She went regu-       husband who were astonished to find a “wild         be named after her. But it became the Gene          He was being held and struggling to get              myself. People need to be educated. We need
                                                                             larly to the Fairmont pool as Vicki Taylor,          game” stew on the menu. She ate it, but Lyle        Friend Recreation Center, after a longtime Rec      away. There was a rope up over the arm of            to learn about others’ culture. They don’t know.
                                                                             watched the good divers and tried to copy            wouldn’t touch it, explaining later that it was     and Park employee. The decision irked               the statue.”                                         So you tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine.”
                                                                             them, as she was told. The rampant rumor on          horsemeat.                                          Basconcillo. He thought it was politically moti-         City swimming pools posted signs that said           Now Basconcillo lectures on Filipino histo-
                                                                             the team was that Patterson was Jewish and               But win or lose in London, she and Lyle         vated. But he got assurances from a park com-       minorities could only swim on certain days at        ry at colleges, universities, high schools and
                                                                             had changed his name himself.                        were going professional. Before they left the       missioner that Draves would get her due.            certain times. But at first he didn’t notice. He     middle schools. I
                                                                                  Swimming and diving had prestige then.          states, Lyle had agreed to a contract to tour            When wheels were set in motion to build        got kicked out for sneaking in. He thought it                                        —TOM CARTER
                                                    PHOTO BY TOM CARTER




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