Cordova Chronicles: A Wish for 2020 — Civility

Gilbert Stuart’s 1796 portrait of George Washington. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

On a rainy December 28 evening, a pair of alumni games were played at Cordova High School court.

A scrappy young Lady Wolverines squad, with only six players available, edged a balanced and deep group of former CHS standouts, including three starters from the girls team that won districts and advanced to state last year.

With the CHS boys squad shorthanded due to injuries and illness, the alumni men’s games turned into a battle of just that: two evenly-paired teams of mostly CHS grads playing to a dramatic finish, with a three-pointer from Zack Songer with two seconds left the difference.

A crowd of over 100, including parents and grandparents, as well as kids and grandkids, was on hand to delight in the performances, which featured very good basketball, and very good sportsmanship.

It was an example of what respect and civility can bring to the game.  Of course, the stakes of the outcome were somewhat meaningless, but the play was hard-nosed and quite competitive.

Yet unlike Men’s League basketball, which is a dying art form everywhere, there was no name-calling, finger-pointing, taunting, threats between players, potential fisticuffs, abusive language, nor screaming at the officials.

Sadly, all of these seem to be staples of the Annual Men’s Iceworm basketball tournament, where officials have had to resort to technical fouls, ejections, and reminders that women and children are present, in attempts to maintain order.

Ah, civility, in games, and in life, where has it gone?

Not a day goes by that I do not hear a f-bomb, be it in the grocery store, the post office or on the streets. The once-ultimate epithet of disdain has become an accepted part of everyday discourse.

Fondly and naively, I recall the days of my youth at the Boxcar, a famous duck cabin down Eyak River, where Kenny Van Brocklin and my dad had a jar in which they put a dollar for every X-rated slip of the tongue in front of the tender ears of Randy Bruce and I, although I suspect the accumulated funds went into buying liquid sustenance for the next trip downriver.

Who cannot overlook the classic movie “A Christmas Story” that runs continuously over the holidays, and the endearing scene where Ralphie ends up with a bar of soap in his mouth, for uttering the ultimate cuss word after spilling lug nuts while helping his dad change a flat tire?

These days, twitters and tweets are the consummate form of dispensing incivilities everywhere at the speed of light. In our unfiltered society, anyone can send them, and seemingly anything goes. Many start at the highest levels in Washington, D.C., and sizzle out to impact all.

Yet, ironically, it was none other than a young George Washington who penned “Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation”.

Our first president, the acknowledged Father of Our Country, was 14 years old when, back in 1746, he wrote them in his high school book. Two hundred and 74 years later, perhaps all 110 of them should become the 28th Amendment to our Constitution.


“Every action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.”

“Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break no Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from laughing there at yourself.”

“Let your conversation be without Malice or Envy … And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.”

“Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act agst the Rules Moral before your inferiours.”

“Use no Reproachfull Language against anyone neither Curse nor Revile.”

“A Man ought not value himself of his Achievements, or rare qualities of wit; much less of his riches Virtue or Kindred.”

“Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.”

“Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof.”

“Labour to keep alive in your Breast that little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.”

Young George may have struggled with spelling, but I wish, at age 14, he was around, as adept at today’s technology as most teenagers, to blast out tweets of such wisdom from the top of a monument in Washington, D.C., named in his honor.

May 2020 be a more civil year.


Happy New Year.


Previous articleWhat were our most clicked stories for 2019?
Next articleObituary: Betty Jean Self Deaton
Dick Shellhorn is a lifelong Cordovan. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 50 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016, and third place in 2017 and 2019. He also received second place for Best Editorial Commentary in 2019. Shellhorn has written two books about Alaska adventures: Time and Tide and Balls and Stripes.