Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dick Wilson- Shakespeare Archery’s “Mystery Man” revealed

Richard Ian Wilson, 1931-2014

Dick Wilson- Shakespeare  Archery’s  “Mystery Man” Revealed

I first published  “Dick Wilson-Shakespeare Archery’s Mystery Man.” in April 2013.

Since 2012 I had been trying to find Dick Wilson, former President of Shakespeare Archery Division. I wrote the original article based on information I found in forums and in printed material. Then on July 21, 2014, his sister contacted me via email and wrote “My 11 year old granddaughter is signing up for archery & wanted me to tell her Uncle Dick—so I called Dick & of course, he was thrilled & mentioned he had written a book titled “The ABC’s of Archery” & had given a copy to her mother.  So I Googled the title & saw the blog & reference to Dick as “Shakespeare Archery’s Mystery Man.”   I was arranging to interview Mr. Wilson; apparently he was very excited about reminiscing about his time with Shakespeare. 

Unfortunately Mr. Wilson was not well. He was hospitalized shortly after we connected and sadly he died on August 14, 2104. When I first published this first article I knew very little about him but I felt that he had made important contributions to archery. I have written this article as a tribute to the memory of Dick Wilson.

Dick Wilson on the cover of the 1967 Shakespeare archery catalog
One of the reasons I started this blog was to document and record information from the Golden Era of Archery 1950 – mid 1970s. So much of this priceless knowledge has been lost to the passage of time and, sadly, the passing of the men and women of this period. Many of these Vintage Bow Makers went bankrupt with the invention of the compound and their legacies have been neglected. Today, with the resource of the internet, we have a responsibility to preserve this heritage for future generations.

Fred Bear and Ben Pearson were great bowyers and their persona help market their exceptional bows. Shakespeare had no such person. Ernie Root was the heart and soul of the company but perhaps he was unwilling to become a figure head. In 1959-60 Dick Wilson was hired to manage Shakespeare's Archery Product Manager and later he became President of Shakespeare Archery Division. He was an accomplished archer and he became the face of Shakespeare Archery. Dick was no a “showy” guy. He became the face of Shakespeare but was not as inclined draw a lot of attention to himself. He was an excellent manager and he had a passion for archery. He was a writer, inventor, and advocate of the sport of archery, but ironically there was virtually nothing known about him. He was credited in this 1967 Bow and Arrow article but beyond that there is not much information about him. I hope this article will give him some recognition for his contributions to the sport of archery:

In the bow review of the OCALA X17 -, Brush Beat for a Meat Sheep  By Jim Dougherty. May- June 1967, BOW & ARROW Magazine  pp. 14-18, 43, 59, Mr Dougherty twice comments about Dick Wilson:

 “ Dick Wilson of Shakespeare had sent me a dozen of their rifled Fiberglass arrows and believe me the shafts are as tough as hell, you cannot break one in two…..”

Dick Wilson and the Shakespeare people have no reason to be anything but proud of the strides they have made in modern archery tackle. The complete line of Shakespeare bows is cut from the same mold of quality that highlights the Ocala”

This is the list of questions which I hoped to ask Mr. Wilson during the interview which, unfortunately, never happened.
Dick Wilson shooting a left hand Ocala X17

His family has been incredible helpful answering many of my questions.
1.       Where did he grow up?
2.       When did you he discover archery?
3.       When did you he join Shakespeare Archery?
4.       Could he describe his relationship with Ernie Root?
5.       Most of the Shakespeare Bows were designed by Ernie, what were your (Dick)   design contributions to the Shakespeare bows?
6.       What was your (Dick) favorite Shakespeare bow?
7.       In your Shakespeare Ads you appear to be ambidextrous. Did you (Dick)  shoot with both right and left hand?
8.       One of the reasons Ernie left Shakespeare was a result of the move to South Carolina. How did you (Dick) feel about this move?
9     When did you (Dick) leave Shakespeare Archery?
10      What did you (Dick) do after Shakespeare?
11     Did you (Dick) ever shoot a compound bow?
12   Please tell me your fondest memories of your (Dick)   Shakespeare days?

I have since learned a tremendous amount about Dick Wilson; his family has been so helpful reconstructing the extensive achievements of Dick Wilson.
1.       Where did you grow up?
2.       When did you  discover archery?
Dick Wilson was born July 27, 1931. His full name was Richard Ian Wilson. He grew up in Berrien Springs, a small town on the St. Joseph River in southwest Michigan. As a teen he worked at a drugstore as a "soda jerk", and he cleaned his aunt and uncle's restaurant, The Green Lantern. As a child, Dick had an interest in the Potowatami Indians that lived in that area, their lifestyle, culture, spiritual beliefs, and, of course, bows and arrows. He developed his love of archery at a young age by making his own bows and arrows. The Dean Family (His mother’s family) were Christian Scientists, and ran a convalescent home there, as well as a farm and eventually, dairy. Dick had planned to be a physical education teacher, and attended Hillsdale College in Michigan with a football scholarship for a year.  However, his family needed his college funds, so he wasn't able to go back the next year.   Dick worked on the dairy farm before and after he married Ellen Saitz Wilson (who became a 5th place champion in the women's national archery competition one year). They had four daughters.
Dick Wilson had a wide and varied background in tournament and hunting archery. As a tournament archer he was Michigan State Field Archery Champion and won over 50 archery tournament prizes. He was President of the American Archery Council, he also served as chairman of the Education Committees of the Professional Archery Association and the American Archery Council. He was on the board of the Archery Manufacturers Organization, director of the Professional Archery Association's Business and Instructors School and was a member of the Archery Committee of the Outdoor Education Project. Dick has been bowhunting all over the United States and in many foreign lands. He has been involved in a dozen television films seen by millions of viewers, including a 1970 segment of "The American Sportsman" on hunting Alaskan bear.” 

Dick Wilson and his family: Richard I. Wilson, wife Ellen Saitz Wilson, and daughters-.  Laurie Wilson Eller is the taller one, and Joy Wilson Brychta is the smaller one: featured in both the 1964 and 1966 Catalogs

3.       When did you (Dick) join Shakespeare Archery?
Dick Wilson described Ernie Root’s bows as the best bows he had ever seen or ever shot. Dick Wilson was the person who got Ernie Root involved with Shakespeare!
In the late 1950’s Ernie Root had an archery factory in Big Rapids, MI. Dick Wilson was hired by Shakespeare to build the new Archery division in 1959-60. It was Dick Wilson who was responsible for convincing Shakespeare Archery to use Ernie Roots considerable skill as a bow maker. It was the peak the convergence of Shakespeare and Root Archery, both Dick Wilson and Ernie Root were partners in the Shakespeare archery line.

4.       Could you describe Dick Wilsons’s relationship with Ernie Root?
Dick Wilson and Ernie Root were friends; Dick described Ernie as a “great guy”. Their families often got together and the children still remember these family get-togethers.
In 1967 when the Root Golden Eagle team scored the first perfect scores of 300, both Ernie and Dick were there to witness the historic event. Like true friends, they didn’t always agree but they had a respectful and friendly professional relationship and collaborate on most designs. 

5.       Most of the Shakespeare Bows were designed by Ernie, what were Dick’s   design contributions to The Shakespeare bows?
Dick most likely made suggestions to the designs of the Shakespeare bows. Ernie Root was undoubtedly the primary designer but Dick made suggestions. The trend toward shorter bows was resisted by Ernie; he favored a longer and more stable design. The shorter bows may have been an idea of Dick Wilson. He did appear in several of the Shakespeare ads shooting these bows. I have discovered two patents for inventions filed by Dick Wilson. 
Dick Wilson's Broad Head Patent

Dick Wilson's Bow stringer patent

Dick Wilson with his patented Thunderbolt broadhead

One is a broadhead design and the other was a bow stringer. Some of his family member mentioned an invention for Shakespeare bows which Ernie Root thought would never work but proved to be effective. Dick said” “But, we did not always agree. For example, Ernie told me my new design would never work so we tried it out & it was then put in every product that Shakespeare manufactured afterwards.”  If I had been able to speak with Dick Wilson I would have known which invention his family was referring to. But I believe it may have been a design for an arrow rest.

Hunter Rest may also be a Dick Wilson innovation

There isn’t any new invention specifically for Shakespeare bows until 1968-69 when the “Hunter Rest” was introduced and it continued to be used by nearly all Shakespeare bows until the demise of Shakespeare Archery in 1976. It never appeared on any Root bow so it was exclusively a Shakespeare arrow rest.  It was a plastic elevated rest which doesn’t look impressive. However I have shot using this rest and it is an excellent arrow platform. It is extremely likely that the Hunter Rest may be another of Dick Wilson’s innovation to which his family was referring.  

6.   What was your (Dick) favorite Shakespeare bow?
I wish I could have asked this question to Dick. I am sure that he would have had lots to say about the bows he loved. His family remembers a multicolored bow which they referred to as the “Rainbow”. The only Shakespeare bow which matches that description was the 1968 Titan X15, a beautiful rosewood and maple multi-laminate layers target bow. 
1968 Titan X15...the "Rainbow"?

7. In your Shakespeare Ads you appear to be ambidextrous. Did you (Dick) shoot with both right and left hand?
Several visitors to the blog have pointed out that Dick Wilson appeared to be ambidextrous because he is shown shooting both right hand and left hand. I had assumed that the photo negatives were reversed to suit the need of the print ads. Well, it appears that Dick was actually ambidextrous. Dick learned to shoot left-handed because he became almost blind in his right eye from a disease he got from cleaning the chicken coop on his grandpa's farm.  I imagine he could shoot both right and left-handed, but his aim might have been better with his good eye.
Dick Wilson was an ambidextrous archer.

8. One of the reasons Ernie Root left Shakespeare Archery was a result of the Company’s move to South Carolina. How did you (Dick) feel about this move?
9.  When did you (Dick) leave Shakespeare Archery?
When Dick was asked by his sister about this, he first said that it was very complicated to explain but added, “When I learned that Shakespeare was going to shut down the archery and golf divisions and move to South Carolina, I wrote the head of Shakespeare & told him they were making a big mistake, that they would lose business & be out of business in 2 months.  I was wrong—it took 22 months-- so as they started with their plans & before they shut down the 2 divisions & moved, I left the company for the manager’s position at a firm in Wisconsin  ”  It looks like Dick and Ernie both had serious reservations about the move and both left for the exact same reasons.
The Wilson family told me that “Shakespeare Company executives didn't see things the way he or others in the archery or fishing divisions did.  I believe that one big disappointment of his had to do with the Philippines.  I guess some official in the Philippines government wanted to see archery become a main Olympic sport in their country, and Dick was working with them on a deal for them to use only Shakespeare equipment.  After traveling to the Philippines and having their representative here, something went wrong…I'm not sure what, but I know my dad was very upset with his superiors at the company about it.”
1970 cover with painting of Dick Wilson with left hand Cascade and his Thunderbolt arrow
10.   What did you (Dick) do after Shakespeare?
After leaving Shakespeare he was manager of RPM Plastics in Hales Corners, WI, 1971-1977, a commercial real estate agent at Polk Realty, in Las Vegas, 1978-July, 2014, but was the owner and broker from 1992-2006. Dick loved nature, hunting, fishing, archery, coaching, singing, dancing, family reunions, story-telling, reading, and giving fatherly guidance.  A member of the Safari Club, Dick traveled to many states and countries on hunts with friends and family. 

11.    Did you (Dick) ever shoot a compound bow?
Yes, he eventually did.

12.   Please tell me your fondest memories of your (Dick) Shakespeare days?

This is another question I wish I had been able to ask him personally. His family had many suggestions for his fondest memories as well as their fondest memories of him.
  • ·          “THE BIG FISH- Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium ”  has a life size photo of Dick Wilson with the huge air-breathing Arapaima fish shot with a Shakespeare bow while bowfishing in South American.  Dick said: “The fish was a food fish which was eaten by the natives.  The natives were amazed that I could shoot one with bow and arrow but were very, very worried that I might be harmed by the many piranhas which were in the water where I was.”

  • ·         ( His children) They remember watching him on TV sports programs & reading all the articles he wrote on archery, hunting in the Amazon, hunting in different countries and going on safaris. Dick Wilson’s daughters also recall family visits with Ernie Root and his family. They remember Ernie’s son Ronnie, when they were young—because he made his eyelashes flutter! They also say that they especially remember visiting Ernie Root’s cabin because he had a cook—they were impressed. 
    \Bill Shatner with a Shakespeare Bow
    •          BILL SHATNER: Dick's sister sent me this as an email: “Dick said Bill Shatner was a really fun guy to be with.  First time we met he grabbed my hat off my head, put it on his & gave me his hat, saying that he liked my hat better than his.”  Bill & Dick arrived in Alaska early so that they had 2 full days before the TV film was shot, so that Dick could train Bill for shooting Alaskan bear.  Bill had been an archer for several years, with had but no experience in shooting Alaskan brown bear.  During the filming, but not shown, Dick said “I stood right behind Bill with a very powerful rifle to shoot a bear if it got too close to Bill.”  When Bill came to Wisconsin he would call Dick, they went out to dinner so the guys could talk about the Alaskan trip and their current archery interests.  They lost track of each other after Dick moved to Las Vegas. 
      Dick Shooting lefty
      • (from his daughter) “We also did a short film in Chicago with Jimmy Pearsol (ex- baseball player I think from LA) advertising archery as a family fun recreational activity. That was very cool. I think it was shown as a short before a regular movie back then. I wish I had a copy of that!! I also remember when Michigan Outdoors came to our house on Crooked Lake in Mattawan, MI to film my dad shooting into the water with a "fishing bow". It was sort of a comedy too because he "planted" a boot, a can, etc. in the water and "caught" those as a joke. I don't remember if he ever caught a fish but I think he did.”
        Dick Shooting Right Hand

      •    ·(from Dick’s sister), Some brief memories: **eating cooked rabbit (usually with pieces of buckshot still in) which he had shot as a young teenager  **when living in Michigan as adults w/children, our family would drive to Dick’s house (on a lake of course) & the young cousins would have a blast swimming, boating, performing plays (they made up) for the adults & in the evening singing songs over a campfire—we all were big on singing as both Dick’s family & my family always sang during  our separate driving trips (he had an excellent voice & knew a lot of songs we sang from childhood—which he taught his children.)  **watching him on TV sports programs & reading all the articles he wrote on archery, hunting in the Amazon & different countries & going on safaris.  **His children adored him as a caring, loving father throughout all his life & often flew to Las Vegas to see him & tell him how much they appreciated the way he raised them & the values he taught them.  **At family reunions he would always be asked to tell the family (about 50-60 people now) about our grandmother & other relatives very interesting lives (he was interested in genealogy.)  As he stood in front of the family, their spouses & kids, he would tell these stories that fascinated all—even keeping the young kids listening **in short, he was a very interesting person, who led a very interesting life, was a professional manager or owner of several companies, was a professional archer, big animal hunter, designed some archery equipment (which was patented), was a writer, a wonderful father and “a great guy” to people who knew him.

I wish I had the chance to talk to Dick, if only we had connected sooner. I am grateful to the entire Wilson family for their help on this article. I did manage to contact a couple people who knew Dick Wilson; they both commented that he was a “great guy”. 

Thank you Dick Wilson, thank you for your contributions to archery.

His daughter says it beautifully:

“My dad accomplished a lot in his life.  He was a very unique man, very adventurous, a great writer and teacher who taught us so many lessons about life, responsibility, doing our best, being honest and strong, etc.  He will be in my heart for ever and ever and I will always cherish the life I had with him as my father.  I know he is proud of us too. I will miss him always and am grateful for the memories. “