By Bob Ittner
Danamite: Tell me what you do to stay in 75-year-old shape, soon to be 76.
Ittner: First, I picked good parents. My father had heart trouble around 50. His normal breakfast was bacon, eggs, toast with butter, whole milk. My parents quickly moved to starting their day with a soy protein drink with non-fat dry milk, banana, and a wide array of vitamins. Other concessions included removing the skin from chicken, cutting the fat off of steaks, giving up butter, etc. My Dad walked to the post office every day about a mile. When he located a downed tree, he asked the person to deliver the tree to the vacant lot behind our house which he chopped for firewood. He played tennis until shortly before he died at 95. My Mom was a regular at the Y for an exercise class where she passed away from a heart attack at 93.
Danamite: I knew you played basketball at MHS. What impact did that have?
Ittner: Once again, good fortune. MHS had a wonderful basketball coach Robert Todd. I did everything I could to be a better player. I lifted weights to try to gain weight. Doc Dodson gave me a boot with weights to strengthen my quads which I used religiously. As others have pointed out Doc was always positive source of encouragement. Warren Lynn and I took a yoga class at the Y. I think Warren still practices. One morning at 6 AM Bill Ingram joined me for a session and I treated him to yogurt and brewer’s yeast afterwards. Bill says he has never had yogurt since.
Danamite: So you were active growing up?
Ittner: Yes, besides basketball I played baseball in the summer starting when I was 9 and played what we now call rec ball through my junior year in high school-my last year I hit 3 out of Hogan Park which was unusual at the time. Steve Thomas, John Waid, Nugent Brasher and I played on a Little League team with George W. Bush. I regretted that I did not go out for the MHS team after my sophomore year but had a clash with the coach when he thought I had not been careful enough with a warm up jacket that was stolen from my locker. Iris Todd, Coach Todd’s wife (Coach Todd passed away from Alzheimer’s about 8 years ago) reminds me that I probably would not have accomplished as much in basketball if I had divided my attention. In retrospect she is probably right.
Danamite: I understand you played basketball for the University of Texas.
Ittner: A wonderful experience that paid for my college education when Midland was in one of its oil slumps. I am still in contact with the three others that were scholarship freshman-all have had very successful lives. I got to play with Midlander Mike Humphrey (MHS ’60) and rub shoulders with other Midlanders on scholarship-Bill Munn, Charles Giesey, Mark and Mike King, Knox Nunnally, Bob Stanley, Dick Kimbrough. Who am I leaving out?
Charlie Dishman (MHS ’61) did not return after his freshman year to my disappointment. Don Patteson and Robert Lambert played on the freshman team when I was a sophomore. Lynn S. and Jay Brim were cheerleaders at UT during this time.
I lived in Moore Hill Hall, the jock dorm, all 4 years a 4-story building with no elevator living at 401 my freshman year. Coach Bradley told us how important it was to get up and have breakfast so I scheduled six 8 AM classes my first couple of years (that means Saturday). I would get up before breakfast and jump rope until the upper classman in 301 came up one morning rubbing the sleep from his eyes “this better not happen again.”
I learned a lot from sports which helped which has helped me in life and in business. UT had success winning the SWC my freshman (Elite Eight in NCAA’s-freshman not eligible) and junior years. As a junior I had the pleasure of watching and playing with Larry Franks (RIP) who was performing at his highest level. It is the only time in my athletic career that I can remember one of my teammates putting it all together (self actualization-the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities). Although only a part time starter I was Captain my senior year and had my best varsity performance my final game at Gregory Gym!
Danamite: Take me from there.
Ittner: I played slow pitch softball up until my late 30’s, tennis until a couple of years ago, and racquetball for about 40 years. I really enjoyed RB-great work-out. Larry Prescott (Midlander) and I played at least once a week from the late 70’s until he retired in 2006 and moved to Santa Fe.
Danamite: What are you doing now?
Ittner: I gave up tennis and RB to save my knees. 17 years ago I started riding in the MS 150 which is a 150 mile two day bicycle ride from Houston to College Station to find a cure for those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. This year’s ride scheduled for May 2 and 3 has been postponed until September 26.
The rest of the time I try to go to the gym (before they were shut down) every weekday morning setting my alarm for 6:00 to ride the stationary bicycle, do light weight work, and/or play wallyball-volleyball in a racquetball court. During the crisis I have been walking our two golden retrievers twice a day trying to get 10,000 steps minimum. I am contemplating taking up yoga again.
Danamite: Anything else?
Ittner: My wife Linda is 63 and has lots of energy. My Father always advised to hang around younger people. Easy to do now because everyone is younger! Last year we went to Sayulita Mexico, took an Alaskan cruise, and had a great trip to Nashville. In February this year we went to Mexico City (wedding) and Oaxaca (visit Nugent). We were going to go to Italy to ski in March and take a Grand Canyon raft trip (postponed until September 2021). Still on the drawing board is a trip to San Diego in September and a wedding in Cabo in November. Who knows?
Danamite: Final thoughts?
Ittner: God willing and the Creek don’t rise I could live a long time. I know it is important to stay active physically and mentally, eat judiciously, and hang around younger people like my wife, our children, grandchildren, John McElligott and Wemasario! And have a glass of wine. “Well, woke up this morning with a wine glass in my hand. Whose wine? What wine? Where the hell did I dine?” Peter Frampton