Big Dog: Living fit and well at 90
By WAYNE JOSEPH
Custis Green is 90 years old and sees no reason to mess around.
“May I say at the outset that I have never been an athlete, but I have been an ardent admirer of good athletes and feel scant sympathy for those who have treated their bodies to drugs or booze,” said Green, who lives in Hilo.
He moved to the Big Island from the Caribbean 11 years ago after meeting his wife as she was serving in the Peace Corps.
“I have always appreciated the efforts and dedication for healthful living with the focus on running and walking,” he said.
Green learned at an early age that athletics might not be his thing. He tried out for the football and basketball teams, but the school didn’t have a uniform size small enough that would fit him.
“I weighed 83 pounds when I entered high school three years later,” Green said. “So I volunteered to be a locker boy. My job was to make sure the guys on both teams had the proper equipment at the right time.”
Although Green became regulated to the bench, he did follow the careers of the famous professional stars of the day such as Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. He listened to the radio and read the newspaper in order to keep up with these athletes’ careers and others, something he still does today.
Green did have a musical talent, though. He played trumpet in the marching band, which allowed him to watch the games and cheer for his favorite players on the field.
During World War II, he was a B-17 bombardier flying out of England over Germany, and he’s got a survival story to tell.
“On a bombing run the pilot of the lead plane in formation lost control in a bad hit slamming into our plane,” he said. “Out of the 19 men on the two planes, three of us survived.”
Green became a prisoner of the Germans for six months, but he survived that as well.
When he returned home to Colorado, his father had hoped he would join him as a funeral director.
“I hated to disappoint him, but I wanted to work with children,” Green said.
He got a master’s in education and spent 35 years in Portland, Ore., mostly as a principal. It was during this period that he was playing volleyball with his staff when he slipped in injured his back in a fall. The doctor advised him to change to swimming, telling Green that that he wasn’t as young as he used to be.
But he hadn’t done much swimming since his Boy Scout days.
“OK, I’ll give swimming a try,” he said. “The first time I entered the pool, I was hooked. I also swam for a purpose, which was to raise money for a hospital. I strong-armed friends and church members into donating money for every lap that I swam in the pool. This earned me a certificate thanking me for earning the most money for a hospital. I’m rather proud of that,” he said.
Of course, Green has slowed down since his younger days, but he has developed a routine of swimming three or four days a week at the YMCA in Hilo.
“For half the length I walk, then I crawl with my head down in the water; next I crawl with head up,” Green said.
Finally, he swims the breaststroke with his head down.
“I don’t turn my head to breathe,” he said. “Then I shower and head home for breakfast where I read all the sports in the HTH. Then I do the crossword puzzle — usually napping in the middle of it,” he said with a wide grin.
Green eats three good meals a day, unless he has to make his own lunch, then its a peanut butter sandwich.
“I have celiac disease, which means I have to remain on gluten-free foods,” he said. “That leaves me eating mostly vegetables, fruits and meats. I munch on fruit slices of jelly candy in between meals and drink soda pop and tea.”
But there’s no rye, wheat, barley or other grains.
Green consumes no coffee or alcohol, and very little water — the 90-year-young person admits this as a weakness —unless the water is flavored.
“I sleep pretty well most of the time,” he says.
Now, I must say this 90-year-young person is probably in better shape than I am and he has a better fitness routine.
And someday should you happen to see a senior crawling up Shower Drive in Hawaii Paradise Park, remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
Reach the Big Dog at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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