By Alicia Dziak
Ellicottville’s very own Wally Holland has led an interesting life. This becomes apparent after just talking with him briefly, as he is full of stories spanning his 80 years. And soon, you’ll be able to learn about some of his more memorable life experiences when his memoir is published. Holland’s Dear God, What’s on the Second Floor? will be done later this fall.
Holland has enough stories to fill the pages of this paper and then some, and the synopsis goes something like this: “An English boy survives one war, volunteers for another, learns a trade, mixes some drinks, bets on some horses, goes to sea, takes to the air, marries an American, starts a business, raises two sons, and ends up refereeing soccer in a little village in New York. Along the way, meanwhile, he makes a nice living as a petty thief, gets arrested for murder by Interpol, annoys a belly dancer, dodges bullets on a train, goes AWOL, gets court-martialed (quite unrelatedly), encounters a spot of trouble at knifepoint in London, runs perilously late in the South African bush, makes a grand debut as union man, slightly embarrasses James Bond, and disagrees with a Parisian swan over the matter of a baguette.”
The idea for the book came about more than 30 years ago, when Holland said people would hear his tales and often suggest he make them into a book. Years ago, he made recordings tht his son then jotted down, but the book was put on hold util in recent years when he fel he could afford the process of writing the memoir.
“So much has happened to me,” Holland said of his eight decades on earth.
Early on, Holland describes his childhood in England as one where he had “no school, no food and nothing else.” He learned to steal food and was expelled from school after just four years of education.
From there, he was in the military, worked on airlines and cruise ships and got into soccer (he is now the oldest soccer official in New York State). Some experiences in his life that stand out are dancing with the Supremes, working with Buzz Aldrin (the astronaut) and being detained as a murder suspect in Paris because he resembled a wanted man.
Whether it’s being in the right place at the right time, surprisingly acing interviews or accurately reading a unique situation, Holland said, “Lucky is a word that comes up repitiously in my life.”
“All of my dreams in life came true,” he said. “How many people can say that?”
And just what were his dreams? “To marry someone and have children, to be in a movie (he was in 1952), to travel the world, to play for a professional soccer club and to meet movie stars,” Holland explained.
If you want to hear all of Holland’s “extraordinary stories that make up an ordinary life,” you’ll have to wait for the book. Stay tuned to the Ellicottville Times for more info later this season.