American Experience: The Boys of '36 In 1936, nine working class boys from the University of Washington took the rowing world and the nation by storm, when their eight-oar crew team captured the gold medal at the Olympics in Berlin. These sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers, overcame tremendous hardships–psychological, physical, economic–to beat not only the Ivy League teams of the East Coast, but Adolf Hitler's elite German rowers. The boy's unexpected victory, and the obstacles they overcame to achieve it, inspired a nation struggling to emerge from the depths of the Depression. The Boys of '36 recounts their remarkable journey.
The novel is about schoolboys in the rapidly developing Budapest at the turn of the 20th century, who defend their playground, the "grund", from the "redshirts", a team of other boys who want to occupy it. The boys regard the "grund" as their "Fatherland", constitute themselves its "National Army" and constantly use all the terminology of nationalism as common at the time in Hungary as elsewhere in Europe.