Iron History

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07/28/2003 Entry: "The 1959 AAU Mr. America contest"

Aug 01, 2003

On August 1, 1959, of the 32 expected contestants for the AAU Mr. America, 4 were no-shows, and 28 competed, when for the first time the event was held in York, PA.

The Most Muscular had been held the previous day with Art Harris edging George Orlando by half a point: 23.5 to 23 points, though those results were not announced until the next evening. This was the second time Harris had won this designation, and there was some chat among officials about creating a rule, similar to the rule for the Mr. America title, so that a single victory disqualified a man from further competition in the event. This had been done after John Grimek's second victory in 1941, when it appeared no end to his success was in sight in regard to being able to win the Mr. America.

Two separate groupings were needed for the men to pose on stage because of space limitations, then the men came out individually and struck three poses, then each man presented his complete posing routine.

Harry Johnson's contest history: [winner, if not Harry, is in brackets]:

Jan 31, 1948 - won AAU Best Built Weightlifter, Atlanta
May 01, 1949 -3rd in Chattanooga at the AAU Jr. Mr. America [ Val Pasqua]
Apr 14, 1951 - 2nd in AAU South's Best Built Athlete [Stan Stanczyk]
Jun 28, 1952 - 16th in AAU Mr. America in NYC [Jim Park]
Jun 07, 1953 - 14th in AAU Mr. America in Indianapolis [Bill Pearl]
Sep 05, 1953 - won AAU Mr. Dixie in Atlanta
Apr 17, 1954 - won AAU Mr. All South in High Point, NC
Apr 24, 1954 - won AAU Mr. Southeast in Memphis
May 15, 1954 - won AAU Jr. Mr. America in Norfolk
Jun 26, 1954 - tied for 5th in AAU Mr. America in L.A. [Dick DuBois]
Dec 11, 1954 - won AAU Mr. Dixie in Atlanta
Jun 05, 1955 - 5th in AAU Mr. America in Cleveland [Steve Klisanin]
Jun 02, 1956 - tied for 6th in AAU Mr. America in Philadelphia [Ray Schaefer]
Jun 10, 1956 - won short class & tied 3rd overall Mr. U in Virginia Beach [Klisanin]
Jun 23, 1957 - 3rd in AAU Mr. America in Daytona Beach [Ron Lacy]
Aug 01, 1959 - won AAU Mr. America in York
Jun 04, 1966 - won AAU Over 40 Mr. America in Denver (age 42)

So, Harry Johnson brought these Mr. America attempts into the event: 1952- 16th in New York City, 1953-14th in Indianapolis, 1954- a tie with Ludwig Shusterich for 5th, each man having 60 points, 1955- 5th in Cleveland, 1956- a tie for 6th with Dean Higuchi, each man having 60 points, 1957- Harry moved up to third place in Daytona Beach. Harry was not among the 21 men who gathered in Los Angeles for the 1958 edition, but did return to defeat 27 other men, and become the oldest Mr. America to that point, at age 35 [ not 36]. The contest was in York, Pennsylvania at the Interstate Fairgrounds.

Before the contest, while sunbathing and chatting with Peary Rader, Harry asked how he looked, and then indicated he would train even harder for the competition next year "�not having the least idea that this was to be his big year,�".

The line-up included three men who would each later become a Mr. America winner: Lerille 1960; Routledge 1961, and Weaver 1963. (The 1962 Mr. America, Joe Abbenda, did not begin entering this event until 1960.)

The line-up also contained two men who would become NABBA Amateur Universe winners: Routledge 1961, and Santiago 1965.

The judges: Herb Lucy, Morris Weisbrott, Jim Messer, Jack Ayers, Ron Lacy (1957 Mr. America), John Terlazzo, and Peary Rader, owner of Ironman magazine.

Dave Moyer performed exercise demonstrations, Ed Jubinville displayed muscle control.

There were no height or weight classes at this event. All best body parts- arms, chest, etc had been discontinued after the 1955 Mr. America; the only other category was Most Muscular. It remained this way until the 1966 Mr. America when the other categories resumed. From 1956 thru 1965, the only Mr. America winners to also be awarded Most Muscular were: 1957 Ron Lacy, 1958 Tom Sansone, and 1960 Lloyd Lerille.

Here are the results of the August 1, 1959 AAU Mr. America contest held in York, PA.

1. Harry Johnson Jr. 84 points [born Nov 26, 1923 = age 35 yrs 8 mos 6 days]
2. Ray Routledge 84 (he would win in 1961)
3. Pete Ganios 81 (was 10th in 1956, and 14th in 1960)
4. George Orlando 80 (this was his only try at this contest)
5. Vern Weaver 79 (he would win in 1963)
6. Elmo Santiago 78 (had four tries, best placing 6th in 1959)
7. Lloyd Lerille 77 (he would win in 1960)
8. Art Harris 76.5 (his final try; 1955-8th, 1956-4th)
9. Ken Hall 75 (his first try; 1960-13th, 1962-10th)
10. Fred Schutz 72.5 (in 1958-5th, 1963-14th)
11. Hossein Shokouh 71.5 (only try)
12. James Basil 71 (first try, 1960-17th) nickname 'Buddy'
13. Walt Cuzzimano 71 (sic) (final try; 1952-6th, 1956-tied Malachi for 25th))
14. Tommy Johnson 70.5 (first try; 1968-11th, 1969-11th, 1971-32nd)
15. Ken Rosa [Leo Downs] 70.5 (only try, this was Downs using Rosa's name)
16. Joe Simon 70 (1956-tied for 22nd with Bowman & Bosland, 1962-11th)
17. Bill March 69.5 (first try; 1960-16th)
18. Mike Ferraro 66.5 (first of 7 consecutive tries; 9,10,6,8,6,10)
19. Hank Wayne 64.5 (only try)
20. George Wojnowski 64 (first try; 1964-20th)
21. Harry Lanehart 62.5 (only try)
22. Gene Wells 62 (1956-17th,1963-11th, 1966-13th)
23. Sam Martin 61 (in 1958, 3-way tie for 9th with Sipes & Golumbick)
24. Ed Jacobs 56 (only try)
25. Bill Crozier 51 (only try)
26. Pat Hensley 50.5 (only try)
27. T. Lowell Scott 47 (only try)
28. Joe Marino 47 (sic) (only try)

Ironman does not list Rosa, it adds Leo Downs with 70.5 points, who is in fact Ken 'Leo' Downs. Ironman also skips 13th place and 19th place, so their total of 30 competitors is misleading.

Elmo Santiago won the AAU Jr. Mr. America winner in Cleveland May 3, 1959 Joe Abbenda won the Teen Mr. America in York on Jun 20, 1959 Chuck Sipes won the IFBB Mr. America contest in Montreal on Jan 25, 1959

More reading: Strength & Health Nov 1959 p 10, 14; Dec 1959 p 14 Ironman Oct 1959 p 11, 15

Harry was cover man for S&H in Oct 1955 and was profiled by Murray in that issue. Four years would pass before another feature story on him in S&H would run- and that was to celebrate this Mr. America win in the Nov 1959 issue. The following month he offered 'How I trained For the Mr. America', then in Jan he began his monthly body parts training articles starting with abs, then in order: thighs, chest, calves, back, forearms, biceps, and ending with triceps in the Aug issue.

In Sep 1960 he wrote 'Looking Back Through the Years of My Life', and the next month, 'My Million Dollar Experience'.

For Ironman, see Oct 1959 about how the tie was broken in this Mr. America event, and how his persistence paid off. Then skip a year, and he wrote articles for Ironman on body parts (remember Ironman was then bi-monthly) and continued with occasional pieces through Sep 1966.

Muscular Development updated his life in Mar 1964, profiled him in Jun that year, and in Dec 1966 he offered his tips to battle the bulge.

In Britain, the former Strength Athlete by Kirkley ran his chest routine in Dec 1962.

Harry's other cover appearances were Muscle Builder Nov 1956 and Ironman Nov 1956 and Oct 1959.

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Next column: Aug 8, 2003, so see you next Friday!