Iron History

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12/18/2003 Entry: "Dec 19, 2003"

Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark May 6, 1986

I hadn't heard from you for so long I had begun to think I had done something to annoy you, or you were all disappointed in me or that there were no topless oyster bars or hot and hot running butlers in Austin or something. Anyway good to hear from you at long last.

Nothing too much to report from this end. Had a letter from John Grimek to tell me Stanczyk had had a stroke some months ago- sounded like the beginning of the year, that he had been in hospital for some long time, that he was now out and his wife Dorothy had said his memory was good and his mind appeared to be unimpaired. Very sad this, especially when one saw him as I did as a very powerful man. My wife and I spent a very happy day with him and his wife way back in1953 at some meet or the other.

Also had a call from Fred Howell who told me he is looking forward to meeting me after so long knowing of me and would take loads of shots. Jan asked me the other day if I weren't excited at going to NYC and I told her a world traveler like me didn't get excited at anything any more unless it was a red headed widow.

Was most sorry to learn of your decision to- possibly- quit publishing the report at the end of the current series. I know you could never hope to get rich on it- or even make a modest competence. But at the same time I think you should reconsider. Some one has to be the gad fly- to act as the conscience of others and I think, in no small measure- the Roark Report filled that need. So before you do give it the chop I think I'd carefully consider it

I have an article roughed out that Rader has accepted to the effect that all we are told these days about the wonderful training principles, exercises, apparatus and other stuff isn't the brain child of the Woodland Hills XXX but of the men who were long before him they had these things on the market and in the game way before his Mammy was saying to Dad, 'Not tonight dear, I have a headache.' Rader has accepted it and another along the same lines on powerlifting in which they now not only have to use steroids to help them 'win' or create a 'record', but also special clothing to aid them in their benches, squats and dead lifts, plus wrappings. How long will it be before they are using blocks and tackles and calling the results 'records'?

So I say keep it going and needle the phonies and dig the knife in as I now intend to do.

Came across some good stuff the other day re the American Continental Weightlifters' Association formed by Jowett and Coulter. There was a very acid letter contained therein re the claim by Jowett to have cleaned and jerked 310 at a Philly meet. One of those who was there complained long and loud at the claim saying Jowett was up to his usual tricks and has never done the lift. However he did state that he has seen Jowett press 210- two hand press- several reps.

Also another juicy tidbit from a 1913 edition of Health and Strength- eat your heart out- wherein Tromp Van Diggelin- I never did like the son of a bitch- wrote a letter declaiming Fred Rollon. Rollon was a Berliner who was absolutely incredible at strand pulling and had a physique that warranted the same description. Like an enlarged Otto Arco or a heavier Pandour when they were at their best. Anyway the upshot of it was that Van Diggelin was saying that although strand pulling built muscle it didn't built strength and ergo, Rollon wasn't really strong. Rather slyly I thought, the editor of H&S had planted a little squib directly below Van Diggelin's letter to the effect that Rollon had been in the Russian city of Minsk giving a stage exhibition and had been challenged by a member of the audience to show how strong he really was at the local club, in lifting weights. Rollon after the show, repaired to the club and at around 168 or so did a two hands press with 264, then promptly flopped onto his back, pulled over 330 and did several repetitions press on back with it.

There was also some very acid correspondence twixt good old Willoughby and Jowett re the latter's insistence on charging 50 cents to anyone who WANTED to make an attempt on breaking a record, Dave holding, and rightly in my opinion, that they should be charged 50 cents for REGISTERING the lift if and when they made a record.

Well, this is shorter than my usual, but I'll have loads to report on my return my NYC. In the meantime, and if the plane crashes or terrorists shoot up the airport and I'm there, so long and all the best to you and yours, Chas

Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark May 25, 1986

Thanks for your letter dated May 12th. Sorry I haven't replied more promptly but I haven't been feeling too good- depressed and not sleeping well at night.

The trip up to NYC went without a hitch- not as I expected it to be- somewhat of a disaster. But then at my age I, and others of my 'gap' always tend to look on the gloomy side.

Todd and I had a room on the 22nd floor with a fine view of the River and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Room comfortable and meals ditto. Apart from Leo Murdock hollering his head off over the mike and running on and on like an untreated dose of the clap, it wasn't too bad an affair with 150 odd people there. The only fault I had to find was with the somewhat unfortunate choice of the meal- CHICKEN KIEV- which made Terry remark we might all be glowing in the dark.

I met up with Fred Howell but we didn't get much of a chance to chat, Fred being busy snapping this and that in all directions and chatting up everyone within reach.

Had a very nice talk with Grimek who greeted me with warmth as did Jules Bacon. In our chat Grimek hinted he blamed Mike XXX for all the trouble- or most of it, saying he, XXX, had robbed the company of thousands. Also said XXX had tried to cheat him out of some funds to do with his pension fund. Also told me that he and his wife had visited Hoffman when he was in the hospital, had chatted with him for more than a couple of hours and when they got up to leave Hoffman remarked "Don't I know you from somewhere?" My opinion is that the suit will be settled out of court since it seems to me that the 'heirs' want to go off with their 'gains'.

Joni Lee MacFadden(sic) also attended to make the presentation to Grimek. She is now in her early eighties. Looks alright and must have made a trip to the beauty parlor beforehand since she was elaborately coiffured , wore a girlish garden party dress and a wide picture hat. It didn't do her any good. She is a bit wobbly on her pins and weak in her pipes but for her age does well. Unfortunately she had to get onto what a difficult man MacFadden was to live with and how he gave her a set of dumbbells on their wedding night as a present. Well at least it was something hard. And with balls on it. Ah me.

I was not only surprised but touched by the number of guys who came up and thanked me for the way in which I had helped them. A load of fellows from the Bronx Y where I set up the first lifting class and club were also there and remembered me with a lot of warmth.

EDER�NO� he didn't come up once to speak with me. I saw him looking at me. I saw him listening to me when I said a few words of tribute to Grimek. But not once did he come over to say Hi. So UP HIS.

Hope you enjoy yourself at the Jones. As far as I am concerned they can go take a flying copulation at themselves. I called up Flanagan as you suggested and was told he wasn't at his desk. So they handed me over to that other guy you mentioned- can't recall his name. I told him why I had called- about preserving the mags and was treated in the most insulting and patronizing manner, as if I was a bloody old fool. I was then asked if I was calling on the WATS and on replying I was, was asked my number and was told, "I'll get back to you." He never did. I don't like this sort of shit at all. I'm not a dummy and don't want to be treated like one.

Fly you to and back to Illinois and Florida in ONE day? That's quite a fast trip friend.

As for Glossbrenner's 'research'- it was faulty to a fault. He listed the world records presses. But he forgot to mention the fact that while some of them were done in strict Olympic style in which NO BACK BEND was permitted the following BIGGER press records weren't really presses at all but made with heaves and backbends so deep they left the lifters with splinters on the tops of their heads. The press of Davis was, in my opinion and though less by far in poundage to the later Russian lifters, a much better PRESS than the two hands continental and PUSH that passed for a press. And the same goes for Anderson's and Hepburn's presses which were by far BETTER LIFTS than those performed by the Russians which weren't presses at all.

It wasn't Hoffman who bought the so called 'barbell' from Travis but another cat. And Travis DID dupe this guy who got not a barbell but a collection of gear wheels on a bar. IN ADDITION to a dollar charge extra for the 'tip' which Travis gave to the man who helped him load the car, shipping the 'barbell'. Travis was a close hand with the buck. Died quite a wealthy man so I am told.

In one of your letters you mentioned about a certain gal XXX was tied up with- said to be a whore- named XXX or some such and you'd tell me all about it when we met. You never did, so give up.

No to my sorrow, I haven't talked to the young lady since that gym time. I haven't been down to the place since I was there with you.

The flight to NYC and back was smooth sailing, apart from the meals which were horrible. They served a stuff called CLAM chowder. If there were any clams in the stuff, they must have stood back three hundred yards and tossed them at the pot.

All for now. Oh before I shut up. Three new records. The Bulgarian FEATHERWEIGHT Sulimanov has snatched 319 and cleaned and jerked 413 in official competition for new worlds records. Ain't that something.

Also the record two hands dead lift made by Goerner on October 20th in 1920 of 793 has after 66 years been equaled by Joe Hood of the U of T team. Joe lifts drug free. Did it with a reverse grip whereas Goerner did it with both knuckles to the front� Best to you and yours, Chas.

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See you Dec 26th!