Iron History

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08/08/2008 Entry: "8/8/2008: Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark dated October 9, 1987"

Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark dated October 9, 1987

[Please keep in mind these thoughts are from Charles� perspective and that the other people mentioned may have a different view of the same circumstances. I maintain the spelling CAS used.]

Dear Joe,
Your latest MuscleSearch arrived yesterday and I was most interested in that bit re Albert Beckles and his age.

Two days ago I received a letter from our smoked salmon �which still hasn�t arrived- in Alaska, Denis Weiss. Here is what he had to say re the age of Beckles.

�He [Beckles, CAS],) send me (sic) a copy of his passport which shows a 1930 date which in fact would put him at age 57 as he has stated. TOO BAD HE USED WHITE OUT TO CHANGE AN EIGHT TO A ZERO, BECAUSE THAT PROVES I WAS CORRECT IN STATING THAT HE IS IN FACT 48 YEARS OF AGE AS I STATED.�
My caps, CAS.

I have never believed that Beckles was as old as he said. If he was, then he would be a medical anomaly. Just look at his skin texture and his muscle tone. Just not those of a man close to sixty years of age. Look at the others who are around- Vince Gironda and others of his age group. You�ll see what I mean.

Weiss has me captivated. He never writes unless he wants some information. In each letter, after asking for info on how to develop this or that, or info on how to do this, that or the other, he always dangles that smoked salmon before me like a carrot on a stick hanging in front of a donkey.

Let me draw your attention to something else, which might make you keep your guard up when dealing with this bird.

Some time ago, he wrote and asked me if I wouldn�t like to write a series of questions and answers for him, for pay of course. I wrote back saying this would be very nice, since I was slightly strapped for the jolly old filthy. But I asked some questions like where, when and in what mag the material would appear. Whose name would appear as author. How much would be paid. How would the payment be made and other such stuff. In other words I sniffed a very large rodent.

After some time, back comes his reply � �forget my proposition for a while, we�ll get back to you later.�

Then YOU call me and tell me he asked you to look up that Q&A stuff that Grimek used to do for S&H. You turn him down. Now- dig the following- this from his letter, some of which dealt with Beckles.

�Bob Kennedy and I are in the process of inking a book contract with a major publisher in New York City. THE PUBLISHERS ARE INTERESTED IN A QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FORMAT and I am really keen since I have always wanted to try my hand at writing a book of this nature���.�

Need I say more?

At the end of his letter he asks for info on exercises that will strengthen the muscles for arm wrestling and adds��I still haven�t forgotten the promise of smoked salmon��

Now here is a man who professes to be, or poses as, a weight training expert with books to his credit and he is asking me how to exercise and what movements are good for what muscles. Which MIGHT indicate he knows not a bloody thing about exercises, gets his seeming expertise from others and what they wrote, and hasn�t the sense to get him a kinesiology text book and see how the muscles function. Proof?

In his book MASS, written with Kennedy I took him to task for saying the WASHER TECHNIQUE was new. This �technique� consists of adding washers to a bar, weighing a few ounces, instead of the usual 1-1/4 plates and up. I pointed out that this was being used �and in fact originated in England in the late Twenties and was used by a load of British lifters including Ron Walker. I demanded that he tell me where he got it from, since his book MASS carried a banner across the top of the front cover saying �NEW BODYBUILDING SECRETS.�

After some time, back came the reply, �I got it out of a 1960 edition of IRON MAN MAGAZINE.� You will notice, if you have his book, and have read it ,Roark note: I do not and have not] that there is no credit given for his lifting something out of IM- as IM gave no credit for the innumerable times this technique has appeared in the old British HEALTH AND STRENGTH as well as countless other British mags.

This Dennis Weiss is a joker to be watched.

Thanks for mentioning me in the Hise interview.

Yes, I agree some people are very lax, or discourteous, in answering letters.

Re this ARTHUR JOHNSON. There are two possibilities here. One is that this may be ARTHUR HARRIS, a finely built black kid who lived in the Bronx and was trained by me when I was teaching weight training at the Bronx YMCA. Arthur did take part in a number of Mr. A contests, starting in the very late forties. He had an exceptional build. The other possibility is that the man may have been HARRY JOHNSON who did win the Mr. America contest- if my memory serves me correctly. He was round in the late fifties, early sixties and several of his articles were published in IM.

By the way, it was I who started the weightlifting club or classes in the Bronx YMCA in the late forties- 1947 nut of course, the usual happened- as it always does with me- when I left the Y another cat came along- Mannie Tsingis and took all the credit for starting up the lifting classes. I got it so big that it became the major activity at the Y to a point where we took two handball courts away from the handball players, thereby starting up the Civil War all over again.

Not too much else to write about. A new world record snatch was made at the recent world championships. Krastov, the Bulgarian, although he placed third to Kuralov, did a snatch of 476. I can remember when any covey dead lifting that went around bragging.

It would be nice to have a line or two from you,

Best to you and yours,


At the peril of being regarded as cynical, I would venture to suggest that the reason Beckles encourages the controversy over his age is that it is the best and cheapest way to obtain publicity I have ever seen. Keeps his name before the public. But for all this, he does have a remarkable physique for his age- which I think isn�t 57 but 49. CAS