Iron History

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04/15/2010 Entry: "4/16/2010:Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark, dated Aug 13, 1988"

Whirlwind in the cul de sac

The pathway of the iron Internet leads sometimes to an alley, or a road, but less often to a highway with several lanes. It seems no U-turns are allowed, and on some sites no thoughts seem to be in need of reversal.

Anyone can run an iron web site. I do. Case closed. But not everyone runs a web site searching for positive results.

If you seek arguments or childish name calling blended with blather, there are some sites sizzling hoping you will join, They chew on fresh meat. Some such sites aren't even sincere- they simply allow word games leading to one-upmanship. After the flurry of vowels and vehemence and cursing has slowed, nothing much has been learned except that some clever and literate people choose to participate in such diss-cuss-ions. To spend time at such sites hoping for an education about the iron game, much sifting and sorting will be needed, but such sites do not come equipped with the needed, basic fact filters. Seldom are specifics included.

A step up to another level: some sites have members who have great enthusiasm which is usually visually directed. Heavy on images, lighter on facts. Almost as though a physique judging panel started a website. Arguments are tossed about regarding who had the best arms, or chest, or whatever. Reviews are offered regarding who should have won a certain contest. But the date of the contest, the location, and other such indicators are often not included. And, corrections do not seem to be needed or wanted. Run with the first draft, especially if someone's feelings may be wounded with specifics.

No one is much mislead by such obvious shallow treatments of subject matter, but when other sites, purporting to be sources of good iron history do not adopt the new information available, but instead maintain the weary and worn storylines which have been shown to be false or at least shown to be non-proven, the real pseudo-intellectual battleground is armed. These sites are heavy on images and shallow on text, especially on fact-checked text. The former greats were good guys, and besides, why would they have lied? Maybe for the same reasons people still do?

Another type of site is one is which little is ever settled because opinions rather than facts are usually being discussed. What is the best way to advance American weightlifting? Lots of chat, some anger, some disrespect, and after all the writing and writhing is over, nothing has been added to the solution column, but the vent shaft is fully drafted!

Sometimes our policy at of demanding details backfires on us in the sense that we lose members who make claims they cannot cement with evidence. Either their egos are fragile, or they think their claims should be accepted because of who they are in the iron community- that their word should somehow trump evidence. I almost left my own site when people began doubting I won the Mr. Olympia... (that is a joke)

We have a section called Red Pencil History wherein we point out errors of fact from the bodybuilding magazines or other print media, or indeed from other websites. Unfortunately, there are simply too many errors to corral, so this section has been- at least insofar as my input- stocked with only the more impacting mistakes.

Other sites are subject specific: Only Powerlifting. Only Weightlifting, Only Bodybuilding. Only Olde Time subjects. Veer from the menu and you will be ordering elsewhere.

If such sites interest you, by any and all means, enjoy them. But if you are looking for a group that digs for information and shares it, a group that respects other posters and accepts being corrected because what they want is stable history and not an unblemished posting history...

At we try to include as much data as can be found when addressing an issue or person. No name calling, indeed real name registration is a requirement to join. Any iron subject can be included, and all updates including changing what we THOUGHT we had correct will be welcome. We are after the history of iron, not some version of it that stopped with someone's passing.

The cul de sac is at, where we usually have about 300 members. When we reach that number I begin looking at members who have not visited recently, and deleting them. A sort of reverse library card system. If you do not check in, we will check you out. Of the 300 members a percentage online at any given time will equal or surpass other sites with dozens of times our membership. Some of those members have not visited those other sites in years, but have never been removed, making it appear that the thousands listed as members should be considered active members. If we had followed this policy at, our membership would be about 4,300 right now instead of about 300. The last person I want to fool is myself, and the penultimate person I want to fool is anyone interested in accuracy. Allowing a false membership total to stand would be deceptive.

All the roads I mentioned above are one-way roads. But in our cul de sac, the whirlwind retains the argument and discussion until we can settle on a general agreement. And, at any time, the matter can be re-examined when fresh information (maybe decades old) is discovered. This process of revisiting information based on new insight disturbs some who think their 'heroes' should be beyond examination.

So if you have been searching for a website where the focus is on information and not about the persons posting it- if you truly want to study the history of iron, join us. If you try to register, use your real name as your display name, or you will not be joining us.

Having completed the installment of my cover person file up to the year 2000, we will now resume posting other material. I will start with more letters written from Charles A. Smith to yours truly. And interspersed among these letters may be more older articles from Weider publications as written by Willoughby or Gaudreau. Other material may also be posted.

Thanks to all of you who subscribe to the paysite. Although none of your payment comes to me, I benefit because of the space Bill Piche offers me for my forum because I have been contributing these materials to the paysite. Keep in mind that my forum and this pay section of are not pathways to each other. That is, people who contribute to the paysite may not automatically be granted access to, which requires separate registration, and may in fact be the most strict discussion forum in our genre, tolerating none of the usual folly permitted in some other sites. But if you are serious about studying the history of iron, it may be suitable. I try to keep the membership to about 300. Your real name must be also your display name- anything else I delete.

And now, a letter from Charles...

Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark, dated Aug 13, 1988

Dear Joe,
Thanks for yours of the 6th, received by me on the 8th. Forgive me for not replying more promptly, but I just haven't been in the mood for letter writing. The weather has been too damn hot and my frame of mind distinctly shitty.

News I have is that XXX left the financial side of York in one horrible mess. Bills not paid etc etc, leaving Terpak to sift out the debts, what has or has not been paid. This, it would seem, might put the kibosh on Grimek's suit. I also hear that a company made an offer to buy out the mg, plus carry York ads for FREE for five years. Don't know if all this is the true poop or just gossip.

There will be no article about Davis lifting the Apollon wheels or any other articles-- I had planned ones on Sheppard and Kono.

This is because of the stupid bloody way in which Glossbrenner messed around with my article, shoving in things I had not written, altering what I had written, to what he thought I should have said, etc etc. Misspelling words and generally fucking up the grammatical content so it looked as if a fifth grader had written the article instead of a grown and experienced man.

I told him before I sent the article in--and AFTER I sent it in not to alter the bloody content of the article without first getting in touch with me and asking me first, or telling me what changes he proposed. His reply was, 'I"M the editoe and edit I will.' I again warned him not to alter what I had written. He took no bloody notice.

Frinstance. I had written that the Apollon bar was SIX inches around---circumference. He altered it to THREE. I KNOW the bar is approximately 1.9 inches in diameter. I KNOW all these things since Davis personally told me, having shoved a tape around the apparatus before he lifted it-- day before. This meant nothing to Glossbrenner who seems to think that because he had the title of editor, he has to prove it.

In my description of seeing Ski at the 1947 world's championships, I had written that "we were all interested in seeing the Koreans lift, particularly Sun Jip Kim, a middleweight said to have pressed 290, and we were wondering if his prowess matched his publicity. We had little thought of Schemansky or even who he was. This was entirely cut out.

In another paragraph I had written that at one meet where I was reffing, I knew Ski would go too low in the snatch and was watching for knee touch. Sure enough, there was the white pressure patch on his knee as he recovered- indicative of his knocking his knee on the platform-- I redded him. Ski looked at me, grinned and told me I was full of that substance food turns into when ingested and digested. Glossbrenner wrote as you can see- that Ski gave me a dirty look and said, -well- you can see the childish thing he did. He also, against my wishes, crammed the page opposite to my copy with statistics, something I did not want done. I wanted just a pen profile of Ski and nothing else. Glossbrenner, intent on showing all and sundry that he was the "Official statistician for lifting", shoved in a page full of Ski's lifting poundages. People just ain't interested in a page full of figures.

There was other such stuff- misspellings, grammatical errors, and repetition of the same word to describe the same thing in one paragraph, something I ALWAYS avoid. To put it briefly I am vastly pissed off. What gets into these bloody blue pen idiots when they get some copy before them I am just unable to fathom out.

Me? I ALWAYS left copy as it was, apart from any spelling errors, and the like. I never changed the author's words.

I am very unhappy over this, and from the letter Glossbrenner enclosed when he sent me a copy of the mag with my article in it- rather the GLOSSBRENNER article in it, he had a very good idea that I would be unhappy with what he had done to my stuff.

I KNOW INCH did not die when I said. I was just guessing since I DIDN'T KNOW FOR CERTAIN. I just didn't remember or couldn't recall. I have written to Joe Assirati for you and have asked him to tell me all he knows about Inch since he knew him closer than I. I met Inch only a few times and only said, "Hello MR. Inch."

Yes I know he had a deal with H&S but this soured and his widow was hacked off at them. This was one of the reasons why she dumped all of Tommy's stuff, or memorabilia, into the trash for the dustman to haul off.

So much today, Joe is repeated as FACT when it isn't. Frinstance it is generally accepted that Apollon was one of the FOUR who cleaned and jerked the wheels. There is NO EVIDENCE THAT HE EVER LIFTED THEM OVERHEAD. There is MUCH evidence that he used faked weights in his act lifting lighter weights and claiming much more heavier poundages.

There is NO evidence that Rigoulot ever cleaned and jerked the APollon wheels either, but just the word of Cayeux that Rigoulot did clean and jerk them in Cayeux's gym. So it MAY well be that Davis and Ski are the only ones who ever did C&J them under official conditions.

I am retired and find it easy to shove myself into other peoples shoes and empathize with them. But I also know--even though I am RETIRED and with, presumably loads of time on my hands- that just as I was in helping to shove out NOT ONE BUT FOURTEEN MAGS- that you are never too busy that you can't find time to display some small courtesy and answer a letter, if only briefly.

In my opinion the IM editors so as Glossbrenner did. They edit whether it is called for or not, just to justify their titles and keep the bread rolling in....and I can also tell if an article needs editing. I never did edit an article just because I carried the title of editor. In other words being an editor didn'y go to my head-- and I am sure you will agree that the mags Weider put out during the time I was with him--8 years--were the best mags EVER put out ANYWHERE.

But enough. Thanks for writing. I should be sorry to see RRMS [Joe note: Roark Report MuscleSearch] go the way of so many others-- and lesser publications, but you have to do what you have to do.

Might I suggest a wider appeal than you now present, might lead to a subscription increase to a point where gloomy thoughts of the letter's demise, may be a lot farther from your thoughts than they are now,
Best to you and yours,