Joe Roark's

The HUGE library of Iron History compiled by Joe Roark.


Welcome to Iron History with Joe Roark!  

Joe Roark has been studying the iron game since 1957, and by 1970 began a systematic gathering of information on index cards. By the time his first computer was acquired, there were several hundred thousand references to be typed into it.

For a few years he published his own newsletter called MuscleSearch: The Roark Report. By 1992 he was appointed as the IFBB Men's Bodybuilding Historian, and began writing about history for FLEX in his column Factoids. For ten years he contributed to Iron Game History from the U of Texas at Austin. Recently he also began writing All Our Yesterdays for FLEX.

His passion has always been the period between 1880 and 1920, with particular emphasis on the oldtime strongmen of that era. Joe will be offering bits of history for Cyberpump once per week, and the text will be relevant to the dates of the calendar for those events of yesteryear relevant to the coming week.

In this column, readers will also be able to ask Joe questions or comment on his posts.  Note: The comments are solely for interaction between Joe and the readers only -- not reader to reader.

Smith Letters 1

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Letter to Joe Roark from Charles A. Smith, Jan 17, 1986.

Please note XXX represents a name and may in fact indicate a different person than the previous time you encountered XXX in the text.

Seems you are turning up more and more on Joseph Curtis- Curt I shall never call him since he has always been Joseph C to me.

You must try and understand John Dawe�s position. He writes regularly to me since we have known one another more than fifty years and were both members of the same weightlifting club over the pub run by Milo Brinn in London. He has an extremely wide range of other interests now and in addition to these has become COMPLETELY disenchanted with the present state of affairs in the world of weights-both its politics, its greed and its use of steroids. There is also a difference between he and I. HE has a wife living and with HIM. I have NO ONE with me and if I did I am pretty sure that I wouldn�t be writing to people as often as I do. Therefore what makes me keep in touch so regularly and answering so promptly as I do is LONELINESS. John is a very straightforward guy and very honest. He is also an ex intelligence agent and his interest now lie in keeping touch with those of his kind. So please don�t be disappointed and think he is a no goodnik. He isn�t.

[ have heard that] brother XXX gave XXX a call and spoke at length. Among the gems that XXX scattered were such as his claiming a 350 bench press, a 180 STRICT two hands curl and dumbbells curls with a pair of 70 pound dumbbells. He also admitted that he had never been a bodybuilder but has always been a lifter. When he saw me bench 390 he talked about it for months. As for his 180 curl, Bert Assirati curled 200 in strict British style and Bert weighed around 250 at the time and was extremely powerful in all other lifts. So how XXX could have done 180 at a bodyweight of under 200 I can�t imagine. But if that is his brand of opium, then let him smoke it say I.

Other big news-before I forget- is that the International Highland Games is to be held here in AUSTIN in November of this year as part of the Texas Sesquicentennial celebrations. It will be held in Zilker Park, a large park about fifteen minutes drive from where I live. AND, David Webster has been invited over and has accepted and will be here as one of the judges. Also athletes from Scotland and other members of the Scottish Clans in Texas will also compete including Bill Kazmeir- love those Polish Scots. Did you ever see those Irish Jews in the annual St. Patrick�s Parade marching down Fifth Avenue waving green motzahs? Anyway I�ll tell you more about this as things develop.

Can you send me Darden�s address. I�d like to drop him a line and debunk his ideas as expressed in High Intensity Training about all these wonderful and NEW training methods.

Would also be interested to hear about the nature of Joseph Curtis relationship with Mrs. Abernathy-what a marvelous name- can�t you just see it- the Widow Abernathy. Just like in the old movies with that old timer James Darwell playing the part. I�ll bet she even has her hair down over her head and tied back at the nape in a bun.

I am surprised that dear old Chester hasn�t mentioned me in any of his letters to you- or has he?

With regard to that curl bar and old Bobby Boy taking it over. He did the same thing to Rheo Blair aka Johnson when Johnson brought out his supplements. Hoffman who sold advertising space to Johnson saw what business Johnson was doing, got into it himself and BINGO out went Johnson. How the York bunch has the nerve to criticize the Woodland Hills Wunderkind I don�t know.

Yes, Joe did work out when I was [working] with him, usually confining his exercises to snatches, cleans and bent presses. I NEVER SAW HIM DO A BENCH PRESS OR A CURL. He WAS a Canadian Regional or District Lifting Champion. I DID see him clean and jerk 310 on an old exercise bar. I did see him do a one hand military with 100, which I would have given a so so pass to, but which I am sure that the usual eagle eyed and hard as nails British refs would have nixed because of him breathing or raising a toenail or some such. I also saw him do bent presses quite comfortably and a few reps with 170 pounds. Yes he did work out regularly three times a week when we would all go to the top floor where the �gym� was and hoist a few- weights that is.

NO there weren�t any men doing research. That Clinic was so in name only. How it started was he and Bart and I would get together and shoot the breeze about training problems and then translate chats into principles and call it �From the Weider Research Clinic� so if there wasn�t in reality a �Clinic� there was those informal get togethers and hashing out what problems there were as we saw them. No difference with York who did the same thing. I don�t know too much about what Ben did or didn�t do with weights. He was some thousand or so miles from us and we rarely saw him in Jersey City or Union City- where I never was since I left Joe way way before he moved from 16 Hopkins to Palisades Avenue.

So far as I know the [Todd-McLean] collection does NOT have copies of Jem etc etc. But be it a matter of record that it was I � little old me- who started Joe off with magazines other than muscle mags. Since I knew wrestling and was a wrestler myself, I saw that TV was having a tremendous impact on viewers- that was in the early fifties when TV was just becoming NATIONAL in its scope and talked to him about putting out a wrestling mag. He agreed. I did and Joe was off to a flying start. I turned out the first issue in a week and am NOT proud of it. It is pitiful. But it caught on and only when he enlarged it to BOXING AND WRESTLING did it start to flop and just because Joe tried to be all things to all men. THAT is how Joe started his publishing empire. I have some stuff here to prove it.

Was surprised- nay, amazed- to learn that Frank Leight, aka Stepanek lives in Austin. Terry [Todd] had heard that he was somewhere in Texas. The zip code indicates he lives not too far from me. Also there are only two Leights in the phone book, neither of them bearing the name of Frank�Yes, I KNEW Frank although I had little to do with him. I met him in 1942 at Sig Klein�s gym and am doubtful he would even remember me. He used to work out there with a guy named Santo Leone. He was on the NYC Police department in their Police Academy as an instructor for a number of years. He was, when I met him, a particularly morose individual, having at the same some wife problems. I haven�t had any contact with him since 1945 and where did those 44 years go to.

It greatly saddened me to learn of the trouble at York. I can see in it the downfall of the organization.

Why York blamed me for all the stupid childish nonsense that was peddled I don�t know. I know they were very mad at me for going to work for Joe, but they made no offers and I had my family to think of, not York�s welfare. I do know Terpak and others jumped all over me two weeks after I had gone to work for Joe when they met me at a lifting meet run by John Terlazzo at St. Nicholas Arena in NYC in January of 1950. I told them then, as I was to, time and time again, that I had been available, that Weider had come up with an offer,that I had a wife and two kids and they- the York bunch that is- go and take a flying fuck at themselves. This, of course, said in so many words, completely endeared me to them. And the fable of Smith being the Big Bad Wolf was born. I get angry very easily and lose control and don�t care what I say or do, as was the case on the above mentioned occasion. If ever they had approached me in a proper manner with a good or reasonable offer, I would have left Joe so fast his building would have collapsed.

As for XXX. No one, from what I have been told, liked him at York. They called him The Money Man. He was also, again so I was told, and from one who should know- a WOMANIZER using a motel owned by the sister of my informant to take sundry whores there for the usual hanky panky.

Well, better clam up for the nonce. If there�s anything I have forgotten to answer, pop the question again.

Best to you and yours,

Posted by TheEditor @ 08:22 PM CST


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