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.

12/26/2008: Part 2 of an April 15, 1988 Letter From Charles A. Smith to Joe

Friday, December 26, 2008

Part 2 of letter from Charles A. Smith dated April 15, 1988 (to Roark)

Good old George Weaver. The Reverend has been in touch with him, but when I asked for George's address, somehow the Reverend always had an excuse for not giving it to me. Canst thou oblige. Yes, I know he wrote a book. The Reverend was send a copy and I briefly scanned through a few pages of it, but paid it no heed, since, at the time, I had other things on my mind. But I'd love to write Weaver. He was the one, I think I may have told you, who had a vasectomy performed, had the surgeon write out a certificate to that effect, then hung the cert over his bed head. A true eccentric and a man to KNOW. Some of the correspondence between Weaver and Willoughby with his dry, tongue in cheek wit, taking the right royal piss out of Willoughby.

Weaver seems to move around hither and yon. How he lives is beyond me. He does, so I am told, play a load of shuffleboard. He was living somewhere in Florida. The Reverend, on one of his forays, visited him. George must be well into his 80s now. Now here's a man I admire, a real true blue full blooded iconoclast.

The old H&S's from England, which isn't so jolly these days what with that Bitch Maggie Thatcher doing her very best to destroy their magnificent social welfare system and introduce a Social Darwinism, are worth having, but Joe, a caveat here. DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ IN THEM. Frinstance, they were great ones for upholding amateurism and all it stood for, so they said, while at the same time paying Ron Walker five quid a week- a princely sum in those days, to keep him lifting and have his exclusive 'stories'.

As for Bill Klein and his signing saying he SAW Arthur Saxon bent press 386. BULLSHIT. Don't believe it. Klein was a man who ran a somewhat dubious BOXING gym in Golden Square. He was buddy buddy with Bill Bankier who ran a likewise gym not too far away. Bill Klein, like so many others was in it for what he could get out of it and would have attested to ANYTHING if he saw a profit in it. How fast my luverly. I'll rake out all the dirt for you re Bill Klein.

Whatever you don't understand about that Hoffie trial, just ask and I'll do my best to explain. I underlined what thought went with important bits. But it does open a few windows, allowing u to see what sort of man Hoffie really was.

The old H&S mags are extremely interesting historical documents. They show how wide the physical culture and lifting movement was in the days when the Wanking Wunder AND Hoffie wren't even twinkles in the eyes of their progenitors. So much for the bullshit that is being spread around today about this ir that person being the 'Father' of lifting in this or that country.

What you should do, if possible, is to get some of the very early copies of H&S, when they were published WEEKLY, way back in the early part of this century nd the early twenties.

Pullum, when he took the mag over, was a hard taskmaster, full of the sense of his own importance and as litigious as an heir who thinks he has wrongly been left out of his rich uncle's will. He'd sue at the drop of a hat, or any other material for that matter. But the old H&S's ARE very very valuable if for the only reason that they show who was and who wasn't and how so much of what is told now about the old days is a bunch of bloody lies.

It is amazing how Vic Boff manages to write everyone but me, and he claims to be my friend. I guess that I am of no use to him now that I am out of the scene.

Same with Reg Park. It seems he can write to everyone but me, and I did so much for him, helping him get his mag set up in Leeds plus many other things. SO I guess, if I was a big shot and still writing for the Wanking Wunder, I'd be a 'wanted' man. Doesn't bother me though. One finds out who one's friends are fast enough.

Yup. You did tell me that Bollocks finally paid you. What kept him? He STILL hasn't paid the Reverend for his Sri Chinmoy article and Fred Howell is still having fits getting his material back.

Will Darden's book on big arms be out soon? I wonder how big Ell's arms tape. Would be interesting to learn and of course cite that well known and oft heard apothegm, 'Physician Heal Thyself'.

Joe, the suspense is agonizing. What TOPIC HAVE you invented? Pray, don't keep me in suspense any longer but TELL ME! I won't quickly point out anything to you. In fact I can't until I KNOW WHAT IT IS. As for my seeing it in MD, I won't. I never get the mag. I haven't seen a copy in years. I think it is horrible- at least the last copy I saw of it at the Collection and I wonder how it is managing to survive.

So Joseph, if you will only TELL ME NOW hat you have written. I will give you an HONEST appraisal and let you know if you do have something original or otherwise. I repeat I NEVER see MD and I don't intend to buy it. Can't afford it. Infernal Revenue Service was particularly cruel this year. I am thinking of applying for food stamps.

My best to you and your family. Regards to Meg. Hope she is fighting the good fight, and when she's head of the Federal Reserve, remember, I TOLD YOU SO,

Posted by TheEditor @ 08:13 AM CST

12/19/2008: A Letter of April 15, 1988 from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark, Page 1

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Joe,
Got your letter dated April 11th on the 13th and you were too late. I had already sent off my sub for your news sheet. Like ships in the night, our letters and thoughts crossed.

John Bollocks, aka Balik, is on my shit list. I am beginning to think he is of the same flesh as the wanking wunder of the Hills. Weeks ago, at the end of February, he calls me and asks me to do an article of an editorial type on the present state of weight training. As I think I told you in our last phone conversation, I wrote the bloody article, pulling out all stops, letting "IT" all hang out and then some. I wrote of the greed, the loss of idealism and ethics etc etc.

Our arrangement was that I would write the article, he'd read it and if he didn't like it, he'd return it pronto, if not faster. If he did like it he'd send a check forthwith or even fifthwith. I sent the article as noted. Silence. Nothing.

Meanwhile I get the latest issue of IM. I read the bullshit with the various initials after the authors' names. I also see letters praising Bollocks for his stand against steroids. I then see an article in the mag by TONY FITTON a CONVICTED drug smuggler and dealer.

This likely bloke- I am ashamed to tell you he was born in England- was caught some five years ago or so, smuggling a quarter of a million bucks worth of steroids across the US Mexican border. He was with his girl friend, a young power lifter. Indicted, Fitton is placed on fifty thousand bucks bond to await trial. He promptly skips and is free for a year until US Marshals finally run him down somewhere in Colorado or New Mexico. He is sentenced to five years but serves less than 18 months and is out. Why he wasn't deported, or, if a US citizen didn't have his citizenship revoked on grounds of moral turpitude is beyond me. But now, the simon pure, and I assume steroid free, Bollocks had him writing for the IM. In the same issue we have a 'letter' from the honest, Christian upright man from Nebraska and spouse praising Bollocks for the 'good job' he has done on the mag.

I ask you, is there anyone out there with a conscience and does the honest Christian upright etc etc from Nebraska still have his eyesight and his senses? What in the hell has gone wrong with the world and the people who live in it. Are we all going money crazy and losing all our decencies? Not to mention our common sense?

I also don't like his treatment of me. He only pays me 100 an article. I KNOW he is paying others at least 150 to 200. The recent stuff by Vic Boff in the latest issue of IM was...pitiful. The same old hashed over material culled from a thousand and one articles, all repeating the same old stuff, none of which ANYONE has taken the trouble to verify.

I recently tore off an article about Schemansky and sent it off to Herb Glossbrenner and his mag. He should have it by now. Same arrangement I THOUGHT I had with Bollocks. We shall see.
[this letter concludes next week]

Posted by TheEditor @ 06:31 PM CST

12/12/2008: Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark April 12, 1988

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark April 12, 1988

Now see here my fine fellow.

What's all this sending me beer. You know I never touch the bloody stuff. How surprised I am when, arriving home on the 27th March, after spending the day before, and then with Vera and Co., the Reverend suddenly appears at my portals bearing FOUR six packs from various parts of the world- including Kenya. I say, 'Reverend, you really shouldn't,' and he says, 'Well JOE ROARK HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT.'

Anyway, the Reverend dumps the horrible stuff in my ice box and sits from 8:30 PM to way past 11 chin wagging, me looking markedly at my clock and he taking not the slightest bloody notice until I tell him to fuck off, I am tired.

Now it is nice that you remember me on my natal day, but really, likewise PLEASE Joe, not any more. Just so long as you keep in touch and let it be known you are a friend, that's all I ask.

I have had my vast corps of spies and agents provocateur out, scouting the p urlieus of every large city, trying to turn something up about Arnold Schwarz etc etc but with no luck. All seem to have heard of the affair Mikie Mentzer, but no one had heard anything of anyone being after Arnold's arse. Possibly the fact that my spies were all clad in their brilliant scarlet uniforms, to indicate to all and sundry they were secret agents, may have had something to do with it.

Now, my fine young fellow. I have a bone to pick with you.

I am most unhappy with that bit about me in your issue 18 of MS. In fact it was me who came, secretly to St. Jospeh and booby trapped your toilet so it flushed up instead of down. The award you mention was given to me not by the Wanking Wunder for my work on MUSCLE POWER MAGAZINE, but by the IFBB. I was given their highest honor, the DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD FOR MY CONTRIBUTIONS TO SPORTS OVER MY LIFETIME IN SPORTS. NOT, REPEAT NOT FOR BEING EDITOR OF MUSCLE POWER. A correction is requested is requested in your next issue. I know you are a stickler for detail.

Have recently finished a short article for Herb Glossbrenner's mag re Norbert Schemansky. Over one month ago, Bollocks calls me and says for me to do an article on the state of weight training. I tear off a real pot boiler cursing all and sundry in the game for greed, non compassion, competitiveness and the spreading of that nasty taint, Steroids. The arrangement was he'd read it right away and if he liked it pay right away and if he didn't like it then he'd return it right away.

Sandow= nothing new and just a bloody rehash of what dozens have written before. Never have I, for one moment, swallowed that tale of the 446 two hands anyhow. Here's a man with 336 above his head in his right arm, body fully bent down, picking up a 112 pound kettle bell getting it to the shoulders, standing upright. THEN pressing the 112 overhead, BULLSHIT. No one ANYWHERE said how the kettlebell was brought to the shoulders, NO one says where the lift was done, who was present, and if the bar was weighed on approved scales as was supposed to have been done...I'm not buying it.

I watched, until ten PM, the Oscar ceremonies last night. I owndered what would have happened if, after opening the envelope and saying, 'And the winner is--' the announcer put the envelope down and said, 'I ain't bloody well gonna tell you. So there.' Can you imagine the hubbub, the stramash, chivari, hullaballoo etc etc that would have arisen. Someone ought to do it at the next Oscar Ceremony. It would take so much of the stuff shirtedness out of those smug sods sitting there. False smiles on their faces and pretending it didn't matter a damn to them if they won or not.

Enclosed is another year's pay for MS, Power to your press- printing that is,

Best to you and the family,


Posted by TheEditor @ 06:38 PM CST

12/5/2008: A letter from Charles A. Smith dated March 20, 1988, to Joe

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark March 10, 1988

Dear Joe,
Thanks for your letter of the 17th, reaching me, yesterday, 19th. By separate envelope I am mailing you the Hoffie Court Opinion. Copy it and return. The story on the will is that I sent it to Osmo, he returned it to me, I stowed it away and can't, for the life of me remember where I put it and this has me disturbed. My memory, which always was so good, now seems to be failing me. I go to the ice box for something, then when I get there have forgotten entirely why I went there. This isn't a sometime thing, but is now happening most of the time.

Re the opinion. You will find it, as I did, extremely interesting since it shows a side of Hoffie's character entirely unlike the one he tried to expose. You will also notice that the judge giving the opinion is an ATKINS. J. The J at the end of the name means 'justice' and is a hangover from British Common Law, and all justices, to this day in England are called first by their surnames then comes the J after it to denote thay are justices ofthe High Court.

You will also notice that the Judge wasn't fooled and made pains to let Hoffie et al know this. You will note his remarks about the free advertising Hoffie got. What disturbs me about Hoffie is his damned hypocrisy. There he was, making out he spent thousands on lifting when that spending didn't cost him a penny, he getting it all back by claiming it as 'business deductions'. This, in effect, the public was the final payer. Anyway, let me know what you think and I'll try to explain anything that appears mystic.

Ah, writing. I do appreciate your kind remarks. But oh to be of the stature and have the expertise of a Dorothy Parker, an H.L. Mencken or Alexander Woolcott. I'm just a hack and not a very good one at that. I have never fooled myself and have always been aware of my limitations and what I could or could not do. My writing is much too jerky to suit me. I know it.

[Roark note: About this time a personal friend of mine- an Illinois State Trooper was murdered in cold blood. He and his wife had been very close friends with Geni and me. Often sharing meals and going out together. He was among the very top crust of people I have ever met and certainly I anticipated having his friendship until the end- an end which came all too soon and of which I was notified by another of our group who called that early morning saying, 'Joe, I have bad news about Lee. He has been shot'. To my reply 'How bad is he?' the answer came, 'He's gone'. Rest in peace, Lee. You remain missed.]

I know exactly how you feel re the loss of your friend. I have been through that scene and the sorrow has never left me. I mourn my life to this day. I shall never forget the morning after the funeral. It had been my habit when I woke up in the morning, to reach over and smack her backside. When I woke up and did this, I was astonished- no one was there. I began to think that she might have got up before me. Then the realization hit me. She's gone. Forever. I'm alone. In my case there was little anyone could do to help me. In your case, you can do heaps.

I'd try and be the role model to the surviving son, that your friend was. His wife is going to need a lot of help in every direction. She will need a lot of support and this is where you and your wife come in. The worst possible thing for her, your friend's wife, is to LEFT ALONE. You and Geni MUST be there if not in person, then no more than a phone call away. A call during the day or evening to ask if anything is needed or is she needs any help will do a lot to help her through the crisis she is now going through. But I don't need to tell you this, so forgive me for raving.

I've seen this happen so many time that I got a little hardened to it- people getting killed I mean. In the war, there they'd be and the next second a pile of butchers meat with no one to identify who was who. And they weren't even friends. But the shock was there just the same. I can't, and will never understand how I got out of 6 years of combat duty without a scratch physically, but of course loads of mental scars. The War never leaves you. You relive it over and over again. It will not go away.

My suggestion to you is to NOT keep it in you but to talk about it whenever you can and to anyone and preferably to your wife. Holding it in does no good and a lot of harm may follow. I can well find empathy with your friend's widow. And I can also empathize with her son. Both need a lot of help right now. Give them all they need.

I wasn't aware that Weider was publishing the Gaudreau translation of Les Rois De La Force. I was partly through translating the women's section for Jan just before I said Ta Ta. Frankly I don't think there will be much of a market for the book. It is so redundant now and of interest only to historians. What is interesting is the section of women strength athletes. For this section there should be some market if only to let the modern bunch know that women's lifting isn't the 'modern' thing to do as so many gals think, but as old as the activity itself.

Balik is earning a VERY BAD REP. Not only has he NOT paid you, but he hasn't paid the Reverend Todd for his article on Chinmoy. The Reverend was over to see me last Saturday and stayed around for a couple of hours chatting...The man primarily to blame is Rader who had absolutely no business handing over articles to Balik that he, Rader, didn't own, hadn't paid for, and had been hanging around for some time.He did that with one of my articles after he personally commissioned me to write it. He just popped it onto Balik so that worthy could pay. I jumped all over Rader AND Balik and finally got my article published and paid for.

The arrangement I have with Balik is that, if he approves of the article for publication, I get paid AT ONCE and no waiting. He also has the pleasant little habit of paying some guys more than he pays others. He pays me 100 per article- I KNOW he pays others from 150 to 200. I don't like this sort of thing. But then I believe I told you about this in my last bitching session.

[Roark note: There are two ways a writer can be paid: On acceptance, or, on publication. Charles' agreement was the former and is the best way. Otherwise months may pass before publication and then payment. Some magazines have been known to simply 'hold on to articles to prevent other mags from publishing them. Regarding Charles complaint that some authors make more money than others, that's just a fact of business. Dorothy Parker would certainly draw more payment than would a lesser lady of letters, for example.

Re that Weidfer award. I was told that a pension of 5 thousand bucks a month came with it. To my astonishment and chagrin, I got only 4750 when the first check arrived. I said nasty things like drat, darn, pee pee and poo poo. I even take the award with me when I go to Safeway, but for some strange reason or the other, they insist I pay cash for my groceries. Mean laudatory artile he has PROMISED-(What, promises AGAIN)- to publish 'SOON'. I hold my breath.

Well, hang in there. Learn to cope with your loss. It won't be your last. And on that you may depend with certainty,

Best to you and yours, Hi to Meg,

Posted by TheEditor @ 09:34 PM CST


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