Sunday, May 12, 2013
Vol. 3 No. 29 September, 1963 part two JOE FAUST
September 1963 part two Joe Faust
The last entry, September 1963, contained a two page article on high jumper Joe Faust entitled “Meet Joe Faust”. It was originally printed in the June issue of Sport magazine and reprinted in T&FN. Join us, if you will, for a stroll with Joe down memory lane.
We are greeted by a small photo of a smiling Joe wearing a checkered coat and a bow tie. There have been some changes since the article was compiled. In that time Joe has resigned from the Pan Am team, retired from track, unretired, suffered a back injury which will curtail his training and is engaged to be married next April to Joanne Radaich, the 1962 Mt. SAC Relays Queen.
He intended to enroll at USC, but was three credits short of his junior college degree. Now he has made up those credits, but is not enrolled because he has been registered in college for seven of the ten semesters the NCAA permits for athletic eligibility. By waiting until the spring semester he will have two years of track eligibility. Currently he is employed at Douglas Aircraft.
As the article has been published in Sport magazine, Joe has read it and supplied corrections as he sees fit. As you will see, Joe marches to the beat of a different drummer as he takes the road less traveled.
Joe is described by critics as “a confused, irresponsible exhibitionist”. Others say that he is simply “a young man groping physically and spiritually for a station in life”. There is a spiritual side to his personality that is expressed in his effort to support others. Examples given are two nights spent in a “hobo jungle” in Sacramento “sharing his food and money with the hobos” and the gathering of leftover food in the Rome Olympic village to give to the hungry in the streets.
Joe dresses in what he calls “the spirit of poverty” - a plain shirt, jeans and ragged tennis shoes. He doesn't carry a wallet, only a rosary and a small amount
of change. To keep his mindset “pure, healthy and harmonious” he takes jobs which offer “rude, manual labor under obedience”. When attending UCLA he worked as a janitor. At Occidental he was a maintenance man. His longest stint in college was at Mt. SAC where he mowed lawns for seventy-five cents and hour. During the periods when he wasn't in college he has been a short order cook, a junkman and an errand boy.
Joe was a straight A student and student body president at Culver City High, graduating at 16. He enrolled at UCLA in the fall of 1959, only to drop out four weeks later.
That summer he qualified for the Olympic team with a 7-0 jump, but a pulled ligament in his takeoff foot hindered him and he could do no better than 17th with a clearance of 6-4¾.
During his time in Rome his spiritual evolution led him do decide to enter a seminary, but he arrived home too late to register. He enrolled again at Occidental, but left after six weeks of the fall semester. That spring he was back at UCLA, only to leave after a week and a half.
On June 1, 1961, a year to the day after he had first cleared seven feet, Joe entered Our Lady of New Clairvaux Trappist Cistercian Abby in Vina, California, a monastery that required silence. He was named Brother Zachary. His head was shaved. He rose each morning at 2:30 and lifted heavy bales of hay all day long. Ten days later he was gone.
“I loved the life,” Faust said. “I dropped out because I didn't admit during my interview that I had fallen from grace within six months before I entered. You can't start a vocation on a foundation like that.” Last summer he requested readmission and was denied.
This is where the Buchanan family stepped in a provided guidance. His friend, pole vaulter Dallas Buchanan, invited Joe to live with his family. Dallas' father suggested Joe attend Mount San Antonio, the junior college near the family home in Claremont, and so began Joe's longest and most successful college experience. The stability of the Buchanan family provided much needed structure. Mrs. Buchanan saw him as having a “restless, troubled soul” and that “He needs anchoring, a family to report to.”
Living with the Buchanans' saw him stay in school all year. His Mt. SAC counselor, Bill Cunliffe, father of Joe's Olympic teammate, Ernie Cunliffe, said of Joe, “This is a zestful, eager, dedicated young man, full of the joy of living, who want to cram as much into his life as a 25 hour day will permit. He isn't suspect of life. He doesn't take the trouble to figure out intermediate goals – like finishing school first and then going into his vocation. He wants to test out things and he needs an institution which is flexible enough to understand him instead of one that tries to fit him into the mold.
At the time of the writing of this article, Joe was living with the Buchanans and taking odd jobs, but four times during the year and a half that he lived with them he left unannounced. Apparently the family would come home to find Joe gone. “I see nothing wrong with these excursions”, said Joe. The indiscretion is not forewarning the people I am responsible to. I am learning to do this.”
His most famous disappearance began on a Friday evening when school had closed for spring break. He had a date with a girl, but she was too tired to go out, so Joe talked with her father until 1:30 in the morning. Instead of going home, Joe went to Los Angeles and caught a bus for Arbuckle, a small farming town 450 miles north where he planned to work for a year and then reenter the monastery. There he visited a girl he had met on a previous trip and they went out that evening.
The following afternoon plans changed again and Joe began hitchhiking the 60 miles to Sacramento en route home. He walked twelve miles in the blazing sun before getting a ride.
In Sacramento he stayed with hobos, spending the $1.23 he had on food for them and himself. The hobos showed him how to hop a freight. He rode all night atop a load of plywood on a flatcar, arriving in Los Angeles in the morning, cold, hungry and tired. When he got back to the Buchanans' he slept for 16 hours. Likely he would have slept longer, but he was awakened in time to catch the team bus for a meet at Cerritos College.
Taking whatever positive he could from his experience, he reported that he felt rested, that the walk in the sun had helped drain fluids from his body and that the train ride had sensitized him. He then produced the best jump of his life, 7-1¾.
Since 1960 Joe has been bothered by injuries, a recurrence of the foot injury and a groin pull. This January he said that he hoped to jump 7-4 this season. But his goal is not a specific height. It is the “Ideal Climatic Jump” which he says “will come once in a lifetime when I have all my spring and my glandular energies are at a peak and I have a deep unifying purpose.”
Hilmer Lodge, Joe's coach at Mt. SAC calls Joe “a modern day Spartan” and says that he is the hardest working athlete he has ever seen. One has to believe that Joe plans his own workouts which are designed to teach him “aggression under fatigue.” It is not unusual for him to take 75-100 jumps in a session (see foot injury; recurrence). His goal is to clear 6-6 100 times without a miss.
Other than high jumping, Joe has no interest in sports nor does he associate with other athletes, preferring to keep to himself and study philosophy, theology and metaphysics. He pours himself into letter writing, once penning a 20 page letter to a girlfriend.
He has never played another sport. His high school coach, Bill Rourke, discovered the 11 year old Joe in a seventh grade PE class. He took Joe aside and told him he had world class potential and outlined a year by year progression. At the time Joe was often in trouble in school and out. High jumping gave him a purpose in life and he threw himself into it. He built a high jump pit in his backyard and jumped four or five hours a day. The combination of talent and drive produced world bests for ages 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17.
That Ideal Climatic Jump might be right around the corner or it may never come. If it doesn't it won't be for the lack of trying.
The article supplies more questions than answers. To more fully understand this complex individual we have to go outside the pages of T&FN and Sport magazine. An internet search produced an article written by David Maraniss in his book, Rome 1960...The Olympics That Changed the World. Maraniss provides the background that puts some sense to what caused Joe Faust to become Joe Faust.
Joe's father, Louis (Bob) Faust apparently was a less than ideal dad. He was an actor who played the villain in several John Wayne movies. When Joe was five, his father left Joe's pregnant mother and their seven children. Joe's mother was unable to care for the family by herself and Joe was placed with a foster family. During this period Joe became a devout Catholic.
Now we flash ahead to Joe in his 60's as Rick Weingarten picks up the story in a Culver City High School alumni periodical. “Over the years,, he married, had children, got divorced and struggled with a molecule 2000 feet underground. What part did that molecule play in the scheme of life? It was a hole in his theological construct that remained unfilled for years, until it came to him that a single molecule had its own graceful movement in the universe. 'That lonely molecule is not so lonely', he decided.
Nearly a half century after his moment in Rome, Faust, in his mid-60's, lived a monastic life alone in a cramped room in a cottage nestled on the side of a scrubby tan hill just off the 710 Freeway not far from Cal State LA. Inside his room he had a table, a filing cabinet (folders on new high jump landing pit designs, trash technology, mind and spirit notes), a shelf of books (The Joy of Mathematics, The Sistine Chapel, The Child's Creation of a Pictorial World), another shelf of food (cereal, bananas, 7-grain bread, grapes, oranges), a small refrigerator, a sofa bed and a computer. There were makeshift shelves and a grill outside the side door. It seemed all he needed. He was like a single molecule of Olympic history buried deep under ground, alone, but still moving and in his movement connected to everything else. Once he knew Rafer Johnson, Wilma Rudolph, Cassius Clay.
The backyard had the marking of a scavenger, a cluttered junkyard of collected planks of oak, sheets of plywood, scraps of iron, chunks of cement, bricks, stones, all arranged in a haphazard yet loving array. Down at the bottom third of the yard there was a clearing with an old mattress on the ground, and a further look showed twin poles rising at either end, a bamboo crossbar nearby, and a worn path in the dirt coming from the left toward the tattered mattress. With no one watching, Joe Faust was high jumping still, with a sore knee but bounce in his step, practicing his cycle of repair, rising with penance, cleaning the crucifix, absolving his sins, descending with gratitude.”
That might be a good place to end the story of Joe Faust, but were we to do that, we would be giving a false impression, that of a solitary troubled man, disconnected from the world, reliving the achievements of fifty years ago. That just ain't so.
In the early 70's Joe became enamored with the freedom provided by hang gliding. According to information published on his internet “wiki”, he has been heavily involved in hang gliding ever since.
To say that hang gliding has become his life would not be an overstatement. According to his wiki, he is the owner of Omega Hang Gliders (couldn't find OHG on the internet) and was a founding member of the Hang Glider Association of America in 1971. He has founded or co-founded numerous hang gliding magazines or e-zines and has been a mover and a shaker in many hang gliding organizations. Both his wife and son participated in the sport.
When downloaded, his wiki runs 15 somewhat disjointed pages with many random thoughts. Topics include My HG World; Pilot Ratings; Some Favorite Craft and Flying Dreams and Goals; Questions and Topics that Keep Surfacing in Me; HG Accidents, Injuries, Guards; Recent 2000-2011 HG Calendar Blog; My Flight Log is not complete yet, under construction and Current Flight Schedule.
He says that his best hang gliding weight is 180 pounds, but though he grew to slightly over 200, he continued to hang glide, overcoming a variety of injuries to log 89 flights in 2010, the year he became 68.
Never one to be without hopes, dreams and plans, in 2010 he wrote that five years ago he set a goal of living without a car while he designed, built and flew “pilot carryable” gliders that could be safely carried on a bus. “At every turn there is temptation to return to having a car, but I continue with my goal.”
Once that goal is achieved, the next project will be to “make a master map of urban flight spots in Los Angeles City reachable by bus using my monthly bus pass”.
Indicative of how Joe's thought process works is a notation in his calendar blog. Between technical notes on June 17, 2010 and June 20, 2010 is the entry, “L.A. Lakers won championship.”
He does not refer to high jumping, but rather “null wing flights” as in “baby at age 17 of USA Olympic Track and Field Team of Rome 1960 after becoming third amateur in contest in world history to fly null win over 7 feet AGL (absolute ground level) at Stanford University US Olympic Trials.”
He also states that his “best AGL with the null wing was 7 foot 4.75 inches at the moment when world absolute record was one-quarter inch lower.” Had Joe set the WR and no one knew?
Later he explains this reference. After stating from 1954 to the present that he has achieved over 10,000 null wing flights, he refers to that moment. “For about six seconds the bar stayed up and witnessed by many in a third similar competition within 24 hours at Mt. SAC Relays, one flight was over a square cross-sectioned wood bar set at 7 feet 4 and ¾ inches AGL; at that moment, the official world record was less than that. The launch was with longer and faster approach than normally used; my adrenaline naturally had been pumped; future wife was being crowned queen in the same stadium at the session. This was a peak experience of jumping-flying-gliding with self-soar body wing; I still see and feel that moment today; it carries me often through challenging HG matters.” Perhaps Joe did achieve his Ideal Climatic Jump after all.
The best place to leave the story of Joe Faust is the viewing of a commercial of the early 70's. There you will see a youthful Joe in the way he would like to be remembered.