Thursday, March 7, 2013

Vol. 3 No. 13 Never Look a Gift Vaulting Pole in the Mouth

In the previous posting about Gerald Pratt , the outstanding Texas Southern University pole vaulter of the 1960's it was mentioned that Pratt said he had been given his first fiberglass vaulting pole by a couple of University of Oklahoma vaulters who were practicing at his high school in Los Angeles in 1959.  Having attended Oklahoma just after 1959, I decided to contact J.D. Martin who could have been one of those vaulters to ask him about the story.    This was J.D.'s reply.

"Hey George good to hear from you.   I think that might have been (Aubrey) Dooley or (Jim) Graham because I hardly had any fiberglass poles at that time and do not remember working out at Dorsey high school .
I was in California a few times but just competing and not for any length of time.
In 1959 I had two fiberglass poles which were both broken in the parking lot of the hotel in Austin Texas while going to the Texas Relays.  In those days you didn't just make a phone call and get them replaced within a day or 2,  it took months.  So I borrowed a Steel pole from the Nebraska vaulter and  competed with it at the Texas Relays and finished second.  I continued to improve that year so I never went back to a fiberglass pole. 
Hope this is helpful."
J.D. also informed me that Jim Graham is a veterinarian in Oklahoma City, but did not know where Aubrey Dooley could be found.    I've since learned that Aubrey Dooley died in 2002.  Today I called Jim Graham and chatted briefly about the subject with him.   Jim stated that it wasn't him or Dooley, because Jim only had one fiberglass pole ever, and Dooley broke it.  He went back to steel and never vaulted again on anything but steel.    I looked up Jim's history in Olympic Trials and saw that he qualified for the American Olympic team in 1956 with a leap of 14'8" and no misses until that height.  The Olympics were held late in the year (Nov. -Dec, of 1956), and in September Jim injured his ankle.  He could have made the trip to Melbourne, but Bob Gutowski jumped 15'5" in October and Jim graciously ceded his place on the team to Gutowski.  Bob Gutowski went on to win the silver medal behind Rev. Bob Richards.  Jim did not make the team in 1960 finishing 5th at 15'0".  His teammate Aubrey Dooley was 6th also at 15'0".  In 1959 Jim was the NCAA pole vault winner.

It becomes more and more difficult to understand the version about the gift of a fiberglass pole, but nevertheless one has also to feel that there  is some credibility.   It comes from a desire to see good in people rather than the negative.  Where could that pole have come from.?  Who could give away a pole  at a time when it was so hard to replace one?   These events are very minor historical trivia, and so could easily have been brushed under the rug of someone's memory.  I'm now in the process of finding Gerald Pratt to hear the story directly from him.  I have word that he is currently living in Houston. 

After speaking with Gerald Pratt, now a retired VP of Gulf Oil,  he confirmed that the donor was Aubrey Dooley

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