Monday, April 20, 2015

V5 N 34 Julius Gyula Penzes RIP

This picture appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1957
Julius Gyula Penzes passed away on Friday April 17, 2015.   He was ranked 6th in the world in the 10,000 meters for Hungary in 1953.  He is listed having run 10,000 in 29:48.2 on Oct. 4, 1953, and 30:43.2 set Nov. 4, 1951.  These meets were really late in the year, but that 's the way European track can be.     I only learned of him through another Hungarian/American athlete,  Les Hegedus, who we wrote about in 2013 in this blog.   See:

 Mr. Penzes emigrated to the US after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.   He  originally settled in Cleveland, Ohio.  In 1957 as a schoolboy I met him briefly at the Ohio AAU cross country meet in Dayton, OH.  He was clearly a veteran running with the Magyar AC.  There were a number of Hungarian refugees running in that meet, and he seemed to be the leader in the group.   At the tender age of fifteen I shyly asked him  what was the secret to being a good distance runner.  His answer was simple, "Practice, practice, practice."    I never knew his name until I met Les  three summers ago.
Les Hegedus and Julius Penzes in the 1960's
Mr. Penzes worked in Cleveland as a bookbinder, then moved to Oakland, CA where he had a hardware store.  Eventually he moved up to Jacksonville, OR where he spent the rest of his life.  I talked to him briefly by phone two years ago and promised myself to go meet him after I moved to the Northwest at the end of 2013, but I never got around to doing it.  Now it's too late, and I regret it terribly.

In 2004 Mr. Penzes inquired on the Track and Field News  Bulletin Board about his not showing up in TF&N's 1953 world rankings.  Interestingly his two best times listed were 28:48. 6  Following is the conversation between Mr. Penzes and several other TF&N readers.  It tells us a lot about those times and what athletes in the Communist bloc went through to participate on the international scene.     GB

Here is his correspondence from TF&N Bulletin Board  in 2004
  1. My name is Julius (Gyula) Penzes and I participated in the 5 and 10 thousand meter events as a member of the Hungarian National Team in the 1950s. In 1953, I was ranked 6th in the world's best list with the time of 29.48.6.   I recently came to your web site and looked up the rankings for the 1953 10,000 meter event and found that I am missing from the list. What happened? Can anyone tell me why I have been left off? Thanks for any information on the subject.


  2. The world's best list is different to the T&FN rankings list.

    Your time was the 6th best time in the world that year:
    But the T&FN rankings take into account the whole season (every athletes' race, the major champs, head-to-heads, etc), to ascertain the top-10 of each event.
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    When you see the times athletes are running now, Mr. Penzes, (26:20 10K) what goes through your mind? Did the Hungarian Federation allow you to compete in non-Soviet bloc countries?
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    Dear interested friend,

    As with everything else, technology changed sports, too. Better tracks, coaching systems, diet, and not at least the incentives changed a lot. In the late 1940s and 50s we practiced hard to get on the National Team for an occasional trip outside of the iron curtain for competitions and to buy nylon stockings, wrist watches, lipsticks, etc., and to sell these illegal import items back home on the black market for some profit to make our life more bearable.

    The incentives these days are considerably higher and so are the results and rewards. But, as top sportsmen in the country we had enough food and found relief making jokes about anything. And especially about our communist government and the soviet political leaders. That was the time when Hungary was called the most delightful cell block in the soviet concentration camp.
    Thank you for your interest.

    Sincerely yours.
    Julius Penzes.
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    You have a very unique historical perspective. You would be a great person to sit down and have a few beers with.
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    >You have a very unique historical perspective. You would be a great person to
    >sit down and have a few beers with.

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    29.48.6 for a 10,000 in early October is excellent. Did you have decent weather conditions/preparaton etc. How was the track.
    Thanks for sharing. JP
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  8. Sen

    Hi Julius/Gyula,

    To the extent you wish to say, I'd love to hear about how/when your career came to close and whether the 1956 events had any influence on that. In the late 50's and early 60's many of us saw Tabori and Roszavolgyi( sp ? ) run here in the US. Also interested in any info. on exactly what the Revolution did to 1956 Olympic plans of Iharos, etc.

    But I repeat if it makes you feel uncomfortable to discuss any of this I apologize for asking.
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    I would go for those beers to enjoy your company. If we could agree on a date my wife and I would welcome you in our little town of Jacksonville Oregon. Julius.Reply With Quote

  10. HRE, If you agree the message goes for you, too. Julius.

  1. jlightnin,
    Thanks for your compliment. That track meet was in Bucharest more than 50 years ego! The two days international meeting went on under the most favorable weather condition on a perfectly prepared clay-cinder track. Events on time to the minute and good sportsmanship displayed all time. Pleasant memories.

  2. Were you coached by Igloi or Csaplar-- or another coach?

  3. Hello Steve. I was growing up in a free spirit, independent and apolitical family and I still practice that. The present political slogan "if you are not with us then you are against us" reminds me the fearful years of soviet repression from 1945 to 1956. The constant political psychological pressure in the sport and life caused severe palpitation attacks, many times right in the starting line and I had to give up the race and soon after my running career came to the end. Maybe interesting to note that months after we were addmited to the U.S in 1956 as political refugees these palpitations disappeared. Iharos, Tabori, Rozsavolgyi was the second great group coming up in the early 50s under our great coach Mihaly Igloi. Iharos was a quiet, reserved gentleman. Some sad memories in his childhood, a broken love affair right before the 1956 Hungarian revolution and the Olympic games probably caused his withdrawing from the 1956 games in Melbourne. I met him on a few occasions at that time and 12 years later again in the Kedveske [Darling] espresso in Budapest. His saga on the road down was sorrowful to see. He was an exceptionally great talent without self-confidence. Gyula.
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  4. thank you Gyula, very good insights on your career and the situation back then in Hungary. Thanks again.

  5. Gyula, I think I saw you running in Bratislava (Pozsony) in the mid-50's with Zátopek, Ulsperger, Kovács or Szabó. I was a teenager at that time.

  6. Jacksonville, Oregon? I'll have to find it on the map. I'm due for a trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit some friends there. When I get there, I will take you up on your offer. In the meantime, if you are ever travel to eastern Massachusetts and tell me you're here, you've got a free meal and some beers coming.

  7. Am familiar with Jacksonville and am sorry I didn't know you were there the last time I visited. As I recall, it is an old mining town, kind of touristy on the weekends, and the town cemetery was quite interesting (all those western gun-slingers and mining accidents!) Had an excellent Sunday brunch in some refurbished old saloon on Main Street. Will probably be back in Oregon to visit friends in next year or two, and I will try to look you up. Just remember, if some middle-aged man calls you and says he is "twittering debutante", that is me.

  8. Igloi and Csaplar. I have had very good relations with both. I did some work out with Igloi whiley in the national traininig camp in Tata. In my 18 years on the track I had four coaches with four different filosofy in coaching. Dr Szerbak the most humain [1946-1950] and Sandor Laszlo mine last one the former 50km WR walker, the most advanced et that time

  9. Gyula,
    I have found your postings very interesting. Coach Igloi was my coach in 1965 & 66. For a while there were only about six athletes working with him. Although, I was not a world class runner, he worked with me at no charge. He was amazing at predicting what time an athlete would run and did so with me even after I left him and had not seen him for several years. I have always thought that it is too bad that he was so secrative about his methods and that except for a few coaches (Laszlo Tabori and Joe Douglas are two still active) his ideas are lost and therefore misunderstood.
    Speaking of Laszlo, he still coaches here in the Los Angeles area. I ran in races with him in Toronto in the 1960s. I got to know him later after I moved to California. He was an extremely fine runner for a long time.
    Thank you for reviving old memories,
    Orville Atkins

  10. Thank's to bring back memories of the beautiful city of Pozsony, and the friendly people there. Gyula

  1. Hello Orville, This conversations soon become's a nostalgy club. Thorugh life was moore simpliar and civilaised some 45 years ego when we lived in Oakland and some weekends we drowe down to San Jose to meet Igloi and a small group of runners listenind of his gospel of training. And now, your name is comong back slowly with the names of Beatty, Shule, and Mills, and the famous cover picture on the Life Magazine of Igloi with the runners on the track and the title "The Imperial Finger". "Thanks for the Memories" Orville.If by any chanche you see Laszlo, please convay my hello to him. We moved away from Oakland after loosing our home and everithig else in the fire storm of 1991. All the best Gyula
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  2. Julius, did you know Laszlo Doemedy the Olympic diver for Humgary? He taught me geography in junior high.
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  3. Gyula,
    I was not with the group in San Jose. I did not join Igloi until after Tokyo and was in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Most of the stars were gone. The only San Jose runners left were Jim Grelle, Joe Douglas, Merle Magee, one or two others and maybe John Bork and Tom Rodda.
    I think Laszlo had retired from competing too but was coaching elsewhere in the city. I have not seen him in many years but I will be sure to mention you the next time I do see him. I am sure that will set him off on more reminiscing. He is a lot of fun to talk to.

  4. Hi Orville, Yes my memory maybe getting a bit fogy. But Mike and I kept corresponding until His death in Budapest. Maybe He mentioned your name on some occasion. Thank for correcting me. Gyula

  5. So am I, but I was only a baby in 1953.
  6. I last saw Mike in the lobby of the train station in Munich in 1972. I had not seen him or communicated with him in three or four years. We discussed many things. I was 36 and ran mainly for fun. I gave him a brief accounting of the running that I had been doing. He said that I would run my best time. Six months later I did!
    I too have many fond memories of Coach Igloi.

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