Thursday, May 17, 2018

V 8 N. 30 The National AAU Championships 1953

Courtenay, BC  May 17, 2018

While visiting my hometown of Dayton, Ohio for two weeks in late April and early May, I was able to visit two libraries containing some great resources on our sport.  Wright State University  has been given custody of the archives of the Dayton Daily News which contain innumerable photos including hard copies and originals that were sent to the paper from various wire services over the years.  One just has to ask the archivist (not to be confused with  the more common term 'librarian')  for access to anything they have on the name you give them.  Last year I asked for Glenn Davis, Buddy Davis, Bobby Morrow, Dave Sime, Wes Santee, Ira Murchison and a number other former greats, and the archivist brought out whatever they had in the files.   Here's one I've never seen of Gene Cole and Jack Davis at Helsinki in 1952.   Cole was seventh in the 400 in prelims, but they only took six to the finals in 1952.  Davis was second to Harrison Dillard in the 110HH. 
Gene Cole and Jack Davis in Helsinki 1952
from Dayton Daily News archives, Wright St. University

Note the error on Davis' event.

from Dayton Daily News archives Wright St. University
 I was amazed at what was in those files.  You cannot go searching on your own in the stacks, but they are very cooperative in bringing those stories and pictures to you.   In addition to the old track photos, they also have a case of medals that were awarded to the Wright Brothers by organizations around the world for their achievements in the field of aviation.  Most of these medals would put to shame, the best track medals you have ever seen.  And they were each one of a kind.   At the price of gold in those days of the early 20th century, I would be surprised if some of them were not solid gold.  

Here are a few of the Wright Brothers' awards.

A Couple of Relics I Found in the WSU Archives
Phil Scott and Bill Schnier with the Brothers. Phil was former
indoor Heptathlon champ back in the 70s.  His son Jason an NAIA  PV
champ at 17'8".  Bill was over thirty years the head coach at U. of Cincinnati.
Phil Scott in his wilder days

Wright Flyer replica in the atrium of the Wright State Library

My second library was the new downtown Dayton Public Library which has microfiche files of all past issues of the local Dayton papers going back into the 19th century.  In those files I searched for the stories of the 1953 and 1957 National AAU track and field championships, because they were held in Dayton in those two   post Olympic years.  They have never come back to Dayton, not for poor attendance or lack of interest, but because the local officials made a lot of mistakes when measuring staggers for the races run round the curve.  They had a 220 yard chute which normally was put into use at local meets.  Normally the 440 was run in lanes around one turn and runners broke for the pole, but the AAU wanted the 220 and 220 hurdles and the 440 run in lanes all the way, and a number of competitors ended up running incorrect distances.  What some of the other shortcomings there were from an organizational standpoint I am not aware, but I've heard that there were a number of other miscues.  For instance there was no circle for the hammer.  To improvise they painted one in the parking lot and threw into a vacant field.  Cage? We don't need no stinkin' cage.  Little things like that cost them a third  championship.  None of this was mentioned in the local accounts of the meet.  However there was a lot written in the run up to the meet and somewhat less about the actual meet.    Below you will see a bit about the NCAA Meet held in Lincoln, NE the week prior, then the build up of articles all written  by Bruce Pluckhahn who was no longer with the Dayton Daily News when I got to high school and began running track.  Bruce was probably told by the sports editor Si Burick to get his young cub reporter's butt out there and get some stories.  He seems to have done a bang up job.  Si sat back and hobnobbed with the AAU bigwigs like Dan Ferris and name dropped his way through a few columns which I have chosen to leave out of this post.  

Research tells us that at 39 years, Pluckhahn was no spring chicken.  He probably never wrote another piece on track as he left the Dayton Daily News the following year and went to work for the World Bowling Congress and retired as a member of their Hall of Fame.  Still he showed his competence as a journalist by taking an assignment doing a good job.  He died in 2008.   Ed. 

 I must confess that even though I lived about two miles from the stadium I did not see either meet.  My family was more interested in baseball and sprint car and Indianapolis racing in those days and travelled around the Midwest for that type of entertainment.   I had to discover track a few years later on my own when my dreams of baseball and basketball began to fade.  A number of us have written about that transition from the national pastime to the sport of track and field.  We'll share some of those comments in the future.  
The new Dayton Public Library

Sorry, I had to add the jello section of  MCL Cafeteria in Dayton.
Known affectionately as Medicare Lounge.
Fine Midwest Cuisine.  I think the blue is Gatorade.

So start off with the account of the NCAA meet and follow through to the AAU.  One other major national and international event occurred in that two week period.  I've included the front page of the paper on that day which you will find as you scroll through this post.  Apologies for the amateurish cut and paste that has been necessary to get all of these clippings to a readable size.

This article talks about the people coming to contest the sprints but also the work done by the community to put on the meet including some labor issues brought up by the professional musicians union.  It was heady days for union activity.  About that time a strike in Dayton was put down by the Ohio National Guard with its tanks in the streets.

More on things to expect at the big meet

In the days running up to the meet, other things were happening in the world.  I  was  ten years old at the time.  Didn't really understand what was going on.  A father  of one of my
classmates went to prison that year for a six year term for having been a Communist and denying it on a sworn statement.

By Friday night the Rosenbergs were forgotten to most of the track world.
Roger Bannister ran a 4:02 the same day in England.  Hoping to 
break 4 minutes before Wes Santee.

Results of Friday night below

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