by Bill Starr
After greeting everyone, Tommy and I started slapping on the muscle rub and tried to stretch out our creaking bodies. In a low voice, Tommy said, “Starr, I have a feeling that we’re gonna earn our money tonight.”
In the late sixties, exhibitions were as much a part of the weekly routines for some of the York lifters as training and lifting in contests. At first, it was only March who went with Hoffman to put on shows at every venue imaginable: fairs, VFWs, Lion’s Clubs, Kiwanis, American Legion Halls, health conventions, and high schools. After Tommy Suggs moved to York and took over the job of Managing Editor of Strength & Health, he too began traveling to exhibitions with Hoffman. Bob Bednarski was brought to town to fill in for March in December of ’65, when Bill decided he needed a break from putting on shows for awhile.
I came to York early in ’66 to be Tommy’s assistant, but I wasn’t asked to participate in any exhibitions until that fall, after I had moved up into the 198-lb. class and made a decent showing at the North Americans. Then Tommy and I began setting up exhibitions on our own at high schools in the area, and these went much smoother without Hoffman jabbering while a lifter was trying to press, snatch, or clean and jerk. Bednarski often joined us, mostly because he dearly loved to perform before a large, appreciative audience.
The best thing about arranging our own exhibitions was that we could fit them into our training schedules. On more than one occasion, Hoffman would enlist one or more of us to accompany him to an exhibition on a training day, and even on days where we had already trained. We had no choice but to go, and it was nice to get twenty-five bucks for about forty-five minutes of effort, yet it screwed up our planned training schedule for that week.
In an earlier piece on this subject, I wrote about how John Grimek got blindsided by Karl Norberg in San Francisco during a cross country trip that included Hoffman, Tony Terlazzo, and Gracie Bard, Hoffman’s current squeeze. Tony, John, and Bob had been putting on lifting exhibitions across the country, starting in Columbus, Ohio, on through the Midwest and far west and then down the Pacific Coast. The demonstration in San Francisco was to be just another show, so Grimek partied hard with his friends the night before and had to be carried from his bed and dumped in the car to go to the exhibition by Tony and Bob. That’s when they found out that the legendary Karl Norberg was also planning to lift, a direct challenge to Grimek. John told me he really had to dig deep that evening because he didn’t want to be humiliated in front of so many fans. And that’s exactly what he did, bettering Karl in his favorite lift, cleaning and pressing a barbell using an underhand, or curl, grip.
Many years later, Tommy and I found ourselves in a similar situation, Bob Crist was the regional vice-chairmen for the most active areas in the country: New Jersey, Middle Atlantic, which included York, South Atlantic, primarily Maryland, District of Columbia, Allegheny Mountain, Virginia, and West Virginia. Bob lived in Hampton, Virginia and was tight with Hoffman, Terpak, Rudy Sablo, and Morris Weissbrot, the primary decision-making group in U.S. Olympic lifting.
So when Bob called Terpak and asked if it would be possible for Tommy and I to stop by an army base in Virginia on our way back to York after competing in the Carolina Open to hold a clinic, it was a done deal. We didn’t mind. We enjoyed holding teaching clinics for lifters, and this would be for the Lower Peninsula Weightlifting Club. We would have done this for Bob for free, but the Ft. Eustis Army Base had a fund for such things and would be providing us with a room for the night plus $100. We planned on using the clinic for our Monday workout. We wouldn’t bother going heavy since our purpose was to demonstrate proper form on the Olympic lifts to those in attendance.
The Carolina Open was held in Winston-Salem, N.C. and was directed by Jack King. Tommy and I won our respective classes and stayed up late holding an impromptu clinic in our motel room. Jack was there as was Kenny Moore, who had spent part of the previous summer living and training in York. Frank Saunders, Larry Ford, Art Cole, John Fair, and an impressive 181er, Jim Bishop, showed up as well. When Jack wasn’t entertaining us with jokes and impressions, we answered questions on technique and how to program in order to improve the various lifts needed to excel in the sport. It was well after midnight before our guests departed and we finally fell into our beds.
The following day was a Sunday and we followed Kenny Moore to his home near Lenoir, in the mountains. Tommy and I wanted to check out the many furniture manufacturers in and around Hickory. The prices were about half of what they were in York and Tommy and I were thinking about renting a truck, driving down to Hickory and buying a quantity of the well-made furniture for our homes.
After examining a few – which was enough – we spent the remainder of the day and into the night talking weightlifting again. Earlier, we had checked the road atlas and calculated that it would be an eight or nine-hour drive from Kenny’s home to Ft. Eustis, so we needed to be on the road by 9:30 just to be on the safe side. We needed to allow for car trouble, detours and getting lost.
Neither Tommy nor I slept very well in strange, not-so comfortable beds and we passed on the offer of breakfast from Kenny, saying we’d grab something on the road. Once we got out of the mountains and hit I-40, we made good time. We only stopped twice for gas and food, ready-made ham and tuna sandwiches, milk, and coffee to refill our thermos. We took turns driving, switching every couple of hours. When we were driving to Winston-Salem, we switched every hour because we were going to be lifting in a meet. Since we were only going to be “demonstrating” the lifts later on that day, it didn’t matter if we were well rested or not.
At South Hill, Virginia, we left I-85 and headed east to Franklin and then crossed the James River into Newport News. It was a short drive up Rt. 60 to the base. Crist’s instructions had been perfect. Tommy was driving when we pulled up to the Main Gate of Ft. Eustis. He told the M.P. on duty our reason for being here. He checked a clipboard and asked us to park the car where he pointed and come in the Guard Shack to sign in.
We were so stiff from sitting for so long we walked like seventy-year-old men. After we signed in, the M.P. handed Tommy a cardboard plaque that said “Visitor” and told him to place this on his dashboard. When I asked him if he could give us directions to the B.O.Q. and base gym, he replied in a sullen tone, “That’s a map of the base on that bulletin board just past where you parked.”
As we were walking back to the Volkswagen, the guard stuck his head out of the Guard shack and shouted “Suggs! Tuck your shirttail in!”
Tommy reacted like he’d been struck by a cattle prod, tucking his shirt down into his pants, then going over everything again to make sure it was right. After I studied the map and memorized where the B.O.Q, and base gym were, I got in the car and started laughing. Tommy glared at me and barked, “What’s so damn funny?”
June 30 Training Camp (The Squat) : Atlanta, GA
July 13 Training Camp (The Squat) : Newport, NC
July 12-14 Starting Strength Seminar : Denver, CO
August 9-11 Starting Strength Seminar : St Louis, MO
September 6-8 Starting Strength Seminar : Brooklyn, NY
October 11-13 Starting Strength Seminar : Redmond, WA
November 8-10 Starting Strength Seminar : Atlanta, GA
December 6-8 Starting Strength Seminar : Wichita Falls, TX