Back in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s I served as the Coordinator for the Van Nuys High School Medical and Performing Arts Magnets. One of my medical magnet students (I do n’t remember her name) was having some difficulties in her classes and I needed to have a parent conference with her mother. It turned out that the mom was an employee of a University of Southern California program originated by Steven Spielberg that was aggregating video interviews of Holocaust survivors. The idea was to create a living history while the elderly survivors could provide their accounts.
I thought it was a great idea and it’s been sitting in the back of my mind for the past 20 years or so. As I’ve moved along life’s pathway I became more aware that we were gradually losing some of the individuals in the history of the sport of weightlifting. While we couldn’t do anything nearly as grandiose as the Shoah Institute at USC, we could at least record some video interviews since that medium has become readily available.
USA Weightlifting History
Weightlifting got started in the USA by European immigrants. The sport was conducted in numerous German-American and Italian-American Athletic Clubs on the East Coast during the 1920’s. Later it was taken up by YMCA’s and YMHA’s (Young Men’s Hebrew Association). The early history of the sport was documented by Bob Hoffman in a book called Weightlifting. There were more detailed accounts in Strength & Health magazine.
Since the demise of S&H in 1985, the documentation of the history has been rather sketchy. The only notable individual with a sincere interest in the history of the sport has been Artie Dreschler of New York City.
The Still Surviving
Many of the main players in the post World War II era have already passed away. We’ve lost Dietrich Wortman, Bob Hoffman, John Terpak, Rudy Sablo, Norbert Schemansky, Tommy Kono, Paul Anderson and many others.
We still, however, have a number of surviving participants who can provide an interesting history of the past 50 years. While much of the early history is maintained at the Stark Center at the University of Texas, we now have the technology to record the thoughts and memories of today’s still surviving athletes, officials and coaches.
The Presentation Platform
I’ve not been able to devote much energy in determining the platform that will maintain these interviews, but I have recruited a pair of younger enthusiasts who are far more literate than I in modern technology and I’d like to let them brainstorm the possibilities .
The Initial Focus
Most of the current weightlifting community in the USA has a very limited sense of the history of the sport. There are many valuable perspectives that can be provided by the veterans and video interviews can make them more vivid. We need to record some of these insights before they are lost. I will place the focus on some of our veteran supporters.
I’ve been fortunate to encounter two young men who are willing to get the project rolling. I have purposely selected younger enthusiasts with the hope that they will move this project along for many years to come. They are David Lee Bayer and Brandon Chien. I will be setting up the interviews with appropriate veterans and these two will do the interviews.