Strength & Health, Page 26, July 1941

"Mr. America 1941!"

by Siegmund Klein

This Year's Mr. America Contest was held May 24th, at the Arena, 45th and Market Sts., Philadelphia, in conjunction with the Senior National Weight Lifting Championships. While the number of contestants this year was not as great as last, Dave Asnis, winner of the best abdominals last year, and Joe Thaler, winner of best back, are in service. John Gallagher, working long hours in the shipyards, and many others absent for similar reasons, the very best were seen in action at the Arena. In many sections of the country preliminary contests had been held to select "Mr. New York City," Frank Leight this year. Ludwig Schusterich last Year, "Mr. Philadelphia." Jules Bacon, Constantine Kosiris who was also in this contest had tied for first in the preliminaries. Tom O'Hare, bearing the title "Mr. New Orleans," Robert Ellwood Holbrook from far off California and so many others of the best developed men in this nation.

The judges easily as representative as the contestants, were selected by the national "eight lifting committee. They were, ten in all: Art Gay, Physical Culture teacher of Rochester, N. Y., former strongest man in the navy and himself winner of best built man contests in the past. Emmet Faris of Cincinnati, the president of the Body Builders Club, and vice chairman of the national weight lifting committee, Jack Ayres of Wilmington, Del. in charge of physical education for the state of Delaware. John Fritshe, of Fritshe's gym, Philadelphia, long a leader in physical training, body building and weight lifter. Six of his own men were in the competition. Cy Bermudes of New Orleans Athletic Club, weight lifting leader in that southern city, Willie Clark, physical director Broadwood A. C., Philadelphia, former champion boxer, active wresting and boxing referee, and a famous sportsman, Perry Lewis, sports columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Jeff Keen, columnist Philadelphia Daily News. Bob Hoffman, editor of Strength and Health magazine, and the writer.

The basis of judging was as follows:

Muscular development5 points
Muscular proportions5 points
Posing3 points
General Appearance2 points

This makes a total of 15 points in all, and with ten judges a perfect score would be 150 points.

The contest started with a parade of the athletes who were entered. This served to give the judges a "line" on the men who were entered and see just how they compared with each other. Then all were given their opportunity to pose in turn. Three poses, 20 seconds each for front, back and optional poses. Practically every contestant was a very extraordinary physical specimen. Those who had entered in the past were improved after another year's training, and some sensational newcomers appeared. Notably Kimon Voyages, Ellwood Holbrook and Harold Woomer. On the grass covered platform, in the center of the stage, the bronzed and frequently oiled bodies of the contestants brought applause and cheers from the great crowd who were present. The winners of the various districts all seemed to have their enthusiastic supporters. Greatest applause was won by the men who were ultimately the place winners and the winners of special awards. One man who did not receive a prize but received exceptional applause each time he appeared was Constantine Kosiris.

When John Grimek, who had recently won the title "Mr. Middle Atlantic," and was the reigning "Mr. America," came running down the isle as his turn came, leaped upon the platform and immediately went into a beautiful back pose, the tumultuous applause he received was pretty good proof that once again he would be the winner, officially "Mr. America."

As usual at all contests there are varieties of opinion...that is why there are judges; in this contest such a generous number of judges. Then the majority can rule and the best men should emerge as the ultimate winners. Often the audience approves the judges' decisions and often not and the audience will not hesitate to let the judges know with the will-known Bronx cheer.

John Grimek received the great total of 146½ points, an average of 14.65 per judge. Last year, Bernarr McFadden who had rated both Grimek and Schusterich with a perfect score of 15 points, was the only one to rate so high, there were a number of perfect scores for Grimek in this contest. John Grimek's victory, judging from the applause, was approved by all the spectators both when he posed and when he was awarded the huge Bob Hoffman trophy, emblematic of the title "Mr. America." John Grimek looked better than ever to this observer. His posing was magnificent, his muscularity unmatched, his proportions symmetrical, his appearance majestic. he really stood far out ahead of all the others. One thing was certain, the contestants themselves, or at least all of those to whom I have spoken, agreed that the judging on first place was right, in their opinions. This is very unusual in such a contest.

However there was quite a bit of controversial opinion as to the second place. The audience naturally applauded for the man they wanted to win. It seemed to me that the applause from the audience was about as even as the judging for second place. For this was indeed a close vote. Remember that Frank Leight Stepenek won the "Mr. New York City" Contest, February the 15th at Brooklyn. Jules Bacon of Fritshe's Gym won the "Mr. Philadelphia" contest May 17th. Here were the two winners in these great eastern cities vying for second place in the "Mr. America" contest. If I could express the other judges' opinion, I would say that they had two of the world's finest physical specimens before them, and it was very hard to choose between them. The contrast of their appearance made it even more difficult. Frank is taller, more bulky, evidently more powerful. Jules is dark, extremely muscular, thin skinned, and was in superb condition, much better than when the photo was taken a few months ago which appeared on the cover of this magazine. Frank had a magnificent chest, selected as the best in America, good legs. Jules was most notable for his abdominals but he was magnificently developed all over.

After the first draft of the judges these two men were tied for second place with 125½ points. The judges had to vote again and once again they came out even. Five for Stepenek, five for Bacon. It was later suggested that the judges choose between these two men by using the point system as in the preliminary judging. They could give a maximum of 15 points to his choice or as few as he thought the other man deserved. Something must have gone wrong with my figures or some of the men did not vote for the second choice, for when I asked Bob Jones who was the announcer at this point, having relieved Bob Hoffman who had been at the microphone from early morning until the completion of the last lifting the championships, just what the points for each contestant were, he informed me that Jules Bacon had won second place with 71 points and Frank Leight Stepenek, third with 58.

At all such contests the element of surprise enters, and I believe the most surprised and pleased athlete in the contest was Elwood Holbrook, the Watsonville, Cal. boy, when he was gien the fourth award in this great contest. Elwood was the only contestant who had competed in the weight lifting prior to the judging in this contest, he also had won the national bent press title, in the annual show I staged in New York. This lad was good however. He had a very muscular, symmetrical physique. His poses were splendid and his appearance unusually fine. In fifth position was Ludwig Schusterich, the lad who won the "Mr. New York City" contest in 1940, when he was just 16 years of age. Ludwig was bigger and stronger, being of about the same size as John Grimek. He weighed over 190 pounds, was broad shouldered and powerful I am informed that he can perform twenty deep knee bends with 350 pounds. He was particularly handsome, red cheeks, wavy silky blond hair, deeply tanned, splendid carriage, a real young superman. Each year he improves and when and if John Grimek retires some time in the future from these competitions, undoubtedly Ludwig Schusterich will be a leading contender for the title.

Terry Robinson of Brookyln, this year greatly improved physically, somehow manages to win one of the places in all such competitions. To garner the sith place medal he had to outscore a great many exceptional contestants. Terry has the sort of physique most poepl like. Broad shouldered, slender waist, powerful, somewhat slender but shapely legs, blond curly hair, an expert poser. The six place winners were the cream of the crop.

There were a number of additional events to be decided, Best Abdominals, Best Chest, Most Muscualr Athlete. Most Muscular Back, Best Arms, and awards for the best developed policeman and the runner up, best developed fireman and the runner up. Bob Hoffman had donated all of these beautiful trophies, and they were beautiful. The "Mr. America" trophy towered three feet in height, with two American Eagles and a beautiful statue of a weight lifter snatching, a stature that Grimek had posed for in the past. The most muscular man trophy was also exceptionally fine with a pedestal, a huge globe, flanked by athleteic figures and a statue with a vitory wreath on top.

As the "Most Muscular Man" competition was next in imporatnce, I will describe this contest first. John Grimek had won the "Most Muscular Man" title last year, also the best arm, the only one of the four special contests he entered. So great is this unsual physique specimen that he should easily win all of the special awards except possibly Best Abdominals. John has fine abdominals, but he does not specialize upon them, and might be outscored by some of the thin skinned men such as Kahn who won, and Bacon who was a finalist in the division. Grimek wanted others to share the trophies so did not enter these competitions. Neighter did Frank Leight enter the Most Muscualr Man contest or he would have been hard to beat in the final scoring.

The judges called for the men they liked best to stand upon the platform. This selected company at first included Jules Bacon, Kimon Voyages, Paul Como, and Elwood Holbrook. As he was leaving the platform Bob Hoffman called Ludwig Schusterich back. The audience and the judges were more divided in the selection of the most muscular man than in any other division of the great contest. Kimon Voyages is big, powerful, possessing a herculean development; in one photo I saw afterward, some who saw insisted it was Grimek and only the closest scrutiny in this particular pose proved that it was not Grimek. Jules Bacon was sensational. Thin skinned as I have repeatedly said before, he showed more muscles than any other. If the prize was given for muscular definition he, closely followed by Elwood Holbrook, I believe would have been the victor. But bulk must be given consideration in selecting the most muscular man. I believe that Ludwig Schusterich was the strongest man in the group. He had a beautiful body, and although his muscular definition was not as great as some, his shoulders wre broad, his chest magnificent, his poses the best of the group, his waist slender, his legs splendid, and he was selected by the judges as the ultimate winner. I believe he was the most pleased young man in Philadelphia that night. After winning the great honor of being selected Mr. New York City in 1940, he was nosed out by Frank Leight this year. Although he was a finalist in all the special contests, he did not actually win one, and would not be blamed for being discouraged for he is much better now than when he was selected as "Mr. New York City." He said afterward that he really will train now and show the judges who voted for him, as well as the spectators who kindly gave him support, that he can and will become much better than he is at present.

Elwood Holbrook won the "Best Arms" and he certainly showed great development and separation when he posed with his triceps shown. He has a triceps that has a perfect horseshoe effect. His biceps, too, lumps up in a well developed and most unusual manner. The muscle builders in the audience were particularly enthusiastic when he struck this pose. It was nice to see a man win this title who not only had a fine looking arm, but also a powerful one, as proven by his victory in the bent press contest.

Melvin Kahn, the young man who first gained fame by winning the Best Developed Abdominals in the "Mr. New York City Contest" was selected as the winner in this national contest. He has extremely thin skin and this helped him no little when he contracted his abdominals. From an expert's viewpoint while they showed extreme chiselled effects, it was not so much from a development standpoint but from a lack of flesh on his body. Proper abdominal development shows abdominal muscularity by having a certain amount of depth, admonials that protrude due to their unusual development and muscularity. Jules Bacon was the closest contender in this event, in fact he was among the leaders in all the special events.

Johnny Davis was the best developed back contest. Johnny just stood with his arms at his sides and I was surprised that he won by taking the pose that he did. Whenever I seen John Davis, I ask him to show me his upper back development and when he flexes his muscles it is really something to see. You get a hint of this development if you remember his back pose which was on the cover of this magazine a few months ago. The judges were no doubt influenced by photos they had seen of Johnny in the past, for he was given the award almost with unanimous acclaim.

Frank Leight Stepenek won the best chest contest again this year. His closest rival was Joe Peters from Schenectday. Joe Peters has the greatest differential between chest and waist of any athlete in the world. 53 inch chest, 31 inch waist, so I am informed. He looked as broad as this barn door we hear about. His chest was beautifully developed throughout, but his smoothness of construction failed to show up as well as the marvelous Frank Leight chest development.

Frank Leight also won the Best Built Policeman award, while Steve Stern, who really is a powerful man, won the best built fireman award.

By this time it was well after midnight on what has been the greatest day in the world of strength and development. The crowd slowly wended its way out of the big Arena, talking enthusiastically of what they had seen, and now doubt promising each other that they would put greater emphasis on their own training and be more like these men.

If you find these articles interesting and useful, please