Strength & Health, Page 18, September 1943

Jules Bacon, "Mr. America" 1943

by Dick Bachtell

THE 1943 "Mr. America" contest was this year at the Los Angeles Y.M.C.A. under the personal direction of David A. Maltin of the Los Angeles Y. Held in conjunction with the Senior National A.A.U. weightlifting championships, it was a glorious spectacle, comparing favorably with the big "Mr. America" contest of past years. Twenty-two of America's best built men, hailing from a dozen states, vied for the honors in the 1943 "Mr. America" contest. After rather a close contest, Jules Bacon, of the York Barbell Club, was selected as the 1943 "Mr. America". Jules came as close to having everything as any man could; he is handsome in a manly sort of way, has think black hair, perfect teeth, a fine tan, a beautifully proportioned, exceptionally developed body, with more than his share of strength, good posing ability, and splendid carriage. Even among the great group of physical specimens gathered that day of June 27th at Los Angeles, he stood out sufficiently that anyone could easily see that he was the best of the contenders.

In years past various organizations and magazines set out to select the best built man for the particular year. Some of these men bore various titles. For instance, back in 1921, when Physical Culture magazine held a contest through photographs, Charles Atlas was selected as the "world's most handsome man" - not the world's best built man as he advertises, but the "world's most handsome man", judged solely by photos. Perhaps the fact that Atlas had been for some five years a model for Physical Culture magazine may have helped his selection. The next year, Physical Culture again staged a contest, this time in Madison Square Garden, to selected "America's Best Built Man". The contest was open to both amateurs and professionals, but the leading professionals feared to enter for only one could win and the others would hurt their reputations by losing. Competing with a group of complete unknowns, Charles Atlas was selexted as the best of those in the competition and give the title, "America's best developed man".

Strength magazine throughout the years of the middle twenties held an annual posing contest and the winner received considerable acclaim. Lurten Cunningham, later physical director at the Athens, Ga. Y.M.C.A., and a writer for this magazine, won the 1925 contest. Early in the 1930's Strength and Health magazine sought to hold a contest for both men and women to determine the best physical specimen of both sexes. The ladies division was well filled, and as the amateur rule was not in effect, beautiful New York City chorines were the victors. There was little competition in the men's division as the leading competitors once again feared to enter, although they were invited, including Charles Atlas. The contests were not representative so no claim of "Mr. America" titles was made, and the contests were discontinued.

And along came 1939. That year Johnny Hordines, of Schenectady, N.Y., sought to conduct a real "Mr. America" contest, using the same rules as were in effect in the "Miss America" contest held each year in Atlantic City. The contest took place in Amsterdam, N.Y. and was very beautiful. Lighting was good, music was used as the posing progressed, each contestant stood under the lights on a revolving platform, and had 20 seconds for each of several poses. There were men in action from various states. Gene Jantzen from California, Bill Curtis from Indiana, Bert Goodrich from Arizona, and many men from nearby states. When the judging was completed Elmer Farnham, who had gone along with Bob Hoffman for the ride, had the lowest number of points, which was the method of scoring in that contest. The judges listed the men they considered first, second, and third. It seemed that every judge of the six had his favorite for first place, but Elmer Farnham had received one vote for first place and five for second. After the first count, this gave Elmer the lowest score and he would have been the winner. But one of the judges was persuaded to change his vote. It made no difference to him anyway, as he was an old man, and was judging due to his reputation of the past, and this first, instead of the third place he had formerly given the ultimate winner, permitted him to have a one point lower score than Farnham.

Later that year, at the national weight-lifting championships in Chicago, a posing contest was staged to find the best built weight lifter in the nation. One of the rules was that men must be amateurs, that they must compete in the lifting that day, so the lifting dragged out tremendously because these men could not lift on an equal basis with the competing weight lifters. Roland Essmaker, of Richmond, Ind., was declared the winner. At that time he was tall and slender, and few considered him the best built man in action; only his height permitted him to outscore Tony Terlazzo, who was second. Later Roland greatly improved his physique and presented a very impressive appearance.

In 1940, the first real "Mr. America" contest was staged by the A.A.U. The championships that year were held in Madison Square Garden before a huge throng. The event, highly publicized by the New York newspapers and the news reels, was easily the feature of the two days of competition. Those who exerted themselves to win the title were posed on the platform in the center of Madison Square Garden and it was a magnificent affair. John Grimek won easily, in spite of the fact that some officials such as Dan Parker, New York columnist who had no previous experience in judging the well built masculine physique, and has been knocking weight lifting ever since, thought that a New Yorker should have won.

The next year a similar well-staged contest was held to determine the "Mr. America" of 1941. This contest was conducted at the Arena in Philadelphia under the auspices of the Middle Atlantic A.A.U. weightlifting committee, of which Bob Hoffman is chairman. There were ten judges, from over most of the nation, and John Grimek won again by a big margin. Frank Leight, officially selected as "Mr. New York City", had been second in 1940, and this year was outscored by Jules Bacon, officially "Mr. Philadelphia", who finished in second.

It was evident that John Grimek would go on winning year after year, so a rule was made that a man could win this title only once.

In 1942, a junior "Mr. America" contest was held at Bristol, Conn., and the senior "Mr. America" contest staged at Cincinnati, Ohio. Frank Leight, the New York policeman, was selected as the official "Mr. America", with Dan Lurie second in both the junior and the senior events. Jules Bacon did not compete in the 1942 contests.

This year, the national championships and the "Mr. America" contest were to be held in far-off California. Bob Hoffman sent five men to the championships. Tony Terlazzo was national A.A.U. champion for the 11th time, Johnny Terpak who won first in 1936 and every year since, his eighth, John Davis who finished second to Stanley Kratkoswki in the Nationals of 1938, later wining the world's title in Vienna the same year, won his fifth national title, while Jules Bacon annexed the "Mr. America" title (myself annexing my 10th title, my first win being in 1926). Five out of five. Johnny Grimek, who had pressed 285 in the nationals of 1940, who has scored totals of 850, as a light-heavy, could have easily won that title this year, had he made the trip. But back to the 1943 "Mr. America" contest.

On Sunday afternoon, at the Los Angeles Y.M.C.A., 22 of America's best built men were on hand to compete for the title, 1943 "Mr. America". Some of these men are well known to S. & H. readers: Al Berger, from Philadelphia, but now in the U.S. Army, a S. & H. cover man, who has posed for exercise articles in this magazine; Jules Bacon, of York, the ultimate winner; Dan Lurie of Brooklyn, a leading contender; Manuel Villegas, a Mexican school teacher of Redland, Cal., a man whom we met first when the York team staged a demonstration at March Field, Riverside, Cal.; R.E. Holbrook, representing the Oakland Y.M.C.A., one of the leading contenders in the "1941 Mr. America" contest, winner of the best developed arm and second for the most muscular title, national bent press champion, a man who had repeatedly bent pressed 270 pounds; Arturo Bianco, perhaps better known as Art White, a muscle control expert extra-ordinary who had appeared in most of the states of the union; Joe Di Pietro, of Paterson, N.J., the winner of the title in the 123 lifting class; Orville Wertzbaugher, holder of the west coast press record, and many times winner of the Pacific coast lifting title in his class; John Davis, who needs little introduction to S. & H. readers - he had won the best back in the 1941 and 1942 contests, the only division in which he competed; Stan Fried,now of the U.S. Army, but a member of Tanny's gym at Santa Monica; Taylor Flannikan, of Long Beach, who was to finish third, and Harry Benner of San Diego, who was placed in fourth place by the judges.

There were ten judges, most of whom are well known to readers: David A. Matlin, prominent Los Angeles attorney, member of the Los Angeles Y, who was the director of the entire meet, served as a judge; Al Treolar, great old string man and instructor of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, one of the nation's best in the 20's; Bert Goodrich, great all-around athlete, former champion of the University of Arizona, now a petty officer in the navy, formerly a professional hand balancer and winner of America's best built man title; Sam Weston, one of the Pacific coast's best middleweight lifters, a leading contender for the national two-arm press record, chairman of the A.A.U. California committee; Jere Kingbury, long prominent as a weightlifter and leader in California, former national champion; Bill Robusch, former national champion high jumper and pole vaulter when he was an athlete at University of Pittsburgh, later was Ohio weight lifting champ as he comes form Salem, O.; Gloria Gene and Penny Davidson, two movie stars who had more than their share of feminine pulchritude; D. K. Brigs and Arnold Eddy.

The judging was done as usual, 15 points were perfect, 5 for muscular development, 2 for posture, 5 for muscular proportions, 2 for posing and 1 for hair, skin and teeth. The big contest was held on Sunday, the 27th, the subdivisions on Saturday night. In spite of the unusual competition in the special divisions, Jules Bacon and Dan Luire finished first or second in each class. In best chest, Jules Bacon was awarded first place, Dan Lurie second, Stan Fried third, Florian Heintz and Harry Benner tied for fourth. In the best back Lurie was given the first award, Bacon second, Hilmer Dolan, of the Los Angeles Y, third, L. McDade, of the South Point Barbell club, fourth. Jules Bacon was selected as the possessor of the best legs. Jules squats with 425 pounds, so comes honestly by his fine lower limbs. Dan Lurie was selected second in this subdivision, with Robert Holbrook third and Villegas fourth. In best Arms , Lurie was given the award, Bacon second with Holbrook third.

Being a judge at one of these affairs is a difficult and thankless task. We should not quarrel with judges who are doing their very best, without remuneration of any sort. Both Bacon and Lurie have wonderful arms, but we wonder if Holbrook should not have won this award. He won the best developed arm at Philadelphia against very impressive competition. Few men in the nation have such arms as Holbrook. Aside from being a pretty good weight lifter on the three lifts he is one of the best bent pressers of his weight in all time. When members of our team were touring the nation, Holbrook made 225 at his home contest in Watsonville the first attempt and 250 his second. how he can press 250 any time "cold", with his clothes on, and seldom misses 270 in his second. he has an arm which bulges up in a manner which reminds one of the Otto Arco arm, the largest arm for the size of any man in history. Holbrook's arms are truly amazing, in fact he is one of the most muscular men in the world, considering his entire body. Al Berger, another great physical specimen, the man who made the highest back hand curl on record, 165, was forth in this class.

Jules Bacon was selected by the judges as the possessor of the best abdominals. Lurie again was second, Vic Harmon of Tanny's gym third, Wertzbaugher fourth. Bacon was easily the class of this subdivision; it seemed that there was little specialization in the west in abdominal development as there is in the east.

One of the greatest honors of the "Mr. America" contest is to win the "Most Muscular Man" title. Grimek won in 1940. he desired to give the other fellows a chance in 1941 so did not enter the subdivisions. he has everything and would have come pretty close to winning all the titles, in 1942. Dan Lurie won this title again this year. In Jules Bacon, whose every muscle stands out well moulded and clear cut, with Holbrook, is a strength athlete trained down fine, and Al Berger who is exceptionally physical, the winner was sure to be an outstanding specimen. The final scoring saw Lurie first, Bacon second, Berger third and Holbrook fourth.

In the big contest the next day, the scoring went as follows:

Jules BaconYork Bar Bell Club142
Dan LurieBrooklyn, N.Y.137
Taylor FlankanLong Beach135
Harry BennerSan Diego128
Robert HolbrookOakland, Cal123
Hilmer DolanLos Angeles Y112
Stan FriedU.S. Army112
Orville WertzbaugherL.B.Y. Los Angeles110
S GriffithsS.D. N.A.110
Al BergerU.S. Army108
John B HabereiterTanny's Gym101

Jules Bacon trailed Lurie by one point in the scoring for muscular proportions, 45 for Bacon, 46 for Luire. In the second division, muscular development, the judges gave Lurie a perfect score, ten times the perfect five for each judge or 50 in all. Bacon had 47 in this division and at this stage of the scoring lagged 4 points behind Lurie. But in posture Bacon made it all up. Lurie for years practiced gymnastics as well as weight lifting and like too many gymnasts walks around with his shoulders held forward. Bacon carries himself so well that he is the center of all eyes at a bathing beach and the judges deservedly gave him the perfect score of 20 for this class, with Lurie receiving 16. Jules went still farther ahead by receiving another perfect score of 20 for his posing. Although not the equal of John Grimek, the master of them all in displaying his physique, few photos do Jules justice, as he is good and undoubtedly was the best of those who were in the contest.

It has always been my thought in selecting a "Mr. America" that a man's hair, face, skin, teeth, etc., should count heavily. That a man was hardly deserving of the "Mr. America" title only on the strength of his physique. But Jules is handsome, has a smooth brown skin, perfect teeth, plentiful well-kept hair, etc., so here again he received the perfect score of 10 while Lurie, more rugged in appearance, not so handsome as some others, received 7 points.

Thus Jules Bacon received the selection as America's best physical specimen for 1943. A great honor and one that he richly deserves. Regular readers of this magazine who have read of Jules in the past will remember the hard knocks, the setbacks which beset his journey down the road to superstrength and development. Early in life he fell into a vat of boiling lard and carries many scars to show for this episode. Later in life he was accidentally show through the leg, still later he had his leg broken and suffered for a lengthy period with blood poison, the result of an accident, so that he was confined in bed for a full year with his leg in a plaster cast. It is this latter condition, a heel which refuses to heal entirely, which has kept Jules from succeeding in enlisting in the service the many times he tried. He is married, to the attractive blond girl who was pictured in this magazine in the story, "Jules Bacon Gets Married."

Now back home with all his trophies, he is unchanged, as unpretentious as ever, lives in a home next to Bob Hoffman, at Brookside Park. He is more ambitious than ever and even a hard day in the foundries does not deter him from taking his almost daily workout at the York Barbell Gym. He is assistant to Bob Hoffman, which takes in a lot of territory, as the activities of Bob are multitudinous.

Visitors to York will see Jules doing the work he loves, being identified with Strength and Health and the York Barbell Co., working hard with his hands rather than accepting offers such as he had to try out for the movies.

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