Strength & Health, Page 16, July 1944

"Mr. America 1944"

by Alan Carse

The 1944 Mr. America contest was held In conjunction with the national weight lifting championships, at beautiful Memorial Stadium, Chattanooga, Tenn., May 7th. This popular event had its inception in 1939. That year a big, highly publicized Mr. America contest was conducted at AmsterDam, N. Y. The best male physical specimens from widely scattered points entered, the winner being Bert Goodrich, the runner up Elmer Farnham. In Chicago, that year as a part of the National A. A. U. championships the best built weight lifter was selected. To compete it was essential that a man take part in the weightlifting events and the lifting of men of little strength and lifting skill who entered the lifting merely to qualify for the best developed weight lifter contest slowed up the championships. So in the years that have passed since, any amateur was eligible. Bert Goodrich was a professional and would not be eligible for competition in the Mr. America contest staged each year by the A. A. U. Roland Essmaker of Richmond, Ind. was the winner of this first A. A. U. contest in Chicago, Tony Terlazzo, the runner up. Essmaker at the time of winning the Chicago contest was tall, and not too well developed, but his type of physique met with the approval of the three lady art teachers, the little sculptor and the operator of a business man's gym who were serving as judges. To the eternal credit of Roland Essmaker, he continued to train, and developed one of the finest physiques in the world, a physique which would make him a leading competitor in any Mr. America contest.

The 1940 contest was held at Madison Square Garden and was the big feature of the weightlifting championships. Metropolitan newspapers carried columns before and after, and the Mr. America contest became an important event in American athletic circles. John Grimek was the winner of this 1940 contest (he did not enter in Chicago) winning the most muscular man title and some of the special awards. Grimek won gain at the Arena, Philadelphia, in 1941 but did not enter the special divisions, practically all of which he would have won, for here is no other man like John Grimek. He has the most amazing muscular development, knows how to display it, has fine proportions, and as it seemed that he would go on winning forever, a rule was made that a man could win just once. Jules Bacon was the runner up in 1941. Frank Leight, who had been second in 1940, finished in a tie with Jules and after additional posing Jules was given the second place trophy. The 1942 contest was held at Cincinnati, Ohio with Frank Leight winning the coveted title. Jules Bacon did not enter, and Dan Lurie was the second place man. That year at Bristol, Conn. in conjunction with the Junior national championships, a Junior Mr. America contest had been held, with Kimon Voyages the winner, Dan Lurie second.

In 1943 the Mr. Amemica contest took place at Los Angeles, Cal., Jules Bacon winning the title, and Lurie again being second. Jules was an exceptional Mr. America, possessing an unusual muscular development, thin skinned, he has muscles that spectators have never seen before, always willing to pose when requested as he did three times at Chattanooga this year.

In 1944, in Pittsburgh, the Junior Mr. America contest was staged by our hard working weight lifting leader, Wilbur Smith, with Steve Stanko winning the Junior title, Lurie second.

This gives you some idea of the background of this popular event. The special vents, Best Arm, Best Chest, Best Back, Best Developed Legs, Best Abdominals, were held in the afternoon at Chattanooga. This gave judges and spectators alike an opportunity to see all of the contestants on the stage at one time, to compare one with another, and to form some idea of who would in the Mr. America title.

In the past years there were ten judges, weightlifting leaders and body builders from over all the nation. This year owing to a shortage of qualified officials at both the Junior and Senior Mr. America contests, there were just five judges. At Chattanooga, the judges were: Ashley Black, Chattanooga, George Yacos, Detroit, Jim Messer, Bridgeport, Penna., Emmet Faris, Cincinnati, Ohio and Captain Karo Whitfield, whose home is in Atlanta. For long he had been the hardest working weight lifting leader in the South, the promoter of important lifting and best built man contests of the past.

A splendid bunch of young men appeared or the contest, and created a wonderful impression as they posed on the platform. More than half of them were service men and many had journeyed a great distance to take part in their favorite event. Among the leading competitors were Dan Lurie of Brooklyn, perennial runner up, Staff Sergeant Sam Azhderian, whose home is in San Pedro, Califoria, although he is stationed at Tucson, Ariz., Sgt. Kimon Voyages, of Randolph Field, Texas, a man who possesses one of the most Herculean developments in the nation. At the 1941 Mr. America contest in many poses he compared favorably with John Grimek. Lt. James McIver, also of Randolph Field, a man with limited training experience, but a handsome well built man, who will improve as he continues with his training. Steve Stanko, former world's strongest man, holder of the world's record in the two hands clean and jerk, a man who had struggled to the top in development after an injury and physical setback which would have discouraged any man not made of suci1 courageous fibre. James Richie of Frye Institute, Chattanooga, Tenn., a handsome, beautifully proportioned lad who was the physical ideal of many of the "Ohing" and "Awing" spectators, the ultimate winner of the Best Developed abdominals. He had a beautiful body, and with added development will be a leading competitor in future Mr. America contests. Cpl. Marvin Urvant, a Strength & Health cover man, from the Army Air Forces in Massachusetts. Powerfully constructed, beautifully proportioned, he had posed for the Air Force posters and it was certain that he would finish well up in the scoring.

Capt. Bill Bush of the Cincinnati fire department, who had been winner of the Best Built Man in Ohio contest, and had just won the national 181 pound title, a man of fine proportions and exceptional muscularity. Staff Sergeant Gene Jantzen, who is stationed at Lincoln, Nebraska, home in Illinois and California, leading competitor in past Mr. America contests, famous all around athlete, the man who in the opinion of many had the idea! physique. Broad shoulders, deep chest, exceptional latissimus dorsi muscles, splendid abdominal development, all supported with a pair of fine, straight, beautifully muscled legs. Henry Esman of the Hoffmeister Club, Indianapolis. Sgts. Al Lamkin and Tom Hanney of Nashville Barbell Club, Pvt. Ellwood Holbrook, stationed at Lincoln, Nebraska, home in Watsonville, California, winner of best developed arm division in past Mr. America contests, the nation's best bent presser of his weight, runner up in the 181 pound lifting championships, and as powerful, rugged looking a physical specimen as you could see in a day's travel. Corp. Irving Tepper, 513th Parachute Infantry, home in Brooklyn, N. Y., a little man, but beautifully built, and James Liban.

It was a pleasure to see these splendidly developed, clean cut, fine young Americans upon the platform. It was proof that barbell training has done so much to build the youth of our nation, to strengthen our fighting forces. Without exception, all of the competitors were barbell trained. For no other branch of athletics, no other system of exercise produces physical specimens which will compare favorably with the men who train with weights. At one time track and field men, wrestlers and football players, gymnasts, swimmers, baseball players appeared in Mr. America contests, but they suffered in comparison with the men who had moulded their bodies through weight training and weight lifting. Weight training was proven to be "the best way" and now all competitors are weight trained men.

The judges were in their places, the competitors were called one by one by Bob Hoffman, the master of ceremonies. The basis of judging was muscular development, muscular proportions, posture, posing ability, with some consideration given to a man's general appearance, his skin, hair and face. The competition in Best Arm was first, and Steve Stanko won this event with a vote of 4 to 1, he single vote going to Ellwood Holbrook. Steve has not only big arms, varying in size from 18 to 19 inches, but they are shapely and beautifully moulded. Stanko also won the Best Developed Chest, with the votes of the five officials, but Gene Jantzen, while receiving no first, was second in the opinion of the majority of the judges. Stanko also won the best back, but the decisions were much closer in this event, as he received two votes, of the five, with Voyages, Bill Bush and Jim Richie winning one vote each. It was evident that Steve was experiencing considerable pain from standing so long, especially after walking and pushing the car so much on the way down, so he withdrew here and did not compete in the other special divisions. Best abdominals were won by Jim Richie of Frye Institute, Chattanooga. He richly deserved this award, for he was young enough to be thin skinned, his abdommals were well developed and clear cut, and he knew how to demonstrate them in a superlative manner. Corp. Marvin Urvant received two of the five votes for best abdominals. He was well developed all over, and his powerful, all around development detracted somewhat from his abdominal development, but he had exceptional abdominal development nevertheless.

The Competition in Best Legs was keen, with Voyages winning the approval of three of the judges. Cpl. Urvant one vote and Dan Luire one vote.

While the judges were making their decisions, Jules Bacon, the 1943 Mr. America, offered a posing exhibition, which pleased and surprised the spectators. So many said that he was much better than he was at Los Angeles when he won his title.

After the lifting championships the big event of the program, the Mr. America contest took place. The same five officials served in the evening. It was hoped that Captain Bill Curry, who had won the Best Built Man in the South contest three years before would enter, but he sat throughout with his friend, former training mate, Capt. Karo Whitfield. Lt. Vernon Schwenke, of the armored forces, Fort Knox, Ky., at one time selected as Mr. Milwaukee, was expected to enter as he did in the juniors in Pittsburgh, but he did not come upon the platform. Small men suffer in comparison with a well developed bigger man; Vernon is small but mighty, and finely built. Tony Terlazzo had won many best developed awards in the past, is better this year than ever before, but he too did not enter.

When all had their opportunity to pose before the judges, the final decision was made after Jules Bacon had again complied with the desires of officials and spectators alike, by his exhibition of muscle control and muscle posing. In the opinion of the judges Mr. America was Steve Stanko. The ovation big Steve received as he was given the huge, beautiful trophy, emblematic of the Mr. America title, was tremendous. The presentation was made by his teammate, also of the York Barbell Club, the retiring Mr. America, Jules Bacon. As a matter of interest, in four years of the last five, the selected Mr. America has represented the York Barbell Club. Dan Luire was again the second place winner with Sergeant Gene Jantzen third, Cpl. Marvin Urvant fourth.

The competition in the most muscular man division was a bit surprising. Steve Stanko had won best arm, best back, best chest. In Pittsburgh he had won best legs too. He has fine abdominals, muscular and slender. One would think that when all these extraordinary muscle groups were combined into a big handsome, symmetrical body, that he would win the Most Muscular title. But Dan Lurie, who had received but one vote all afternoon in the five special divisions, was selected as the most muscular man. Dan certainly excels big Steve in muscle control, in posing, for Steve never practices in front of the mirror and only gave a halfhearted display when he was on the platform but he dwarfed all other men on the platform with his amazing development. Mr. Americas of the past, John Grimek, Frank Leight and Jules Bacon, have been the world's best. Big Steve is a fitting man to bear the coveted title Mr. America for this coming year. Having weighed 230 as a weight lifting champion, after his injury his weight sank to 176, he built himself up again, entirely through practicing sitting and lying down exercises. He made a display of intestinal fortitude that proves he is a real man, for few will know the pain he suffered during these years in bed andof training on the comback trail.

Another word before closing. When once a man has won the Mr. America title he is no longer eligible for the special competition of the Mr. America contest. A man does not like to be placed on the shelf because he has won once, the spectators like to see the best in action. Bob Hoffman has invited Frank Leight to go with us to Chattanooga, and to pay his expenses, but at the last minute, Frank, who is a New York policeman, could not make the trip. The special events should be open to any man in the country. This is only fair for those who do not win the big event, the Mr. America title, have been winning special event titles for years. Everyone should have a chance in these special divisions, both before and after they have won Mr America titles.

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