Tag Archives: Bill Clark

The “Dreaded Red X”

by Thom Van Vleck

Nobody was immune to getting the dreaded Red X from Bill. Even Al got one!

Nobody was immune to getting the dreaded Red X from Bill. Even Al got one!

My roots in the USAWA go way back.  My first meet was a 1979 “Odd Lift” meet put on by the founder of the USAWA, Bill Clark.  But before that my Uncles and their friends often lifted in Clark’s meets going back to the fifties. Clark founded the USAWA but he actually didn’t start the “Odd Lifts”.  That goes back to Ed Zercher, Sr who was a great lifter in the 30’s and after.  But even before Ed was in his first contest he had a buddy in his old neighborhood in St. Louis named John Wille. In the 1920’s they hung out in the same neighborhood and they did acrobatics, lifting whatever was available, and made make shift weights out of scrap metal.

Today we look to the internet.  The USAWA has a great website.  Al Myers does a lot of work to keep this thing going and having regular updates.  But for 50 years it was “Ol’ Clark”.  Bill was old school in an old school way that made a lot of old school stuff seem new!  He never touched a computer.  For 50 years he put out old fashioned newsletters.  For you young guys, that means he typed up the newsletter on a typewriter, then he copied the news letter (on a Mimeograph and later a copy machine), and he would put them in envelopes, actually lick the stamps (because they didn’t just stick on like they do now) and mail them to your actual mailbox (not the “mailbox” that your e-mail comes to).

I remember looking through all the old newsletters my Uncles had.  Reading about the lifts, the lifters, the meets and random thoughts (and sometimes rants) that Clark would have about steroids, improper judging, or whatever he thought was undermining the integrity of the sport.  If you sent him a letter, be careful, he’d put it in the newsletter!

He operated all this on a shoe string budget and his own sweat. He probably spent a lot of his own money.  But he did ask donations.  You could get the newsletter if you sent him even just a few bucks to pay for the stamps!  He would also include in almost every newsletter a little rant about “bucking up” and make jokes about not being a deadbeat.

He would have a list of people that gave money.  He would even put how much they gave.  I think to give credit to those who gave more than their fair share because they loved the sport.  Those that gave often really valued the information and back then there was no internet and finding out much of anything about weightlifting was about impossible).  He also would “Red X” the guys who hadn’t “paid up” for some time.  He would put what he called the “Dreaded Red X” on the front of your newsletter.  It kind of reminded me how teachers would mark up your papers with red ink when you got something wrong.  The funny part was he would often keep sending guys newsletters for a long time.  Especially so if he knew someone was on hard times.  Like my Uncle Wayne.  Clark could be really nice that way.

In some ways I think Ol’ Clark got vilified a bit for his “Red X” and other things he did when he would call out guys for not following established rules. He sometimes had a way of making a remark about it the next time you would see him to let you know his displeasure….one might even call it a snide remark.

But you know what.  Now that I’m older.  Now that I’ve been in the position of running organizations that get by on shoe string budgets and I’ve put in long hours to run highland games, strongman contests, lifting meets as well as three different weightlifting clubs (Jackson Weightlifting Club, Truman State Irondogs, and the A.T. Still University Osteoblasters) as well as other Church and community organizations that ONLY happen because the people involved reach in their pockets and pull out some cash that includes more than a few drops of sweat…..I get it.

That bring me to present day.  When Ol’ Clark ran that newsletter you saw the stamp.  You knew it cost money.  You knew the paper, the ink, the copies, and all that went into it cost money so I think it was easier to see how much all of it cost.  Well, now Al Myers stepped in and took it over some 8 years ago.  He created a website, then got a better one, and did a lot of work to keep it going and at what cost.  I bet a lot more than the stamps Ol’ Clark used.  At the least, I would say both men work (worked) equally hard.

So what can you do?  Send him a few hundred bucks!  Well, that would be nice but I think the best thing we could do as an organization is support the guys that make it happen.  Not just Al, but our officers, judges, etc.  We do this by following the rules, getting meet results to Al in a timely manner, make sure our meets are as legit as we can, write a good story for the meet results for the website, maybe send Al a good story or anecdote for the website (like how people would send Clark a letter) and he’d put in on the website.  Buy Al a beer, slap him on the back….heck, I bet a thanks would go a long way.

Otherwise, people like Bill and Al get burned out.  They love a sport and after awhile they feel unappreciated and frustrated and next thing you know…..well, let’s just try and do our part and keep the USAWA great.  It’s only as great as the people who run it and the people who are a part of it AND appreciate it!

The Infamous Weightlifter’s Weekend 1979

by Thom Van Vleck

I was looking through a 1979 edition of Bill  Clark’s “Weightlifting Newsletter”.  There was a meet report for the 1979 Weightlifter’s Weekend.  This was an annual meet that included a wide range of competitions that spanned more than lifting.  Here’s a list of what was competed in the two day event:

Judd Lift, Miller C & J, Kelly Snatch, Zercher Lift, Steinborn, Zercher (again the second day), Seated Press, one hand deadlift, one hand snatch, Hack Lift, 12lb shot, 16lb shot, College Discus, 16lb Olympic Hammer, Javelin, 100, 220, 440, 880 and 1500 runs, Standing Long Jump, Running Long Jump, Triple jump (standing and running), back jump, one and two hand chinning, one and two hand pushups, Inman Mile (won by Jerry Inman), Tennis, 10K walk, Handwalking for distance, Axe throwing, Golf, and last but not least,  Bowling (singles and doubles).

The meet was won by Jerry Inman….by virtue of competing in the most events!   Bill Clark was second for pretty much the same reason.  Wayne Smith was given the top Master Award.  Some of the top lifts included a 120lb Kelly Snatch, 400lb Steinborn, 400lb right hand deadlift by Bob Burtzloff.  Bill Davis had a 505lb Zercher and 555lbs Hack lift.  My old lifting partner Jim Noble won the shot and discus (he was only 16, but was also the state high school champ in the discus).  Wayne Smith won the chin ups with 2 for the single arm and 27 for two arms as well as edging Clark out in the bowling.  I think that it’s interesting that while Jerry Inman won the “Inman Mile”….he did NOT go anywhere near a mile!

I know they held this event every year for some time.  The idea was guys would come and lay down challenge events and you either “manned up” or passed.  For example, I know Wayne Smith suggested the Ax throw.  I remember this because I worked for him cutting trees and he was great at throwing and ax which is why he laid down the challenge.  However, he could not get the ax to stick that day and was defeated….we didn’t let him hear the last of that for some time.

What would you think of a meet like that? Plenty of “real” lifts, but lots of unusual stuff.  Would you be a gamer?  Or call it crazy?  There’s no doubt those guys back then knew how to have fun!  Maybe the “WW” should make a comeback!!!!!

25 Year Promotion Award

by Al Myers

USAWA President Denny Habecker and the "first Lady of the USAWA" Judy Habecker receiving the 25 Year Promotion Award.

Another “special award” presented at Nationals was the 25 Year Promotion Award.  This award went to the 4 Meet Promoters who have promoted the most National Championships over the 25 year history of the USAWA.  These 4 promoters each have promoted 3 Championship events.  They are:  Denny and Judy Habecker (2010, 2007, & 2000), John Vernacchio (2004, 1989, & 1988), Bill Clark and Joe Garcia (2001, 1997, & 1995), and Art Montini and John McKean (2002, 1999, & 1991). 

So to sum it up – these 4 promoters together have promoted about HALF of the National Champinships to date!  That’s worthy of a special award in my book!  Congratulations!!!

Nice Rack! Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

My "Babies!

Some time ago I wrote a USAWA story called “Nice Rack” and it was about a rack of York “Globe Style” Dumbbells that Bill Clark has at Clark’s Championship Gym in Columbia, Missouri.  I jealously admired those Dumbbells and wished I had a set of my own.

As luck would have it, I came across a set for sale through my USAWA friends, namely Larry Traub.  Larry had these and made me an extremely generous offer on them that I couldn’t refuse.  Soon enough, I had them in my possession (after a detour from South Carolina thru Indiana and back to Missouri….a small price to pay!).

The "Crown Jewels" of my collection, the legendary 100lb Globes.

I took off a layer of rust, then laid down a few coats of paint and white lettered the raised “York” and poundage numbers.

I am not a collector, these will be used in my training and by anyone who trains at the JWC!  But if you use them and drop them, you might end up with an Olympic bar as a necktie!   If you break them….notify next of kin!  So, next time you come by the JWC Training Hall…CHECK’em out!  Oh, and once again….Thanks Larry, you made me very happy and they will take these when they pry my cold dead hands from around them!

Bob Burtzloff on Training (circa 1981)

by Thom Van Vleck

Bob Burtzloff participated in Olympic Weightlifting as well as All Round Weightlifting. He was multiple times Kansas State Champ in Olympic Lifting.

Most everyone that has been around the USAWA any amount of time knows who Bob Burtzloff is and what a great champion he has been and continues to be.  Some of the older USAWA lifters may think of Bob’s great Bent Pressing, One Arm Clean & Jerk, or his Steinborn.  Bob has some great accomplishments.  In my book, his greatest accomplishment was beating Wilbur Miller’s Clean and Jerk record.

The training information below was relayed in 1981 to Bill Clark from a man Bill described as a “23 year old 242lb Bricklayer”.   I personally think the wisdom Bob relays is timeless and what he views as most important is what most lifters miss out on in their search for the “magic routine”.

Bob wrote:

“My workout is not fancy, but it helped me.  I pick a certain number of exercises to do in a workout.  I usually do at least three differenet movements.  Sometimes more depending on time and energy.  I pick a weight and number of reps that I want to do in the exercise.  For example, if I’m doing snatches with 250, I would do 15 total reps, regardless of the number of sets it takes.  I have used this type of routine for up to 50 reps, although 15 total reps works best for me.  I once did 50 jerks with 320, but was sore for a week.  Still, the work allowed me to break Wilbur Miller’s Clean & Jerk record only 10 days after the training effort.  Here’s and example of some of my best heavy workouts:

C&J – 363 X 15, 320X 50 total
Front Squat – 385 X 15 total
Snatches – 220 X 15, 231 X 15, 241 X 15, 251 X 15, 251 X 1, 271 X 1 – all in the same workout.
Bench – 360 X 15 total
Military Press – 231 X15 total
One Hand C&J – 203 X 15 total

I believe that desire and mental attitude are more important in making gains than any particular workout routine.  One must have a strong desire to accomplish what he sets out to do or he’ll quit when things get tough.  A strong, unyielding desire to succeed is essential in maintaining a positive mental attitude.   If a person has a positive outlook on  training, he will be able to work harder and with heavier weights.  Many people allow their attitude toward training  to defeat them long before they step onto the competitive platform.  If a lifter overcomes adverse circumstances in training, the effects will carry over into competition.   A good thing to remember is that attitude is more important than circumstances.  Circumstances give you neither defeat nor victory.  They merely provide you with the opportunity to see what your thoughts and convictions really are and what you intend to do with them.

Everyone encounters obstacles between them and their goals, but a positive attitude will allow a dedicated lifter to eventually break thru these barriers and achieve his goals.   The key to success is hard work followed by ample rest.  I’m not saying that I always have a positive attitude or that I always work hard, for if I did, I would be a much better lifter for it.”

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