ARE WRESTLERS REAL TYPISTS?
(To paraphrase Westbrook Pegler)
In 1935 former world wrestling champion George Hackenschmidt, the "Russian Lion", took his beefy mitts off the throats of rivals and applied them to the keyboard of a typewriter. He became a "scientific author, writing treatises in London".
The caption for this photo said, "Perhaps the strangest choice of career ever made by a world champion athlete has been made by Hackenschmidt, the exponent of brawn. He has just been discovered in a London office completing a scientific work on the effects of the human cells on the brain. He believes his work, which is to be published this year, will revolutionise the study of psychology."
Georg Karl Julius Hackenschmidt was born in Dorpat (Tartu), Estonia, on August 1, 1877. A 5ft 9½in, 204lb brick outhouse with 19in biceps, a 22in neck and a 52in chest, he was the first freestyle heavyweight wrestling champion of the world. His feats of strength were astounding. He lifted a small horse off the ground and lifted 276 pounds overhead with one hand. He could reach out and grasp a 335-pound barbell, pull it to his chest from off the floor, and bench press it overhead, bridging on his neck. In 1902 he jumped 100 times over a table with his feet tied together. He was considered both the strongest and the best-developed man in the world. Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed, “If I wasn’t president of the United States, I would like to be George Hackenschmidt.”
Throughout his life Hackenschmidt paid strict attention to his diet. In later life he consumed huge quantities of fruit, nuts and raw vegetables, as well as drinking 11 pints of milk a day. He also remained physically fit. At 56 he could jump over a 4ft 6in high board 10 times. Even through his mid-80s he would jump 50 times over a chair once a week, bench press 150 pounds and run seven miles in 45 minutes. He died in London on February 19, 1968, aged 90.
THE TYPEBAR ALSO RISES
(To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway)
Four days after her 16th birthday, Madrid typist Juanita de la Cruz became one of Spain's first female bullfighters. Born in Madrid on February 12, 1917, she fought her first calf on June 24, 1932, in Leon, and presented professionally in Córdoba on February 16, 1933. She debuted in the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid on April 2, 1936. However, Franco forbid women from bullfighting on foot and Cruz left Spain in 1938 to fight in Mexico City. She continued her career in Central America until 1947, making her last appearance in Bogotá after 700 bullfights. She died of heart problems in Madrid on May 18, 1981, aged 64.
Two American women, Bette Ford and Patricia McCormick, also fought bulls in Mexico. It was not until the 1996 that a woman, Cristina Sánchez, became a full matador, but she retired three years later, citing enduring sexism from fans and her peers in the ring. Mari Paz Vega, who earned her status as a matador in 1997, was the first woman to earn that honour in a bullring in Spain. The finest torera was Conchita Cintrón, the daughter of an American mother and a Puerto Rican father who was brought up in Lima, Peru. She starred in Mexico and then took Spain by storm in 1945, before retiring from the ring in 1949.
SHE SPURNED THE TYPING POOL
Twenty-one-year-old London typist Agnes Nicks, of Highgate, in 1929 swam 39 miles in the Thames to set a world freshwater endurance swimming record. She swam from Teddington Lock to Waterloo Bridge and back again to Twickenham Ferry in 12 hours 53 minutes (through two full tides and two hours in dead water between tides). She swam nearly three miles further than Eileen Lee, who had held the record since 1916.
A member of the Excelsior club, Hicks had the previous Boxing Day swam from Tottenham Bridge to London Bridge in 26-degree water. Six other girls refused to enter the water because of the wintery conditions.
IT TAKES MUSCLE TO TYPE
Birdie Reeve was a world speed typing champion at age 16. Born in Chicago on January 16, 1907, she reached speeds of more than 200 words, or 800 letters, a minute, with a typing method devised by her father Thomas Reeve. In 1923 she set a world record of 29,000 strokes an hour using two fingers on each hand, spread out in a V formation.
She was billed in vaudeville acts as the “world’s fastest typist” and would finish her performances by putting a piece of tin in her typewriter and imitating a drum roll or the clackety-clack of a train picking up speed. Reeve was also a brilliantly gifted chess player. She later owned and operated a stenography business in Hyde Park, Chicago. She died on May 31, 1996.
Director Edwin Carewe (seated) enlisted the services of Birdie Reeve to help him get the script for The Lady Who Lied ready on time. The film's stars, Virginia Valli and Lewis Stone, watch on.
GIVING TYPING THE BIRD
American author and dramatist Gene Fowler enjoyed having his pet parrot Chester as company when he typed a screenplay in Novemver 1937. (Coincidentally, the ad below is for Chesterfields). Fowler was born Eugene Devlan in Denver on March 8, 1890. Fowler's career had a false start in taxidermy, which he later claimed gave him a permanent distaste for red meat. After a year at the University of Colorado, he took a job with The Denver Post. His assignments included an interview with frontiersman and Wild West Show promoter Buffalo Bill Cody. Fowler established his trademark impertinence by questioning Cody about his many love affairs. Subsequently Fowler worked for the New York Daily Mirror and became newspaper syndication manager for King Features. During his years in Hollywood, Fowler was close to such celebrities as John Barrymore and W.C. Fields. One of his sons, Gene Fowler Jr (1917–1998) became a prominent Hollywood film editor whose work included It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Hang 'Em High. Fowler senior died in Los Angeles, California, on July 2, 1960.
BETWEEN A TYPEWRITER AND A HARD PLACE