When we left off in our last newsletter, we learned that Steve had returned home to Oakland, California after completing his tour of duty in the Philippines and Japan at the War end. His mother was overjoyed to see her son and amazed at his robust condition.
During the last six months Steve was in Japan, he regained his health after a serious case of malaria and dingo fever and began training American officers in a fitness program.
He had a weight set made up for him at a local Japanese foundry. With an interpreter at his side, Steve explained, with a series of sketches and gestures, the size each weight plate should be.
As the interpreter explained to the founder just what Steve wanted, the Japanese founder would smile and nod understandingly. Steve requested plates founded in 5, 10 and 20 pound sizes. When the plates were ready, Steve picked them up from the foundry. The first time he used the 300 lb.set he was a bit disturbed because he thought they felt heavier than they should have. He thought he must have lost some strength while in the Army. Steve continued to use the weights for his officer training sessions and to workout with some of his fellow bodybuilders.
It was not until months later when the Japanese weight set was back home with him in Oakland that he decided to weigh the plates. That's when he discovered that each plate was a few pounds heavier than they should have been. Not only did he get all of his strength back after his illness, he 'd actually improved his condition by lifting more weight than before without even realizing it.
Prior to entering the 1946 Mr. Pacific Coast, Steve's only experience on a posing platform was at one weight-lifting competition held at his alma mater Castlemont High School. Ed Yarick had talked Steve into doing the posing program in conjunction with a weight lifting event. This took place the summer after Steve high school graduation, just before he entered the Service. As fate would have it, the program read, "Bodybuilding exhibition featuring the future Mr. America, Steve Reeves."
When Steve stepped onto the stage, the auditorium was filled with people from throughout the Oakland Bay area. Many gym owners and members from such noted gyms as Ed Yarick's, Phil Courtois', Jack LaLanne's, Norman Marks', and Jimmy Paine were all in that audience.
Steve was only 18 at the time. Appearing in front of such a celebrated group of bodybuilders and weight lifters made him just a little nervous. Regardless, Steve put on an excellent posing exposition. The audience showed its approval and appreciation through very enthusiastic applause. Who would have guessed that they were watching the very first posing routine of the one of the greatest bodybuilders to appear on a posing platform!
Even before arriving home from the service, Steve knew he wanted to compete in the 1947 Mr. America contest. The contest would be held in Chicago in June. That meant there were just eight months to put on additional muscle and gain the necessary posing experience he needed to compete. He made the final decision to compete just one month before the contest. He knew he was ready. If he would have thought he needed more improvement before competing, then he would have waited until the following year to enter the Mr. America.
Now that Steve had made up his mind to compete in the Mr. America, he began reading everything he could about the contest and about past winners such as Clancy Ross and Alan Stephen. He wanted to know who he would be competing against and wanted to gain the advantage over them by knowing about his competition without them knowing about him. The real work preparing for the Mr. America began at Yarick's Gym the first week of November in 1946.
Steve got to the gym at 8 AM. This was the first time he'd been there since his army hitch. As he opened the door and entered the gym, he paused a moment and looked all around. It was as though time had stood still. The gym looked the same as it had when he left for the Army! Everything was there-the same weights, the same equipment and benches were all in the same places as he had remembered. Oh, there were a few more chips in things and the carpet had a few worn spots, but not much else had changed.
What he did notice were some new faces, with Ed helping out a couple of members as usual. Steve thought: "Ed is the same likeable guy that I have always known-always encouraging and helping everyone. Ed would let the entire town of Oakland workout for nothing if he could." Ed spotted Steve and came right over to help him get started with his workout.
After Steve worked out alone for a few days, he met up with his former workout partner Bob Weidlich. Steve worked out with Bob and hung around with him before going into the Service.
After working out with Bob one day, the two old friends decided to team up regularly for their workouts. Bob, who stood 5'5 1/2" with a 27-inch waist and a 48-inch chest, was a miniature of Steve. He was also one of Steve's best workout partners because he knew when Steve could do one more rep and would encourage him to do it.
He also would not push him to do three more or ten more reps that he knew were impossible to do. Bob had a very positive, upbeat attitude. He would always show up on time, and as soon as he saw Steve he would say, "Let go, man! Let's hit it!" It was great reuniting with Bob and their other old pal, Dick Webster and spending time together at the gym and around town.
Now, Steve was on his quest to become the next Mr. America. He had his workout partner, advice from Ed and a workout routine he put to paper while in the Service.
On workout days they met at the gym from 8 AM to 10:30 AM and worked with a mission in mind. Bob was very good in performing exercises and always pushed Steve on. For example, Steve would put 105 lbs. in each hand on the incline bench while doing presses while Bob would do likewise with 95 lbs. When Steve would progress to 110 lbs., Bob would go up to 100 lbs. and so forth. Bob would always be right on Steve's trail, pushing Steve ahead and Steve was always pulling Bob along.
After working out, they would shower then walk to the corner doughnut shop and eat whole wheat doughnuts and drink milk while waiting for the bus. Steve would then go home and eat lunch and read or take a nap.
The recovery process was always very important to Steve. He always made sure his body was fully rested before working it out again with all the effort and enthusiasm he could muster. This routine continued for the next six weeks with both Steve and Bob making some very impressive gains.
In mid-December of that year, Bob told Steve there was a Mr. Pacific Coast bodybuilding contest in Portland, Oregon. "Let's go up there!" he suggested to Steve. Steve wasn't sure if he was ready yet but with Bob's urging, they were on their way to Portland. They thought it would be really neat to win the contest and bring trophies back to show Ed. They kept all this a secret from Ed. They trained even harder the next two weeks in preparation for the contest. Without Ed's awareness, the two of them would go to the back of the gym were the skylight was located. Then they would practice their posing routines in the natural light in front of the mirrors.
In the early evening of December 20, 1946, Steve and Bob boarded the train to Portland. The trip would take approximately 14 hours and their arrival was scheduled for early the next morning. They only had enough money between them to purchase one sleeping berth. In order for them both to catch even a few needed z's, they squeezed into the narrow compartment head to foot. The only way possible because of their tremendous bulk. While not the most comfortable accommodations, it did allow them to get some rest before the contest the very next night.
The train pulled into the Portland depot at 10 am on the 21st of December. Steve and Bob were met by Sam and Joe Laprenze. Sam was a bodybuilder and owner of a Portland gym. Joe was one of the foremost bodybuilders in the Pacific Northwest. The Laprenzes took the guys by Sam gym for a quick tour, then dropped them off at a nearby hotel.
After a relaxing lunch, Steve and Bob rested in their room and mentally prepared for the Mr. Pacific Coast contest. Steve was both little nervous and excited, since this was his first contest and he was just another unknown contestant.
When Steve hit the stage, the audience was in awe. Here was a fellow, not quite 21 years old, with an outstanding physique, and literally no one in attendance had ever heard of him. Where had he been hiding?
The crowd was charged with excitement. Steve hit pose after pose with perfection. There was no doubt who was going to take the first place trophy home that night. But Bob was no slacker either. At the contest's end, trophies went to Steve for first place and to Bob for third place. Not bad for a couple of kids from Oakland!
After the contest, Mr. Pacific Coast and company along with the Laprenze brothers celebrated the dynamic Oakland duo's victorious feat with an enormous prime rib dinner. Back at their hotel room, those two trophies looked mighty nice displayed on the dresser.
Early the next morning, Steve and Bob again boarded the train and headed back to Oakland. As soon as they arrived, Steve phoned Alice Yarick to tell her about their great success at the contest. He told her they wanted to surprise Ed by putting their trophies in the gym front window the next morning before Ed got to the gym. Alice exclaimed, "That'll be the best Christmas present Ed has ever had!"
The next morning, Ed walked down to his gym to open up, just like he did most days. Only on that Tuesday he was surprised and delighted to see the shiny trophies in his front window. All he could say was, "I wondered why you guys missed your workouts-especially since you missed two in a row. I was really wondering what could have happened to you!"
The Mr. Pacific Coast contest was just the beginning for Steve who went on to the Mr. Western America and the biggie, the Mr. America - and that's where we'll pick up next time.
Dr. Joe Vitale is a friend and supporter of SRIS. Click on the ad and get your FREE copy of "Attract Money Now"