Life Magazine_Emperor and Empress 3

These are fascinating pictures of Emperor Hirohito and the Empress in the summer of 1964. Taken from the September 11, 1964 issue of Life Magazine, these black and white photos reveal the Emperor to be a somewhat ordinary man, grandfatherly, academic. In fact, the couple looks like they’re having fun looking for mollusks.

The magazine even quotes the Emperor describing the “umi ushi” they found. “This is an easygoing chap, not in the least alarmed at being caught.”

Life Magazine_Emperor and Empress 1

Americans who saw this set of pictures in Life Magazine were probably surprised to see a totally different Emperor Hirohito. Perhaps their memory of him was a leader who sent suicide dive bombers to attack Pearl Harbor, or drove soldiers to kill themselves in the name of the Emperor rather than be captured by Allied forces. But to see the Emperor at all in the 1960s was due to efforts by the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers (SCAP), the entity that governed Japan in the post-war years, as well as members of the Japanese government.

After World War II, in the immediate aftermath of Japan’s defeat at the hands of overwhelming American military firepower, one would think there would be too much concern over what to eat, where to sleep, and how they will cope the next day for people to care about the Emperor, and whether the imperial family as an institution should be maintained.

And yet, support for continuing the imperial throne was strong, a survey in October, 1945 revealing “widespread enthusiasm or deep awe and veneration comparable to that of the war years,” according to John Dower in his seminal book, Embracing Defeat. While forceful calls for the dethronement of Emperor Hirohito and elimination of the imperial system in Japan were common in America and other allied nations, the head of SCAP, General Douglas MacArthur, agreed that it was important to keep the emperor in place.

Life Magazine_Emperor and Empress 2

Dower quoted a memo from Brigadier General Bonner Fellers to MacArthur about the reasons why the Emperor should remain as a symbol of Japan, emphasizing the fact that the Emperor, by going on the radio and announcing Japan’s defeat and need to lay down arms, “hundreds of thousands of American casualties were avoided and the war terminated far ahead of schedule.” in the case of trying the Emperor for war crimes, Fellers argued that “the governmental structure would collapse and a general uprising would be inevitable.”

SCAP was therefore insistent that Hirohito remain as Emperor, and not be tried for war crimes. In place of a deity as the head of Japan, SCAP sought to “humanize” the Emperor. A big part of those efforts were sending the Emperor on tours across the nation to meet the people in 1946. SCAP made sure pictures were taken and film was shot to document the Emperor walking amidst his people, a scenario unthinkable during and before the war years.

Life Magazine_Then Crown Prince Akihito Crown Princess Michiko and Current Crown Prince
Then Crown Prince Akihito Crown Princess Michiko and Current Crown Prince
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Lones Wigger_medal stand 1964
Lones Wigger waves to fans after receiving his first gold medal, in 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics. He is flanked by silver medalist Velitchko Khristov of Bulgaria, left, and bronze medalist Laszlo Hammerl of Hungary.

“He must have nerves of steel to fire such a score,” said a spectator of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics of Army First Lieutenant, Lones Wigger, who was competing in the smallbore rifle prone competition. Wigger’s score of 597, which set a new Olympic and world record.

Unfortunately for the American, a Hungarian named Laszlo Hammerl went next and tied Wigger’s score, and because of a tie breaker, went on to take gold. Wigger’s silver medal was his first of three Olympic medals. He got his gold medal four days later in the 50-meter rifle three positions competition, and got his revenge as well as Hammerl finished in third.

Competing in three Olympiads, Wigger is considered one of the greatest competitive rifle shooters in the United States. He passed away on December 14, 2017. He was 80 years old.

Wigger never considered himself a natural talent. He prided himself on his work ethic, and continuous desire to practice and improve. As this article explains, persistence is all.

Wigger’s philosophy was clearly stated on a sign that hung in the Fort Benning indoor smallbore rifle range. In plain view for all to read and absorb, it read “Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Lones Wigger_Olympia 1964 Tokio
Lones Wigger, from the book in German titled Olympia 1964 Tokio

In this article, Wigger outlined things to do to be a world-class shooter:

  • Train Just As if You are in a Competition: You have to learn how to train just as if you were in a big competition. You work on every shot. You have got to learn to treat it just like a match — to get the maximum value out of every shot. You have got to use the same technique in practice and in training. A lot of shooters have a problem because they change their technique from practice to the match. In competition, you work your ass off for every shot. You have to approach the training the same way.
  • Shoot in Every Competition You Can Get Into
  • Do Everything Possible to Prepare: When Gary Anderson was a kid, he couldn’t afford a gun or ammunition. He had read about the great Soviet shooters. With his single shot rifle, he would get into position, point that gun and dry fi re for hours at a time in the three different positions. He had tremendous desire. He wanted to win and he did whatever he could to get there. When he finally got into competition, he shot fantastic scores from the beginning.
  • Visualize Winning to Train the Subconscious Mind: You picture in your mind what you want to do. You have to say, OK, I’m going to the Olympics and perform well. Picture yourself shooting a great score and how good it feels. You are training your subconscious mind. Once you get it trained, it takes over.
Kader Rahman and Sarinder Dillon
Kader Rahman, Sarinder Dillon at Indian Recreation Club in Hong Kong

They were the lowest seeded team, and had already lost their first three matches to Malaysia, Belgium and Canada. Their fourth match at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was against India, a global field hockey powerhouse and a favorite to win gold.

But somehow, Hong Kong – a team of part-time players, primarily bankers who stayed fit in amateur clubs – held India scoreless in the first half of play. That would be akin to Team USA basketball team being tied 20-20 at the half in an Olympic first rounder against Team Haiti, for example. In the half-time huddle, the India coaches and players must have been scratching their heads wondering why they weren’t trouncing Hong Kong.

In the second half, Honk Kong had lost two of their regular defenders to injuries, and eventual gold medalist India went on to score six unanswered goals to indeed trounce Hong Kong, a team that would go 0-6-1 and place 15th of 15 teams in Tokyo.

But that was OK. After all, the players from Hong Kong were in one sense, lucky to be in Tokyo at all. Sarinder Dillon was left half on that Hong Kong field hockey team, and recalled in late 1963 that there was an outside chance Hong Kong could make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics, so they had better be ready just in case.

Hong Kong was outside the top 16 before the Olympics. But we were told that there was a good chance that one of two teams might drop out, so the president of the Hong Kong Hockey Association told us that training would start in January and that we should turn out. We thought, “this is a golden opportunity.” Hopefully a team or two would drop out, so we had to get fully fit and develop as players.

In the subsequent months, the field hockey teams from France and Poland would drop from the list, allowing Hong Kong’s field hockey team to qualify. Now it was up to the players. “We were 17 players, almost all of us bankers,” Kader Rahman, who played right half, told me.

I worked for Bank of America, others Hong Kong Bank, for example. And in those days, bankers played field hockey in amateur leagues. But when we realized that we had a chance at the Olympics, we worked at our offices from 9 am to 5pm, then took a bus to King’s Park and played a match every night. On Sundays, we played two matches. It was tough training for ten months, and most of the time, we still had not qualified.

Eventually, the Hong Kong Hockey Association selected 30 players from the various clubs for special training, eventually whittling down the team to 17 – all from different clubs. Due to the international nature of Hong Kong at the time, it was a very multi-cultural team with 7 Portuguese, 3 Indians, 2 Pakistanis, 3 Malays, and an Irishman and a Scot – all Hong Kong permanent residents. “When we walked around the Olympic Village with Hong Kong on the back of our jackets, other athletes were amazed at our team make up,” said Dillon. “We had no Chinese on the team as the few who played in Hong Kong were from the lower divisions. We all spoke English, but would sometimes talk to each other in Chinese. This further amazed the other athletes.”

In addition to the training on top of their day jobs, the members of the field hockey team were tasked with raising funds themselves. The head of the Hong Kong Hockey Association, who doubled as the Olympic squad’s team manager, went to many companies appealing for contributions. In the end, each team member was still required to put up a thousand Hong Kong dollars each of their own money to help pay for airfare, as well as the required fee for board and lodging in the Olympic Village.

Since Dillon was a student, he was asked to pay only 130 Hong Kong dollars, which his school kindly covered. But Dillon could not escape other duties required. In early September, weeks prior to the start of the Tokyo Olympics, the Olympic torch made its way through Asia, coming to Hong Kong via Manila. As Dillon was the youngest HK Olympian, he drew the short straw and got assigned midnight guard duty of the Olympic torch, to ensure its safety before it took off for Taipei the next day.

Hong Kong Field Hockey Team_1964
The Hong Kong Field Hockey Team of 1964; Sarinder Dillon seated on the ground lower left, Kader Rahman standing far right

Like the torch, the Hong Kong team made it to Tokyo, enjoying the awesomeness of a global event decades before television and the internet could bring instantaneous news and images to our homes and hands. Sarinder recalls his amazement at seeing his field hockey heroes from India and Pakistan in the Olympic Village, and naiveté at thinking that the song he repeatedly heard was the Olympic theme, only to learn it was the American national anthem.

But feelings of awe and wonder were often muffled by the reality of the Games. From October 11 to 18, Hong Kong lost their first 6 matches scoring only 2 goals to the oppositions’ 25. Their final match was against Germany, a team made up of East Germans that would eventually place 5th in the Olympic tournament. The German team and fans in the stands were expecting a rout, a shut out, based on Hong Kong’s previous matches.

Hong Kong did not comply. They scored a goal in the first half to lead the mighty Germans 1-0. In fact, they led the Germans throughout the match. With minutes to go, the players on the Hong Kong team could taste victory, a moment all underdogs dream of – a chance to shine on the biggest stage of them all.

“We were playing a blinder, out of our usual selves,” said Rahman. But then, Hong Kong, with a mere two minutes to go, was assessed a penalty resulting in a short corner chance for Germany. And when the ball flew through the air towards the line of Hong Kong players, it somehow hit the shoulder of one of the defenders and deflected into the goal. When the final whistle blew, it was Germany 1 – Hong Kong 1.

And that was the last time a team from Hong Kong, of any sport, participated in the Olympics. “Our team was 100% amateur compared to other countries in 1964 we played,” reflected Rahman. “Our results were not great, but we enjoyed our time. And today, our hockey team remains the only team from Hong Kong to go to the Olympics.”

Geesink vs Kaminaga 2_Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha
From the book, “Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_Kokusai Johosha”

それは1964年10月23日だった。

日本武道館は多くの人でごった返していた。しかしそこに漂っていたのは、諦めにも似た空気だった。東京オリンピック閉幕前日の事だった。

3人の柔道家・中谷 雄英、岡野 功、猪熊 功が3日ほど前に3階級で金メダルを獲得していたにも関わらず、今回、無差別級日本代表・神永 昭夫が、果たしてオランダ代表アントン・ヘーシンクを倒せるのか否か、それは半信半疑といったところだった。

なぜなら、ヘーシンクは1961年の世界大会で、日本人以外の選手として初めて優勝を果たし、世界を驚かせた人物だ。もっと言ってしまえば、ヘーシンクは予選ですでに神永に勝利している。日本中が予想を覆す大勝利を期待する一方、観衆が出来る事と言えば、体重120kg・身長2mを優に超す巨人と、体重102kg・身長180cmの日本人が、横に並んでいるのを見つめる事だけだった。そしてその武道館で、天皇皇后両陛下もご観覧されていた。

真の柔道家なら分かることであるが、柔道において、勝つためには体格よりも技、バランスそして筋肉の整合がより大事になってくる。しかしそうは言っても、多くの観衆は大きくて強靭な外国人選手が勝つのだろうと思っていた。それはまるで、大きく屈強なアメリカ軍とその同盟軍が、太平洋戦争で大日本帝国軍を打ち破ったのと同じことであろうと。

事実、ヘーシンクはいともたやすく神永を破り、日本中を落胆させた。

そして同じく10月23日の夕暮れ時、神永が敗北した日本武道館から13キロ南西に離れた駒沢オリンピック公園総合運動場体育館では、日本女子バレーボールチームが決勝戦に向けて準備を進めていた。彼女らもまた、大きく屈強なソビエト連邦代表の選手達に立ち向かわなければならなかった。

しかしこの場所で漂っていたのは、東洋の魔女ならきっとソビエト連邦チームを打ち負かしてくれる、そんな人々の思いであった。事実、1962年モスクワで行われた世界大会では、日本代表は窮地に追い込まれながらも勝利を収めている。それもあってか、その金曜日の夜、4つの局が試合放送する中、全日本国民と言っても過言ではない程の人たちがテレビの前にかじりつき、勝利の歓喜に沸く瞬間を、いまかいまかと待ちわびていた。

とはいえ、へーシングが神永を畳に沈めばかりで、それは同時に、数あるオリンピック競技の中で、唯一日本のお家芸である柔道で金メダルを独占するという願いも、同時に沈められたばかりであった。私たちはまだ強くないのか、いやいや、十分強いはずだ、、、多くの人が自問自答したことだろう。

女子バレーボール監督大松 博文は、この挑戦を受け入れ、数年をかけて、選手達の体格故の弱点や強さスピードを如何に補うかに取り組み、そして難易度の高い技の習得や根性を選手たちにたたきこんだ。そして日本代表は、ソビエト連邦代表にストレートで勝利し、ようやく日本国中が安堵と歓喜に満ち溢れた。15-11,15-8,そして一進一退の攻防の末、15-13で最終セットを奪取した。

Japan's Women's Volleyball team victorious 1964_Bi to Chikara
Japan’s Women’s Volleyball team victorious from the book, Bi to Chikara

そしてその金曜日の夜、2週間に及んだ東京オリンピック閉会式前夜、小柄の日本人女性たちが遥かに大きいソビエト連邦代表に勝利した事で、彼女たちの国がいかに認められ、そして尊敬に値するのかを世界に示す事となった。

神永の敗北が未だ心を痛めるも、インドネシアのボイコットを遺憾に思うも、北朝鮮が去ってしまっても、そしてもしかすると、太平洋戦争に敗戦し、あの日玉音放送から流れ出た恥辱のようなものも、決勝戦で最後のボールがコートに落ちた瞬間、きれいに洗い流されたのかもしれない 

その日、日本は生まれ変わった。若く、自信にあふれ、世界を牽引できる国として。

 

For English version of October 23, 1964: How Judo and Volleyball Transfixed and Transformed Japan within the Span of a Few Hours.

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A late night bit of ramen or oden at a yatai in Japan.

The kindness the Japanese had for visiting foreigners during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics is legendary. I’ve written about how lost traveler’s checks were returned to a British journalist, how JTB saved the vacation of an Australian couple, and how Japan Self Defense Forces came to the rescue of the Netherlands’ Prince Bernhard, who lost his tobacco pouch.

All Japanese were united in ensuring that visiting foreigners left the country believing that Japan was the friendliest country in the world. Of course, in a society built on trust and assumptions that all people are intent on doing good, free riders and scam artists may sometimes think they are the one-eyed-king in the country of the blind. But if you’re going to cheat in such a society, you better be good.

An article in the October 3, 1964 edition of The Yomiuri tells the story of a scam artist wannabe who failed in his scam, but perhaps gained food for thought. Saburo Komuro walked up to a food stall outside in Kamata, and sat down for a hot bowl of “oden” on a cool October evening. He proceeded to mumble his way in explaining that he was in fact an Olympian on the Chinese Olympic judo squad.

Free Olympic Oden Leads to Arrest_The Yomiuri October 3 1964
The Yomiuri October 3 1964

Of course, the Japanese owner of the stall was very proud to be serving a visiting Olympian, and began to “lavish beer and oden on Komuro,” with complements. How could this food stall owner know that there were no judo competitors from Hong Kong or Taiwan, the only countries at the Tokyo Olympics related to China? Komuro was likely very pleased with himself, enjoying a lovely feast of boiled eggs, fishcakes, daikon in a warm broth, while bringing joy to this hard-working food stall owner.

But sometimes, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

A person who was actually Chinese sat down at the oden food stall. When told that he was sitting next to an Olympian from China, he immediately began talking in Chinese to Komuro, who of course couldn’t understand a word. It quickly dawned on the food stall owner that this was no Olympian sitting in front of him, only a fraud. A fight ensued, and in a weird twist, Komuro took off to the police box to explain how he had been wronged, only to be arrested.

1 Denmark 2 Great Britain 3 USA
Straigh Four finals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics: 1 -Denmark, 2 – Great Britain, 3 – USA; from the collection of Theo Ted Mittet

If you think about it, we rowed together for over 3,000 miles in an intense period of several months. We rowed differently from others, we had our own thing. And here comes Geoff. He was on the Harvard team we had beaten him in the US Olympic Trials. He was an alternate, so he was wearing his blazer walking around the Ginza, having a gay old time….and then suddenly he’s told, “you’re in a boat. Get ready!”

That was Phil Durbrow, who suddenly, in the first heat of the straight four (aka coxless four) rowing competition at the Tokyo Olympics, coughed up blood and collapsed, stopping their shell dead in the water. The crew from the Lake Washington Rowing Club (LWRC), who believed, up to that moment, that they had the team and the swing to take gold, simply willed the boat across the finish line. Finishing meant being eligible for the repechage, but they would have to do so without Durbrow. Durbrow of Menlo College explains.

I sat behind Ten Nash, who was a very powerful rower. I sat behind him and my job was to even things out. Now, suddenly, Geoff had to sit behind Ted and figure out how to fit in the best he can, in maybe, two or three rowing sessions before the finals. Rowing is wonderful when there is no excess baggage. All in the boat who have to act like one, and think the same things and feel the same things and respond in the same way, balance each other perfectly. They need to be aware of currents and winds and course, and the competitors – It’s an incredibly complicated thing if you were to do it with your left side of your brain. But actually, you do it with your right side of your brain. It’s like going down the highway on the other car’s bumper doing 70 miles per hour thinking little about it. Geoff didn’t really have time to get all that.

And yet, Geoff Picard, the alternate, did.

Picard was from Harvard, training under the famed coach Harry Parker, who taught a totally different stroke technique to his rowers. According to Lyon, Pocock taught the LWRC rowers to slow down before the catch, the moment the oar hits the water, extending their reach further than the average crew, and driving fast. The Harvard rowers were trained to be slower with the hands right after the release and faster on the catch.

In the repechage, the US coxless four (which means four rowers without a coxswain), were up against France, Japan and Australia. France kept pace with the Americans for 1,500 meters, but the re-jigged team with Picard in the shell, pulled away in the final 150 yards to win by two boat lengths. Picard seemed to fit in well enough. But according to Nash, in Mallory’s book, “with our different west coast technique and rhythm, he told me he never totally felt in synch.”

With that victory, America was heading into the finals. The reality was, the repechage was only the second time the four had rowed together – would they really be able to come together in only two days and win a medal? As a matter of fact, Picard filled in admirably, giving the team a chance for a medal.

In the finals on October 15, at the Toda Rowing Center, Nash, Picard, Lyon and Mittet made a valiant effort. They fell behind quickly in the first 250 meters, in fifth behind the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain and Germany. According to Nash, the four began falling into synch, and started to move ahead, making up water on Denmark who had taken the lead. In fact, at the 1,500-meter mark, the US crew was actually in second, just in front of the Brits.

But in the final 250 meters, the Danes held on for gold. The Brits had a bit more in the tank than the American team, grabbing silver. The American team, despite the calamity of Durbrow’s sudden exit in the first heat, still managed to grab the bronze medal.

Nash bemoaned his tactical error to start the team out aggressively at the start, which may have contributed to a loss of rhythm in the early stages. But they all knew they were fortunate to get a bronze medal. “We were very thankful to have a man of Geoff’s quality as an alternate,” Lyon told me. “Another 20 to 30 strokes, we could have come together in time….”

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Bronze medalists Ted Nash, Geoff Picard, Dick Lyon and Theo Ted Mittet; from the collection of Theo Mittet.

Durbrow remembers those mixed emotions of October, 1964. “I never did see them win the bronze,” said Durbrow. “I was in a pretty deep funk. I had been trying to get to the Olympics since I was 16, and I was in a great position to do something significant.” Instead, Durbrow left Tokyo dissatisfied. To add insult to injury, the army immediately ordered him back into service in Laos.

But time heals and Durbrow has moved on, as have his teammates. One day, some 52 years later, Durbrow got a package in the mail. It was from Ted Nash, and inside the box was his bronze medal from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and a short note saying that he wanted Durbrow to have it. “Without you, our boat might not have even got to the Olympics at all.”

Mittet, remembering those days of glory half a century ago, understood that those hard days of training, the pain, the excitement, the heartbreak were all worth it for the lasting memories and the friendships forged as brothers in arms.

Yes, we have earned honor as competitors. But, we have been given so much more from our chosen sport over our life time. How could we have imagined this in our youth? Let us always remember those who encouraged us, nurtured us and mentored us along the way. If we are lucky, we have had the opportunity to do the same for others. Perhaps we have done so unknowingly – because of who we have become “deep down.”

Receiving their medals
Receiving their bronze medals; from the collection of Theo Mittet.
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Theo Ted Mittet, Dick Lyon, Geoff Picard, Ted Nash at Toda Rowing Center; from the collection of Theo Ted Mittet.

Catch. Drive. Release. Recovery. The four phases of the rowing stroke are simple. The ability for more than two people at a time to execute them in synch is not.

When the straight four crew from the Lake Washington Rowing Club arrived in Tokyo for the 1964 Summer Olympics, they were in synch and they were ready. “We believed we had a great chance to win gold,” reflected Theo (Ted) Mittet), who sat in the bow.

As Dick Lyon, who sat in the number two seat in front of Mittet in the shell, told me, after winning the US Trials, the team of Ted Nash, Phil Durbrow, Lyon and Mittet were running very fast times – doing 500-meter sprints in 1 minute 27 or 28 seconds, which was better than the times Nash’s gold medal winning team at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Olympic Village dining hall
Left, Geoff Picard and Bob Schwartz of the Harvard crew and Theo with back to picture, in the Tokyo Olympic dining hall; from the collection of Theo Ted Mittet.

When the crew from America lined up against Great Britain, the Netherlands, Argentina and Italy, they were raring to go. The stroke, Nash, got Team USA off to a flying start, and at the halfway mark of 1,000 meters, Nash and his team were “open water,” (more than a length) up on second place Britain. The Americans had, what they call, swing. Until disaster struck.

As Nash recalled in Peter Mallory’s book, The Sport of Rowing, with the US shell comfortably ahead, the rower behind him, Durbrow, suddenly coughed up blood on and over Nash’s right shoulder. Lyon told me that at the 1,200-meter mark, the boat suddenly turned sideways, and he could see that Durbrow was having trouble breathing. “He was swinging in his seat and he had no power in his arms,” said Lyon. Here’s how the situation was described in Mallory’s account:

Nash: The boat slowed and we stopped. We came to a complete stop. Then Phil said, “I’m okay. Let’s go.” We were screaming by everybody once again, but Phil had a second episode of blood loss, and the guys in the bow, who could see his condition, yelled down to me, “Phil’s really hurting. Please paddle.”

Mittet: I remember the absolute disbelief of watching Phil’s blade falter. How could this be? What was wrong? Our feelings and concerns shifted totally to Phil in an instant – we knew that this was serious.

This was a disaster. The coxless four from the USA still managed to cross the finish line. In fact, they completed their heat with a time of 6:56.40, over 5 seconds ahead of the Netherlands. Britain finished first and advanced to the finals, but because Nash’s team recovered enough to finish, they were still eligible for the repechage, a second chance for all the crews that did not finish first in their heat.

And yet, Durbrow was in the hospital. The team that only magically came together after trying countless variations of 17 different people, was now forced to re-make the team with an alternate, Geoff Picard, who was in Tokyo for just such a scenario. With the finals only two days away, Nash’s straight four were no longer expecting to win gold, and were feeling that a medal of any color would be wishful thinking at best.

And yet, expectation and reality, as they saw, and would eventually see, are often at odds. In the case of the LWRC coxless four, recovery followed quickly upon release.

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Nash, Picard, Lyon and Mittet in Tokyo; from the collection of Dick Lyon.
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Ted Nash, Phil Durbrow, Dick Lyon and Ted Mittet in Seattle; from the collection of Dick Lyon.

It didn’t bode well in New York.

Four men from the Lake Washington Rowing Club (LWRC) in temperate Seattle came to hot and muggy New York to compete in the US rowing trials on August 29, 1964.

Ted Nash was the veteran and star of the crew of the straight four without coxswain. He had won gold for the United States in the straight four rowing competition at the 1960 Rome Olympics, the only American team to win gold. Dick Lyon, Phil Durbrow and Theo (Ted) Mittet filled out the boat, coming together in a very short time to compete in Tokyo for the 1964 US Olympic rowing squad.

But first they had to win the trials, held at Orchard Beach Lagoon in New York.

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At the US rowing trials at Orchard Park, New York, kneeling in front of teammates: Ted Nash, Phil Durbrow, Dick Lyon and Theo (Ted) Mittet; from the collection of Dick Lyon.

According to Stanford University rower, Lyon, the crew from LWRC got in a practice start with a team from the Detroit Boat Club, just before the heats were to begin. Ted Nash broke the edge of his oar blade on one of the maple flagpoles floating on Styrofoam that formed the lane lines. “We barely made it back to the line in time after sprinting back to the NYAC boathouse to get another oar,” Lyon was quoted in the book, The Sport of Rowing, by Peter Mallory.

After winning their heat, Lyon told me that as the team was preparing for the final, Mittet said quite urgently that he had to pee, which meant that he had to sprint 100 yards to the boathouse, and then another 100 yards back. Mittet made it back to the line in time for the start, and they got in a couple of hard sprints in just before engaging in one of the toughest physical activities one can do – 2,000 meters of rowing to absolute exhaustion.

Rowing as a team is very difficult. It’s not a matter of getting the best rowers together in a shell and expecting them to perform. It’s more a matter of finding a group of rowers that feels a rhythm, that leads to a seemingly effortless flow, and results in unchained speed.

Durbrow was in Laos with the US Army when he got his orders to report to Stan Pocock in Seattle. Pocock was the coach of the Lake Washington Rowing Club and Durbrow’s coach at Menlo College and Melbourne Olympian, Duvall Hecht, had strongly recommended Durbrow. When Durbrow arrived in Seattle, he felt like the odd man out. Pocock was looking for the men who would build a powerful crew of eight, as the eights are the heavyweight class of rowing, and thus the glamour event in rowing competitions. Durbrow joined 16 others who were already competing in two squads of eights, wondering where a 17th would fit in.

And yet, try as he might, Pocock could not find the right mix of eight, his teams losing to squads that were not Olympic quality. So in early July, Pocock agreed to disband the crews of eight so that the rowers could find the right combinations of pairs and fours. Nash quickly grouped with Lyon, and when Durbrow got on the scene, they found a natural to sit behind Nash, the powerful stroke. So Nash, Durbrow and Lyon would try any and every combination of the remaining 14 rowers at Lake Washington, and met mainly with disappointment.

Mittet, who grew up on the shores of Lake Washington, and had rowed from the age of 16, was late to the LWRC trials. By the time the eights were disbanded, most of the small boat team decisions had already been made, except for the straight four. But when Mittet jumped into the shell with Nash, Durbrow and Lyon, “from the first stroke, I was awakened to a level of rowing that I had never imagined possible,” as Mallory quoted Mittet as saying. Mallory also quoted Durbrow as saying, “we were trying every conceivable combination of oarsmen in a number of fours that went out every day. Boats that I expected to be super fast felt heavy or ungainly, but one time, Ted Nash, Ted Mittet, Dick Lyon and I went out together with Nash stroking, it felt light and quick.”

The three would continue to experiment with other rowers to sit at the back of the scull, but whenever they rotated to Mittet, they found their rhythm and speed again. After countless combinations, Nash made the decision at the end of July to add Mittet to complete the team of four, and commit to getting ready for the Olympic trials to be held 6 weeks later.

When Nash and his three teammates got to New York for the Olympic trials, they felt confident. Lyon told me that the game plan was to explode off the start with a powerful 40-plus stroke per minute rhythm, and then to ease down to 35 or 36 after a minute, which is about 350 meters of the 2,000-meter race. But Nash, who sat at the stern of the boat as the stroke, the rower who sets the pace, decided to maintain a high pace. Lyon said that for the first 1,000 meters, the crew kept the pace around 39 strokes. “We had never practiced for that long,” Lyon told me. “I don’t remember that we talked about this, but Ted is an extraordinarily enthusiastic person, so we just kept it up for the first 1,000 meters.”

The crew of Nash, Durbrow, Lyon and Mittet won handily, beating the Harvard crew by nearly 3 seconds with a time of 6 minutes and 23.1 seconds.

 

05b-1964 trials win 001
From the collection of Dick Lyon.

 

“We were extremely fit,” Lyon said. “We were doing two or three workouts a day, including work outs with weights, running stairs. There were naps in between those thousands of miles of rowing.”

The team was confident. The rowed together exquisitely. The handily won the US trials. They believed they had a great chance for gold in Tokyo. And yet, they heard some great times coming out of Europe – 6 minutes and 19 seconds in one case.

And of course, there is always the unexpected. A shocking turn of events awaited the straight four team in Tokyo.

僕が若く、今よりずっと若かった頃は

誰かの助けを必要とする事なんて何もなかった

でもいつしかそんな日々は流れ、僕は自信を失ってしまった

気が付けば僕の考えは変わり、そしてその扉を開けたんだ

Help! By John Lennon and Paul McCartney

 

1964年、日本は若かった。今よりも遥かに若かった。活気に溢れ、建物は新しく、近代的な国。世界がオリンピックを通して目にする事になるその国は、友好的で誇り高く、思いやりがあり、高い技術力を持ち、そして陽気であった。

1964年、ザ・ビートルズはアメリカを席巻する。彼らの前途は、そしてどこまでも続くその成功は、誰からの助けも必要としていなかった。彼らの記者会見からもわかる事がだが、彼らの宿泊先での悪ふざけ、エド・サリバンショーへの出演や、ワシントンDC・フロリダへの旅といったリバプールから来たこの4人の若者は、アメリカ人が一緒に街へ繰り出したいと願う友の様な存在であった。ロン・ハワード監督の映画、「The Eight days a Week」に映るのは、ジョン、ジョージ、ポール、そしてリンゴの4人が、共に過ごす時間を心から楽しんでいる姿である。

the-beatles-landing-at-haneda
The Beatles Landing at Haneda Airport

 

私がこの映画を観たのは、つい先週の事だ。その映画が良作なのか駄作なのかはさておき、ハワード監督はザ・ビートルズとその音楽に徹底的にこだわっていた。筋金入りのビートルズファンとしてみれば、鑑賞中は終始顔がほころんでしまう。作品の中で、活動の前半期にあたる1964年に焦点をあてた辺りは、彼らの愉快さをそのまま体現させたようなザ・ビートルズのポートレートとなっている。

ザ・ビートルズは、なにもアメリカでだけ時間を費やしていたわけではない。結論から言うと、彼らが交わしたレコード契約の報酬は決して十分なものではなく、自らツアーに出て、彼らが本来受け取るに相応しい金額を、自分達で稼がなければならなかった。1964年2月、彼らはアメリカで初公演を行い、その年の半ばには、デンマーク、オランダ、香港、オーストラリア、そしてニュージーランドを巡る27日間のツアーを開催。このツアーで彼らは計37公演を行った。そして8月にはアメリカに戻り、23都市30公演を決行。彼らは行く先々で、ファンに揉みくちゃにされるのである。

 

 the-beatles-ascending-the-stage-at-the-budokan

 著明な作家マルコム・グラッドウェルは、ロン・フォワード監督の作品の中で、ザ・ビートルズとは、この才能あふれる4人の人気が、新しいグローバルな10代文化の波に乗って起こした社会現象であると話している。1964年の10月、世界中のオリンピック選手が東京に集結した際、そのほとんどの選手が10代またはそれに近い年齢層であったため、ザ・ビートルズを知っているのはもちろんの事、彼らの歌もよく歌われていた。

 1964年、ブルガリアの走り幅跳び選手として東京オリンピックに参加していたダイアナ・ヨーゴバは、私に宛てた手紙の中でこう話している。きつい練習の合間に取る休憩時、彼女は女子寮の中にあったミュージックホールへ行き、好きな音楽を聴いた。彼女のお気に入りの一つが「With the Beatles」というアルバムで、これは1963年11月に発売されたものであった。傍らで行われている生け花レッスンを横目で見ながら、そこから漂う花の香りを楽しみつつ、彼女はお気に入りの曲を聴いた。All My Loving, Please Mister Postman, Hold me Tight, I Wanna Be Your Man.

 アダ・コック、オランダの水泳選手で1964年東京オリンピック100mバタフライと4×100mメドレーにて、銀メダルを2つ獲得した選手だが、彼女もまたビートルズファンの一人である。女子寮で彼女が私に話したのは、オランダ代表選手とオーストラリア代表選手は、メダルを獲得した際に、とりわけ騒々しいパーティーを開いていたそうだ。彼らはビートルズを歌いながら、夜通し祝っていたという。

 しかしだ・・・いつまでもいいことばかりではない・・・。

 1964年の東京オリンピックは、最後の純真な大会だと考えられている。最後の清廉潔白なるオリンピック。警備が最重要課題に上がる事もなければ、ドーピングが流行っていたわけでもない。スポンサーへのワイロの支払が、堂々と行われていたわけではない。皆が楽しい時間を過ごしていた。

 しかし地政学的な情勢が、そして社会の奥底でうごめく何かが、少しずつ明るみになろうとしていた。1968年メキシコオリンピックで、開会式直前に犠牲者数百人にも及ぶ大虐殺が行われ、1972年ミュンヘンオリンピックの選手村では、パレスチナのテロリストによって、11人のイスラエル人が殺害されている。世界はオリンピックを歓喜と純真から、冷笑と憂いに変えてしまった。

でもいつしかそんな日々は流れ、僕は自信を失ってしまった

1966年、ビートルズは初来日し、6月30日と7月1日に計4公演を行う事になった。1964年10月、オリンピック参加の為に来日した外国人選手たちがそうであった様に、彼らもまた手厚い歓迎を受けた。彼らをよく知らない人たちから見れば、きっと世界一の有名人が、日本国民から最大級のもてなしを受けていると思ったであろう。しかし、ホワード監督の作品によれば、どうやらそうでもなかったようだ。

オリンピックに間に合うように建設された日本武道館で、ビートルズはミュージシャンとして初めて公演を行う事になっていた。しかし、右派の人たちからみれば、そもそも武道館は武道家達のものであり、そこに外国人のミュージシャンが突然やってきて音楽を演奏する・・・武道館が乗っ取られるのではないか・・・そんな思いから、彼らの事を快く思っていなかった。公演はビートルズマニアの絶叫の中、無事に幕を閉じたのだが、そこには厳戒な警備と、滞在中は十分に気を付けるようにと、ビートルズにも警告が出されていた。

security-at-the-budokan-for-the-beatles
Security at the Budokan

 

1960年代後半は、オリンピックにとっても、ビートルズにとっても、そして私たちにとっても、試練の時となった純真な時代は終わったのだ。

For English Version of The Beatles Eight Days a Week: The Fab Four and the Olympics in 1964, Transitioning from Joy and Purity to Cynicism and Insecurity

Life Magazine_30October1964_3

I recently bought a copy of Life Magazine’s October 30, 1964 edition, featuring a young Don Schollander staring off into the distance, his four gleaming gold medals draped around his neck. (Read about that here.) But equally interesting to me were the ads in the magazine, a time capsule containing artifacts of a consumer goods era long gone.

Polaroid: Polaroid saw the future was in instant images. Why wait days to get your print photos when Polaroid could do it in 60 seconds? Polaroid is still around, albeit more as a novelty. Although you can’t tell in this ad, this Polaroid Color Pack Camera expanded like an accordion, and appears very popular amidst the biggest names in rock and roll according to this site. Polaroid’s brand and IP is now owned by “The Impossible Project,” an organization dedicated to keeping Polaroid’s instant film legacy and business alive, a decade after Polaroid gave up on instant film cameras.

Life Magazine_30October1964_1

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Did you own a set of that massive collection of Western-centric knowledge? My family did. I remember chucking it into a dumpster as we cleared out the detritus of 20th century knowledge management, replaced ruthlessly by the Internet. The last paper version of this massive set of tomes – all 32,640 pages – was published in 2010.

Life Magazine_30October1964_4

Yellow Pages: This was a directory of telephone numbers and addresses amassed by AT&T, a tome published every year to help find the contact information of a business in your area. This tome too is now a relic of the past – see Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Life Magazine_30October1964_2

Admiral: In the early 1960s, Admiral was one of the leading names in electronics, famous for their televisions, radios and record players among a vast lineup of products. In their heyday, Admiral helped lead the transition from vacuum tube technology to transistors. Today, Admiral is still around as a television brand marketed by a company based in Taiwan. More interestingly, vacuum tube amplifiers today are all the rage.

Life Magazine_30October1964_6

Winston: I had thought that you couldn’t advertise cigarettes or tobacco products in American magazines, so I thought I’d highlight this antiquated ad for Winston Filter Cigarettes, with its iconic slogan, “Winston tastes good…like a cigarette should!” That ad made Winston the best-selling cigarette in the world in 1966, two years after this ad. While advertising tobacco products on the television and radio was banned in America in 1971, apparently, companies can still advertise tobacco products in magazines and newspapers. However, tobacco companies can get significant blow back if they try.