Babe Didrikson Zaharias

On July 31, 1932, Babe Didrikson won a gold medal in the javelin throw. On August 3rd and 4th, she ran in the 80-meter hurdles heats and then finals, winning her second gold medal. And on August 7, she battled Jean Shiley to the very end, losing the gold to Shiley on a rule violation.

Somewhere in that week, between July 31 and August 7, Didrikson found time to join three sportswriters for a game of golf at the Brentwood country Club. Famed writer, Grantland Rice, was one of the party of four that played the links with Didrikson, who had never played golf before. According to Rice, Didrikson carded a 91, and hit drives of 250 yards.

After the Olympics, Didrikson’s star shining brightly, Babe showed off her various skills in the vaudeville circuit, barnstormed with a basketball team, and generally played to adoring crowds. In 1935, she began to play golf more seriously, even competing in the all-male Los Angeles Open in 1938. It was at a golf tournament that year when Didrikson met a wrestler named George Zaharias, whom she married later that year.

In the 1940s, Babe Didrikson dominated women’s golf. In one stretch in 1946 and 1947, Didrikson won 14 golf tournaments in a row, including the first time an American had ever won the British Women’s Amateur Championship. To this day, Babe’s streak stands as the greatest in golf history.

In 1950, at the peak of her career, there were only about six tournaments a year for women. Using her influence to round up corporate sponsors, Didrikson formed a new pro tour called the Ladies Professional Golf Association, or the LGPA.

george-zaharias-and-babe-didrikson
George Zaharias and Babe Didrikson

In 1953, Didrikson was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery, which had a positive effect. She would go on to win the 1954 Women’s United States Open by twelve strokes, and became an inspiration to millions. But the cancer would return, as would operations and more golf, until finally, on September 27, 1956, the world’s greatest female athlete passed away.

As mentioned by her fellow Olympic teammate, Jean Shiley, Babe was the boyish, brash, I’m-number-one-preaching-Muhammad-Ali of her time. The New York Times noted in her obituary that as her golf career took off, she began to dress in more feminine wear, embraced her marriage with Zaharias, and even became accustomed to mentoring younger golfers.

But as a top player and drawing power in golf, her attitude and demeanor changed. The once lonely tomboy became a social success. She developed into a graceful ballroom dancer and became the life of many a social gathering. She was too skillful at gin rummy for most and at times, to change the pace at a party, she would take out a harmonica and give a rendition of hillbilly tunes she had learned as a youngster.

This change was the cause of a more convivial feeling toward her by rivals. In her younger days her desire to win had served to toughen her as far as any opponent was concerned. But in her later days, instead of goading her rivals with, “Yep, I’m gonna beat you,” she began encouraging the younger girls on the golf circuit.

jt-ad-cigarette-manners_throw-away
Japan Tobacco 2011 ad series, entitled “Smoking Manners for Adults”; they had been releasing similar ads since the early 1960s.

When I first moved to Japan, the first pleasant surprise was the everyday practice of taking my shoes off before entering a home. After doing that for a while, it nearly disgusted me when I came back to New York where everywhere was parading around the house in the shoes that stepped in all kinds of you-know-what outside.

I also noticed how many white cars there were on the road, and that they gleamed with newness. Then I noticed all cars on the roads looked new, nary a dent or smidge of mud to be seen. And of course, you have to look hard to find garbage on the ground, even in highly congested megalopolis of Tokyo.

So it came as no surprise to read this short article in the October 11, 1964 Japan Times.

No Litterbugs

Spectators at the opening ceremony were generally well-mannered, garbage men at the National Stadium said Saturday night. Trash collected at the stadium after the opening rites was more than 12 tons, but there were few “litterbugs”, they said.

People were given a polyethylene trash bag at the entrance. Printed on the bag was a direction in English: “Please use this etiquette bag for tidying around you.”

Three hundred waste baskets and 250 ashtrays were placed in the stadium and most people used them. In addition, a finger-sized aluminum cylinder with a cap was given to each to be used as a portable ash tray.

When I read that last line about 18 months ago, it was a bit hard for me to imagine what that cylinder looked like….until last week, when I visited four-time Olympian, Andras Toro, in California. Toro, who was an Olympian in Japan in 1964, happened to have a couple, and they looked like this.

ashtrays-from-1964_1

In the cylinder is a message from the benefactor, International Lions Club, District 302, based then in Nihonbashi Tokyo. It wasn’t a message against smoking, this despite a report the next day that four out of every ten youths started smoking before the age of 20, or the fears of cancer. No, it was a message of cleanliness, and fire prevention.

LET’S BANISH CIGARETTE BUTTS FROM ALL THE STREETS IN THE WORLD

This is a cigarette butt container. Please use it in the stand while watching games. Many of these were donated to Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee by All Tokyo Lions Clubs of International Club 302 District and their members for you people coming to see the Olympic Games. We are advocating a campaign in an effort to

STOP THROWING BUTTS AWAY. SMOKE WHERE AN ASH-TRAY IS.

We are sure you may think it strange that we have to advocate such a thing now in the capital of Japan that is proud of being a civilized country. We don’t blame you at all if you do.

But, What a shame! There are not a few people as you see smoking while walking and throwing cigarette butts away in the streets in this biggest city in the world – Tokyo. Now we will present a very interesting fact to you. Take a look a t the following table indicating that FIRES CAUSED BY CIGARETTES are never, superseded by fires of other origins even in other notable cities in the world.

Well, what do you think. Surprising there are so many fires caused by cigarette, isn’t it? That is why we vote for and our sincerest and outspoken prayer…..LET’S BANISH FROM THE WORLD SMOKING AND THROWING BUTTS IN THE STREET.

Now that’s a message that still resonates today!

jt-ad-cigarette-manners-olympics