North Carolina Newspapers

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The NEW BERN
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■*' WEEKLY
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5^ Per Cw^,
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Yesterday was when New
Bern’s juveniles, and adults too,
found great enjoyment seeing
Johnny Weissmuller perform on
fte screen as Tarzan of the
Apes. He made 19 of the movies
during a 17-year span.
There were Tarzans on
camera before the 6-3, ex-
Olympic star, and others since,
but no one else is flmly
associated with the role. Even
today’s kids, at Fort Lau^r-
daie, admiringly use the name
when addressing him.
Weissmuller, now 68, is still in
good physical shape, and swims
daily. This editor’s only glimpse
of him, in the flesh, was in 1939
when he and Eleanor Holmes
were the top Aquacade stars at
New York’s World Pair.
Although Johnny’s first MGM
contract called for only $500 a
week, small by current stan
dards, he was around long
enough to make |2 million out
wearing a loincloth, and
swinging on jungle vines.
The Tarzan that those of us
bom before 1940 remember
broke national, world or
Olympic marks almost every
time he competed. For
example, he set 67 records and
won 52 national championships.
His speciality was the
freestyle, and was unbeatable
in all events from 100 metms to
800 meters. He was the Mark
Spitz of his day, internationally
idolized before he ever turned
pro and headed for Hollywood.
Weissmuller didn’t have to
grow longer hair for his Tarzan
role. That is, not to a con
siderable de^:^. He wore it
that way, extending below his
collar, as an amateur athlete,
and it caused critical comments
at times.
No one can say for sure
whether Johnny, if seriously
challenged, could have defeated
Spitz. Never was he pushed to
the limit. Significantly, he won
every race he particij^ted in,
during 10 years of competition.
He won three gold medals of
the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Two
were individual awards in the
100-meter freestyle and the 400-
meter freestyle. The third was
as anchor man for the
American team in the 800-meter
relay.
In 1928 at Amsterdam, he
defended his 100-meter
crown and again anchored the
809-meter relay. He continued
competing and winning until he'
signed for the Tarzan role in
1931. No doubt he would have
dominated the 1932 Olympics, if
he had been in them.
“The closest I ever came to
losing,” he recalls, “was in
1924, in the 400 Olympic final. I
got a mouthful of water, but I
knew enough not to cough. If
you don’t cough, you can
swallow it.’’
All former greats believe they
would have done well against
those later on the sports scene,
and Weissmuller is not an ex
ception. “I was better than
Mark Spitz is,’’ he says without
hesitation.
“I didn’t win nearly as many
Olympic medals, because there
weren’t anywhere near the
number of events when I swam.
There was no 200-meter race or
(Continued on page 8^
NO LONGER THERE—Day in and day out, this
bench along the fence of New Bern’s Christ
Episcopal ^urch is a joyous spot for Senior
Citizens. They while away the hours, repeating oft
told tales as they watch the world go by. The
Uizzard that struck the town last weekend put them
out of commission, all but removing the entire
bench from view. It didn’t matter that much, they
were at home by the fire.—Photo by Billy Benners.
ALMOST LIKE BERN—This scene puts one in
mind of our Mother City. The whirling winds left
some roofs bare during our worst snow storm of the
century, including a portion of the First Citizens
Bank Building now under construction. But there
was plenty of the white stuff on the top of Christ
Church Parish House. In the distance are Craven
County Court House and Sudan Shrine Temple. If
your eyes are good you can even see snow on the
shore of the Neuse in Bridgeton.—Photo by Billy
Benners
    

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