by Thom Van Vleck
Dale Friesz getting the courage award made me think of my grandfather and patriarch of the Jackson Weightlifting Club. I think Dale and Dalton would have gotten along just fine.
First, let me say that I have a lot of respect for Dale and I hope that as I get older that I don’t give up on my training. Dale commented one time that his training is what kept him going and I believe that. Dalton Jackson was that way, too.
With all the champions to come out of the JWC, from state to national to world champs, people new to the club are often shocked that my grandfather never won anything. He never competed in a single lifting meet. But let me explain. He grew up in the depression and quickly found himself the father to a pack of kids that needed taken care of and he worked long, hard hours to do this. If he hurt himself, the family was in trouble, so he never maxed out or competed. It was BECAUSE he sacrificed that later the rest of us could enjoy success. To the members of the JWC, this made him the greatest champion of them all.
When I was a boy I recall him working at the local shoe factory (a brick hell hole that reeked of chemicals and had no air in the summers….I knew guys who worked there one day and quit….but my grandfather worked there 38 years) full time. He would work 10 hours a day and half a day on Saturday, or 55 hours a week when they were busy. He then worked as a janitor of an evening (I often went with him to this job and hung out as he told me stories while he worked) AND he drove a mail truck on Saturday nights. I often rode with him as he would pick up mail and we would end up around midnight at the airport in Jefferson City. This meant he’d get home about about 2:00am and he’d still get up and go to Church the next day. I also recall him sleeping Sunday afternoons!
During these grueling hours, my grandfather would work out. He worked out all the time. He would go to the garage gym and get in some lifting, but he also took every chance to get in a few jumping jacks, or push ups, or a bar would be a chance to do some chins. He incorporated his training in his work, if he were shoveling dirt, he’d do 5 reps over the left shoulder then 5 over the right for 5 sets, then rest a minute, and then back at it. He would do isometric curls and grip work on the steering wheel of his car while he drove! I also recall, when he was in his 50’s, he’d go into a handstand and walk on his hands across the yard as he would come into the house. I’m sure the neighbors thought he was nuts! Just like I’m sure that those who don’t know Dale the way we do might think he’s a little nuts. But my grandfather was in fantastic shape and could work all day and I never recall him being sick and if he was, he was in such good shape it didn’t keep him down long.
Then, when he was in his late 70’s, he was hit by a car. It was a devastating accident and the doctors told us things looked bleak. He had a severe head injury and they did brain surgery on him. They put him in one of those rotating beds to drain the fluid off his brain and told us the prognosis was grim and that he’d never fully recover. But one day, we were in visiting him and my Uncle Wayne noticed he was doing something with his hands. He was squeezing them…..and he was doing it in 5 sets of 5 reps (his favorite set/rep scheme for exercises) as he switched back and forth. Soon, this began to spread and the docs thought he was fighting the restraints on his bed. But we knew, “Pop” (as I called him) was exercising. He was already planning his comeback!
He made a long, grueling comeback to the amazement of his doctors. The wreck took it’s toll but Dalton got back to being better than most men his age. He continued to exercise all the time and lift weights. I think that if Dalton were around today, he’d be right there with Dale on the platform and I’m sure they’d have a lot to talk about. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.