by Roger LaPointe
Picking up the phone I heard silence, followed by the distinctive sound of an old man clearing his throat. I still answer the phone and talk to customers. I used to love it, but in today’s world of instant gratification I rarely hear from anyone with a clue about how to hold a conversation. This guy was different. I knew I could help him out.
Still lifting sixty or more years after he first picked up a barbell, he told me of a time when that act alone was pure rebellion. It was an age before Arnold. No one had a gym membership, because you were lucky if there was even a YMCA in your town, regardless of whether or not there was a set of weights in the basement. Almost all the gyms were garage gyms, because commercial ones didn’t really exist. Tough guys in motorcycle jackets lifted weights and wore white undershirts, to show off their rebellion. Today, everybody wears T-shirts, with or without a clever picture or slogan. Athletes, you defied your coach if you lifted weights, because weightlifting made you “muscle bound”.
I never considered my weightlifting to be an act of rebellion, but this old guy remembered that first day he picked up a barbell. That thing could have been red hot out of the foundry, burning the experience into his brain because it screamed rebellion. His older brother learned to lift weights in the navy, the one who had come home with the tattoo of a hot red head pin-up girl, not his brother the army officer.
I guess things have come full circle. When you lift in your garage, instead of a commercial gym, you are rebelling. If you lift free weights, instead of running on treadmills and lifting with machines, you are rebelling. Heck, just lifting heavy low reps is considered an act of rebellion today. “Cut abs” seem to be more important than a strong back.
That old guy was building a gym for his grandson. He sent me a couple photos and told me to match his gym as closely as possible. You guessed it. He hadn’t updated anything since the 1950s: lots of standard sized iron, bars, kettlebell handles, speed bag & heavy bag, thick handles, iron boots. You get the idea. Now, you ask, why wasn’t the kid doing this project himself? I asked the same question. The quick answer was that he had, but because of a divorce, Mom did not approve. It was up to Grandpa to help instill a little rebellion in the kid.
PS. The old guy had also included a picture of the red head and he was right about it, she did have the right amount of curves. I made sure to point out that Red Head Retro Pin-Up poster we have. It’s now framed in the kid’s bedroom.
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