by Thom Van Vleck
In Part II of my story on Wayne Smith, we will look at some of his best lifts, his personality, and his hard work ethic.
Wayne Smith was most impressive when he was deadlifting. He had a best of 460lb at 148lbs (triple bodyweight). He also had a 240 bench, snatch 145, C&J 200, squat 290, and a Clean & Press of 160. Wayne Jackson told me that one of the most impressive things he saw Wayne Smith do was a bent arm pullover from the floor to the chest while lying on a bench with 250lbs. Some of Waynes old records on the Pre-USAWA “All-Round Records” list include a 230lb Middle Fingers deadlift, a Pinch Grip of 115lbs, and a Miller Clean & Jerk of 90lbs all done in his late 40’s.
Phil Jackson remembers meeting for the first time in 1957. He said he was around 13 and Wayne was the “expert” who actually was friends with Tommy Kono! Phil said they all enjoyed Wayne’s wry sense of humor and it made training sessions funny and the long, late night trips back from meets tolerable. Wayne was always saying something off the cuff. Some of his best that I remember include:
“Bodybuilding is like a dog show”
“I complained to my wife about how sore I was and when she found out it was from doing a heavy deadlift she told me to see a vet because only a jackass would try something like that”
One time, Ed Zercher, Sr was the head judge at a lifting meet and smith was up on the deadlift. Zercher was really serious on judging. Smith walked up and took a “clean grip” as Ed looked on through his trademark tiny spectacles. Smith stood up, snapped his fingers and said, “That’s right, this is the deadlift…..I was getting ready to clean this”. Phil said Zercher didn’t bat an eye and said, “One minute” indicating Smith better lift or get off the platform.
Smith was a tree trimmer his whole life and he was famous for scaling unbelievably tall trees with little or not climbing gear and like a surgeon dropped limbs with great precision. One day a guy said, “You must like heights” and Smith told him he HATED heights. The guy asked him why he climbed such tall trees then and Smith said, “Because that’s where my grocery money is at!!!!”
Smith was a great tree trimmer and my Uncle Phil and I both share the experience of helping Smith in his tree trimming business. Smith was not a wealthy man, as a matter of fact, he usually just got by. I recall one time Smith was trying to get one of three chain saws going to finish a job when he turned to me and said, “There’s nothing shameful about being poor….it’s just d@med inconvenient”!!! It’s hard work trimming trees and Smith made extra money cutting that wood up for fired wood that he would sell. He was one of the hardest working men I knew and the fact that he trained with weights at all was a feat unto itself. There is no doubt he would have had a much greater career if he hadn’t been breaking his back all day working!
That might explain Wayne’s training regime. He worked so hard trimming and cutting down trees and often when the work was there he’d put in dawn to dusk days that he hardly had time or energy to train. Getting that “grocery money” out of the trees was more important than a trophy! He would often show up at the gym and lift for about 20 minutes at a time hitting all the major lifts he was going to do in the next contest. For example, if he were going to do a powerlifting meet he’d hit his warm ups, hit his opener and move on to the next lift. No frills, just right to the point. Smith got plenty of “assistance” work in his job….the kind of stuff people now do and call “old school” training, Smith did and made a living at it! Wayne also would focus on some new stunt that he’d practice when he could on the job. When I was working for him it was around the time Mt. St. Helen’s erupted. So Wayne was working on doing chins while pinch gripping the rafters. He also would “monkey bar” across the room pinching the rafters. He quite seriously would tell me if a volcano erupted and the room filled with lava he’d be safe! I never knew how serious he was because I thought to myself….”If the room is full of lava then I would think that would be the least of your worries”! His wry sense of humor kind of always left you wondering!
Later Wayne Smith became interested in bowling. He became very good at it and and was so successful he was inducted in the Missouri Bowling Hall of Fame. He is a local legend in the bowling alley and he is proud of the fact that he’s the only person in both the Bowling and Lifting Halls of Fame.
Wayne has been a big part of the JWC for OVER 50 years. Who knows, maybe if he had not been there to guide my Uncle’s when they first started training maybe there would never been a JWC. I feel we owe him a lot and his contributions to Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, and the USAWA should not be overlooked!