1904 Olympics

Wash U’s Francis Field and Gymnasium, Site of the 1904 Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, a year late, because of Covid. No spectators are permitted, because of Covid and many other inconveniences have been imposed, because of Covid. These precautions are enough to make one wonder why they even went on with the games in the first place, but that is neither here or there. The spectacle associated with these modern games are enough to engender some serious hating-on of them, but I was surprised to read this week a serious hate piece about the 1904 Olympics that were held here in Saint Louis. There is noting more cherished and honored in Saint Louis history than the 1904 World’s Fair and while not as revered as the fair, the 1904 Olympics have always basked in the reflected glory of the fair. This Daily Beast hit piece had to have been written by a Chicagoan, because who else would be motivated to carry a grudge for so long? Talk about sour grapes.

This sordid story begins in 1903, the hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, but like the Tokyo Olympics, our World’s Fair had to be delayed a year, to the 101st anniversary of the purchase. Unfortunately, this delay put Saint Louis’ fair on a collision course with the 1904 Olympics, which were scheduled to be held in Chicago that year. Not to be outdone by its large neighbor to the north, the Saint Louis city fathers set about the task of stealing the Olympics from Chicago. They did this by first organizing a competing athletic event associated with the fair that locked up all of the American athletes and then complaining to the Olympic committee about there now being two competing events that were both hosted in the same country and would be occurring at the same time. Appealing to the Olympic committee Saint Louis successfully argued the two events should be combined, in Saint Louis. You see we didn’t steal the Olympics, we won them fair and square. 😉

The Beast article goes on to enumerate all of the many high crimes and misdemeanors associated with the 1904 Olympics that earned it the moniker of the worst Olympics in modern times, but I especially like the way that they described how the marathon was handled:

The conditions for the marathon were horrendous. It was over 90 degrees when the race began at 3:03 p.m. on Aug. 30, and the path extended along a road filled with dust. Making matters worse, organizers limited the water available to the runners because “the chief organizer of the Games wanted to minimize fluid intake to test the limits and effects of purposeful dehydration, a common area of research at the time,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. Thirty-two men started the race; only 14 finished. One man almost died from a stomach hemorrhage. Fred Lorz, who had maintained the first lead, caught a ride in a car for 11 miles, then emerged at the end and was almost declared the winner before his “short cut” was discovered. The gold medal would eventually be awarded to Thomas Hicks, whose team buoyed him along when he began to flag by feeding him strychnine, egg whites, and brandy. His winning time was a whopping three hours, 28 minutes, and 53 seconds. […] “Never in my life have I run such a tough course. The terrific hills simply tear a man to pieces,” Hicks said at the finish line.

A Three Hour Tour

MS Dixie II

Yesterday, we took a boat ride on Lake Tahoe in the MS Dixie II. Modeled after the paddle-wheelers of old, it sports the pictured stern wheel. After much struggle, I managed to translate this live action iOS picture of the paddlewheel that I had taken on my iPhone into a form that this blog could use. We departed port from South Tahoe, across the Nevada line. Think lots of casinos. South Tahoe is the most congested part of the lake. From there, we headed north to Emerald Bay, just south of where we are staying, a relatively shallow bay where the lake’s deep blue water turns green. In this bay, there is the lake’s only island. We were hoping that our scheduled two-hour tour would be lengthened into a fabled three-hour tour. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost… But there was not a cloud in the sky then, so our boat headed back to South Tahoe sans shipwreck. We did see a historical home in Emerald Bay, called Vikingsholm. Lora J. Knight, a rich woman (Heiress to controlling shares of National Biscuit, Continental Can, Diamond Match, Union Pacific and Rock Island Railroad, anyone of which would have made her very wealthy.), built it and modeled it on medieval Viking castles. She is best known for building this house, but she did help fund Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of Saint Louis flight. The property belongs to the state now and tours are available, but they don’t start until the end of this month. Supposedly, Knight wanted to furnish her home in the style of the Vikings, but none of the Scandinavian governments would allow her to export any of their historical artifacts. She then had very exacting copies made instead. She owned the one island in the lake also and had a teahouse built upon it. We saw its ruins as we circled the island for home.

Kennedy Mine

Kennedy Mine Head Frame

Yesterday, Frank toured us around the nearby Kennedy Gold Mine, where he is a docent. It was once the deepest mine in the world and worked the Mother Lode, which was a thing, before it became a catch phrase. It began as a mine in the 1860s and was finally closed in 1942, when for the war effort Roosevelt decided he needed the manpower, more than the gold. The nearby Argonaut Mine, shared the Motherlode. Well maybe shared is a bit too generous, since the Argonaut sued the Kennedy over the Motherlode and won. The mine is named for Andrew Kennedy, an Irish immigrant, who discovered a quartz outcropping in the late 1850s near what is now Highway 49. The Kennedy is situated at the juncture of the North American and the Pacific plates and the subduction of the Pacific plate has allowed gold rich veins of quartz to come to the surface. The Kennedy Mining Company was formed in 1860 when he and three partners began digging shafts near today’s mine property entrance. In 1898 the company began sinking a new shaft 1,950’ east of the original shafts. This East Shaft would eventually reach a vertical depth of 5,912’, the deepest vertical depth gold mine in North America at the time. In 1928 a forest fire burned all the structures except two. In 1922, when 47 miners were trapped by fire in the neighboring Argonaut, rescue efforts were launched from the Kennedy to connect the tunnels of the two mines. Unfortunately progress was slow and rescuers arrived too late to save any of the miners in the Argonaut. Now the mine is a historical site and tourist attraction. After the mine, Frank took us into Sutter Creek, where he and Kathy own a small house that backs up to the creek and was originally built by the Kennedy’s supervisor. It is 120 years old. After the house we went down a block and had pizza outdoors further along the creek. This lunch was followed by an equally scrumptious dinner of Japanese cuisine. It’s a good thing that we had already had our weekly weigh-in and that I had lost five pounds while camping in the mountains, because I might find that I might be giving back some of that weight loss next week.

Quilting Retreat

We’ve arrived at Frank and Kathy’s place, where they live in the Gold Country, near Sutter’s Creek, the birthplace of the 1849 gold rush. They have a nice home, out in the country, on a wooded lot. They have two dogs, three cats and uncounted chickens. Frank took us to the Kennedy Mine, an old gold mine, once the deepest mine in the world. He is a docent there and can get us in to see it. Kathy wrote the grant that got the mine listed on the national register of historic places. More about it tomorrow. After the mine, we visited a rental cottage that Frank and Kathy own. Originally, it was the mine’s supervisor’s house. It backs onto Sutter’s Creek. Latter in the week we’ll all head up to Tahoe, where they have a lodge. Kathy earned her living in biotech, but her family made their living by selling dirt. Their Company, called Allen Valley Loam sells dirt to all of the major baseball teams in California, where it prized by groundskeepers for its excellent ballfield properties. Pictured is Kathy’s King Elliot Quilt, created by Kathy Allen, first published in her book, Modern Scot Quilts. We are sleeping beneath it while we are visiting them.

Walnut Canyon

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Today, we visited Walnut Canyon National Monument, which is just east of Flagstaff. We passed it yesterday, on our way into town, but were too fried to deal with it. Fortunately, we had all day today. After weigh-in this morning, we enjoyed our weekly fat-fest with breakfast at the Tourist Home All Day Café. After breakfast we backtracked east along I-40 a few miles to the turnoff for Walnut Canyon. The trail featured two trails, both about a mile in length. We did the Island Trail first, which also featured about 300 steps down, then back up again, plus numerous no railings stretches of edge of a cliff walking. Ancestors to numerous modern-day tribes used this park’s pueblos over the years. It seems that they used it for a while, before migrating elsewhere. The Island Trail was the more interesting of the two trails that we walked. The other Rim Trail was flat, more crowded and less interesting. It drizzled a bit towards the end, not that you would notice much. It is still early spring here in this mountainous desert. Some flowers our out, but a lot are only now budding. Many trees don’t even have leaves yet. We finished up around noon and then jetted back to the hotel to cop one of the few available hotel parking spots. After a simple lunch, we started walking around old town Flagstaff. We made it to some parks on the western edge of town, but were unwilling to climb the hill to the Lowell Observatory. On the way back, we followed an urban nature trail along the Flag River, which led us back downtown. Dinner was at the Lumberyard, a burger and beer joint that Anne, Susan, Dan and Annie had visited years ago on their similar Route 66 journey to grad school in LA. Tomorrow, we checkout, resupply and then head up to the Grand Canyon, where we will actually camp for the first time on this trip. Google has indicated that I should have cell service, but in case I don’t, Don’t Panic! I promise you we will not fall in, we managed not to today.