The Beer Garden Weightlifting Championships of 1933

Bob Hoffman described the event in glowing terms: “This great affair, ably presented and managed by Mr. Chas. M. Postl, of Postl’s Health Club, was the finest in the history of A.A.U. weightlifting.”

He was talking about the Senior National Weightlifting Championships of 1933 — an event held in conjunction with the fabulous festivities of the 1933 World’s Fair – and an event where the beer overshadowed the lifting. Hoffman let it slip at page four of his report of the championships – in the October, 1933 issue of Strength and Health:

“Stan Kratkowski was there, prepared and expecting to lift a higher total than ever before. His failure is a good proof of the unpleasant conditions under which the 165 pound class lifted. It rained hard as this class was about to start. Finally, the lifting was taken down to the Rathskeler. Here in the heat, with waiters passing constantly and on a cement floor, Stan failed three times with his 220 pound snatch, thus losing his title…”

The totals of the lifters were far less than usual. The excitement of the important contest may have helped make these poor totals. But the many distractions were the hardest art. The beer garden was crowded, people and waiters passed the platform constantly, all sorts of noise and the lifters could not concentrate…

Picture it – the best lifters in the United States — men who had slaved for long years in their basement or backyard gyms, garage gyms, YMCA’s or lifting clubs – men who had squatted, pulled, pressed and strained – men who had sweated, bled and pushed themselves to unimaginable lengths for lifting glory – the hardest working, most dedicated, strongest athletes in the United States – and they’re forced to lift in a beer cellar!

But lift they did – and they lifted well. And in less than 15 years, the United States stood at the top of the ladder in Olympic weightlifting. And the lessons we learned from the lifters of 1933 – how to train, how to think, how to persevere, how to overcome adversity – are powerful lessons, even today, 75 years later.

We owe those men a debt of gratitude. The next time you train, think of a man lifting his heart out as beer waiters go flying by in front of him – and say “Thank you!” to our unstoppable Pioneers of Iron.

Yours in Strength,
Brooks Kubik