A young sailor meets Charles Atlas

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A young sailor meets Charles Atlas

Post by Jabbers » Sun Oct 28, 2012 12:19 am

A great story about friends dad !

The young 19-year old man arrived in New York City hitchhiking from the U.S. Naval Frontier Base in Charleston, South Carolina one early morning in 1946. World War II had recently ended, and the horrific memories of this terrible war were fresh in the minds of all Americans. People were very grateful to the soldiers and sailors who had served their country, so the young man wearing his U.S. Navy sailor uniform found it easy to get several rides during his hitchhike journey.

The young sailor had 30-day delayed orders before reporting to his next assignment at Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco, California. Rather than spend his travel allowance to purchase a bus or train ticket, he decided to save the money and hitchhike across the United States, and visit a few places he might never see again. One such place was New York City where he went to seek out one person he always wanted to meet, the legendary Charles Atlas.

This is a true story of my Dad's personal account of meeting Charles Atlas in his New York City office over 60 years ago.

"I arrived in New York City for what ended up being a three day visit. I stayed all three days at the Penn Central Station. Lodging was available there for soldiers and sailors at the bargain price of 25 cents a night.

I visited all the popular tourist attractions while there and wore my sailor uniform the entire time. Most soldiers and sailors wore their uniforms because a grateful public was quick to offer assistance and praise. I was offered a few free meals at some restaurants, and hitchhiking was easy.

I asked for directions to Charles Atlas' office at 115 East 23rd Street. I had memorized this address that appeared in comic book ads of his Dynamic Tension course. Most of my friends knew the address too as it became embedded in our memories from reading the ads over and over, the ones about Mac the 97-pound weakling. We all had a special affection for Mac because of occasional experiences of being bullied a time or two by bigger and older kids.

I took the elevator to Mr. Atlas' office and entered. I remember seeing two framed photographs on the reception area wall. One was of Mr. Atlas holding Bing Crosby and Bob Hope who were sitting in his arms. The other was of Mr. Atlas pulling a streetcar with a long cable.

The receptionist greeted me as I entered the reception area, and asked if she could help me. I told her that I was here to see Mr. Atlas. She asked if I had an appointment to which I replied that no I didn't.

She responded that she was sorry but Mr. Atlas only sees visitors who have an appointment. I told her that I was a sailor returning home to Sacramento but came to New York City to see Mr. Atlas whom I had read about in comic books and always wanted to meet. She was adamant that Mr. Atlas only saw visitors by appointment.

Then I heard a voice say 'send the sailor in'. It was Mr. Atlas who had overhead the conversation from his office. The receptionist directed me to Mr. Atlas' office down the hallway.

Mr. Atlas reached out and shook my hand and greeted me, instructing me to have a seat. I noticed a small tattoo on the inside of his wrist as I shook his hand. He was dressed in a traditional business suit so it was not possible to see his muscles as they appeared in the comic book ads. Recognizing my Italian surname, Mr. Atlas told me that his name was Angelo Siciliano and that he was born in Sicily.

He asked me how old I was and I told him 19, to which he replied that he was old enough to be my father. Looking on his desk, I saw a framed photograph of a young man who was wearing bodybuilding trunks and flexing his muscles. Mr. Atlas saw me looking at the photo and proudly shared that the person in the photo was his son.

As a teenager growing up, my exposure to physical fitness was limited to school gym classes but I was curious about the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension training method. My interest in Dynamic Tension came from reading the comic book ads.

Mr. Atlas then told me a story about how one time he was riding a streetcar and there were three teenager boys sitting in the back smoking cigarettes. He approached the three boys and told them that smoking wasn't good for them. Two of the boys responded with disrespectful wisecracks but the other boy recognized Charles Atlas from the comic book ads. After telling his two disrespectful friends whom the man was telling them not to smoke, they ceased their disrespectful wisecracks and all three boys promised Mr. Atlas they would no longer smoke cigarettes.

Mr. Atlas asked me if I had any interest in purchasing his Dynamic Tension Course. I told him that I was teetering between weightlifting and Dynamic Tension, hoping to make up my mind soon. He wrote my name on a piece of paper and told me he would give me a discount if I ever ordered his course.

We spoke a while longer during my visit that lasted about 20 minutes. Mr. Atlas shook my hand as I left and wished me well.

Not that long after I was discharged from the U.S. Navy, I decided to order the Dynamic Tension Course. I wrote Mr. Atlas a letter asking if he remembered me, and the discount he promised, as I wanted to purchase his course. He replied that he remembered meeting me and that his discount offer was still good. I don't remember how much I paid for the course but I do remember that he gave me a generous discount, and was very flexible in allowing me to make payments.

So I started receiving the course in weekly lessons, starting with lesson one and continuing to lesson twelve over a three-month period. I followed the instructions and did all the exercises as prescribed. One of the first exercises I remember was the Atlas chair dip, a pushup done between two chairs. The final lesson was called the perpetual lesson; it included exercises I was to continue performing having completed the course.

I improved my fitness doing the exercises in the Dynamic Tension course, while continuing to read each issue of Strength & Health and Your Physique magazines from front to cover.

So that's the story of a young sailor meets Charles Atlas.

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