Storm warning causes delay
So I took in a movie
“You gotta let people have their illusions, and everyone has 'em.” said my uncle Jim once on one of our beach walks along the Puget sound.
I checked the weather forecast and road reports and all the passes in Oregon required chains and there was a winter storm warning until early Thursday morning, so we decided to hang out for another day in Olympia at my mom’s retirement community. Lyndi did some artwork and I decided to go for a swim and take in the daily movie in the auditorium.
Lyndi is a member of the badminton club at college back in Japan and they have a 3-day spring-break tournament/jamboree coming up. They have a bit of a complicated process for determining teams and tournament draws and they make a big deal out of getting every detail right. As usual, Lyndi is in charge of making the designs for the T-shirts, and this extra day waiting for a break in the weather gave her the time to do it. All she had to do was submit one design, but with our unexpected free time, she was able to whip out three:
While she was sketching I went down to the auditorium for today's movie. It's black history month as all my substack readers are surely aware of and are celebrating accordingly, and here at Echo Glen senior living center they celebrate with lots of relevant movie choices. Today was a double-feature: Jesse Owens (1988), which I saw, and A Most Beautiful Thing (2020) which I passed on, figuring anything this modern with the subject matter dealing with inner-city blacks beating the odds and triumphant in an uber-white sport (rowing) had to be a whites-R-bad, ‘nkay?, black-saint cliche fest. Would the coxswain be Sandra Bullock, Hillary Swank or Uma Thurman? I could be wrong in predicting this a dud; have you seen it?
When I read the description of the first movie, back at my mom's apartment: “Jesse Owens represented all who stood against Adolf Hitler,” I let out a guffaw. My mom didn't like that and said, “Why are you laughing?”
-Because he didn't stand against Adolf Hitler. He went to Germany for the Olympics and was a big hit. The German fans were crazy for him. The American news said Hitler snubbed him but it's not true. Owens actually said that Roosevelt, not Hitler, snubbed him.
Mom frowned. “How do you know? Where did you get that?”
I read about it. Mom wasn't convinced. Conspiracy theory stuff. I'd actually got it from an author named Larry Romanoff (jewish, I'm pretty sure) on the Unz Review. I knew that wouldn't satisfy my mom so I confirmed it with a mainstream account on Encyclopedia Britannica. I was surprised they hadn't memory-holed what Owens actually said about Hitler. More on that below.
The lady who chooses the movies at the old folks center began by repeating the description on the February schedule. “In our continued celebration of Black History Month, we present, Jesse Owens, who represented all who stood up to Adolf Hitler.”
I'd seen this story before. Long before the 1988 film I remember watching a documentary in school on the subject. The Nazis, expecting to dominate, were shocked and disgusted by Owens’ wins. Hitler couldn't stomach watching Jesse winning gold and got up and left the stadium in disgust before the winners could be officially announced.
This film took the same position, complete with Hitler watching the proceedings from his stadium box with much agitation. And of course the scene where he disgustedly rises to get the hell out of there. Somehow Hitler and all the Nazis were unaware that Owens had already broken two world records and tied a third while at Ohio state, and was the easy favorite in the Olympics. Owens kept winning gold medals, and “Hitler was absolutely livid.”
“Hitler refused to greet Owens.”
“Hitler wouldn't shake hands with Owens.”
Much was made of Hitler's 'snubbing' of Owens. “When Hitler snubbed him, he snubbed every one of us.”
Well, here's the real story, according to Encyclopedia Britannica:
But wait! Do you want to hear the real story? I'm pretty sure the majority of the retirees in the audience that day were happy to hear this stock version of the Jesse Owens story, just as they'd heard it in school, in college, on the news, in books, in movies, etc. I sat behind two white ladies, (they’re all white at Echo Glen, save a couple token Japanese-Americans) who nodded approval and made little murmurs of agreement every time Owens did something that upset the white patriarchy. There was one archival clip that showed a group of white, college sprinters in a bunch nearing the finish line. Then, cleverly, the scene pans out wide and who is in front by a truck length, but Jesse Owens! Oh, those ladies giggled and cooed over that one.
After winning his 4 gold medals, there was a video clip of Owens smiling, voicing his approval and appreciation of the Germans in their running of the Berlin games, and thanking everyone. Then the narrator speaks: “Jesse Owens learned not to share his deepest thoughts. He learned to keep things shallow.”
You see, if only Mr. Owens had been free to speak about the tyrannical Germans!
But here's the rub; he did speak freely, and it made him persona non grata. Do you know what he said?
The next day—August 3, 1936—Owens won his first gold medal in the 100-meter dash. Hitler did not meet or shake hands with Owens [nor did he shake hands with any athlete after the first day- my addition]. That said, there are several reports of a salute or wave. According to sports reporter and author Paul Gallico, writing from Berlin, Owens was “led below the honor box, where he smiled and bowed, and Herr Hitler gave him a friendly little Nazi salute, the sitting down one with the arm bent.” Owens himself later confirmed this, claiming that they exchanged congratulatory waves.
So, Owens was not personally snubbed by Hitler. However, Owens did feel that he had been snubbed by someone: U.S. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt. A month after the Olympic Games, Owens told a crowd, “Hitler didn’t snub me—it was [Roosevelt] who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.” Roosevelt never publicly acknowledged Owens’s triumphs—or the triumphs of any of the 18 African Americans who competed at the Berlin Olympics. Only white Olympians were invited to the White House in 1936.
So much for Hitler snubbing Owens. Now you know the real story.
Oh, yes. There's another part of this saga that gave me a chuckle. Here again, the villainous Germans show their true colors!
When it came time to choose the four runners for the big event- the 4X100 relay, the American coach, in a display of great cowardice, benched Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, two jews, and replaced them with Jesse Owens and Roy Metcalfe. Marty and Sam missed their chance to win a gold medal too because, get this: The Germans demanded that the American coach bench the jews!
Phone call from Joseph Goebbels to American coach Dean Cromwell:
JG: Vee demand zat you remove za two jews from your relay team.
JG: Vee cannot have jews on za vinners podium.
DC: How do you know they're gonna win? It's a pretty even race.
JG: Neverzaless, you must cut zem.
DC: OK, but you know what this means. It means Owens and Metcalfe will be anchoring this team. They are the fastest sprinters in the world. Now you're gonna get creamed for sure. You said you were sick of getting beat by these American negros. And that’s a quote!
The American team, with Owens and Metcalfe and without Glickman and Stoller, went on to win gold, and establish a new world record that held for 20 years. The 18 yr. old Glickman said the switch was a result of antisemitism. The 21 yr. old Stoller said it wasn't. Coach Cromwell made the absurd and fanciful claim that he made the switch in order to field a winning team. You can be the judge.
In any case, I hope nobody's cherished illusions were challenged by this story. We now return to your regular programming.
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