Muscles of Iron

Strength, Health, and Might

How Paul Anderson Was Outsmarted by a High School Student

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I have very little time for writing a post today, so I’m going to tell you a short story – one about how the “The World’s Strongest Man” was once verbally out-dueled by a high-school student.

First a little background….

Back in the 1950’s, when Paul Anderson was setting world records in weightlifting on a regular basis, the big fellow from Toccoa, Georgia became an outspoken advocate of the American free enterprise system. It was his belief that only through this political system do individuals in America have freedom to succeed. Anderson, however, became greatly alarmed when scientific polls, research studies, and surveys indicated that many Americans were losing faith in capitalism and the free enterprise system. The numbers from these studies, for instance, showed that over half of the college students in America believed that free market and big business were responsible for creating evil and hardship in their country.

Photo 1

Paul Anderson supporting a barbell across his shoulders with a pretty girl sitting on each end.

Paul Anderson performing one of his “specialty” lifts.

With support for free enterprise in America declining, Anderson feared that liberty was at stake. It was his opinion that the freedom that he enjoyed — that all Americans enjoyed — could become seriously threatened if significant efforts were not made to educate the young people in the United States about the vital role that capitalism plays in the American way of life. Anderson especially sought to teach young Americans that it was only through the political doctrine that their country was founded on that they had the right to competitively market their services for profit with minimal restriction from the government.

To rally support for his cause, in the 1960’s Anderson and some of his friends started a non-profit organization called Save American Free Enterprise (SAFE). Through SAFE, they worked diligently to teach the facts about capitalism and to enlighten ill-informed individuals about political significance behind free enterprise.

As part of his SAFE activities, Anderson regularly visited many schools and other institutions across the United States to promote the virtues of the free system. He once visited 11 different high schools and one junior high in Charlottesville, Virginia — all on the same day! Such was his commitment to teach the youth of America about the freedoms that they enjoy and which they should cherish and protect. Anderson was a big hit with the school kids, in part because of his titanic strength and popularity, but in bigger part because he knew how to relate to them and hold their attention.

Now the story…

One day Paul Anderson visited a school where he gave a lifting demonstration followed by a speech to a group of junior high and high school students. Needless to say, Paul left the students spellbound with his incredible strength. Paul’s speech, apparently, also managed to persuade the students.

After Anderson’s talk at the school, the students lined up to receive a photograph of the “World’s Strongest Man,” each one personally signed by the strongman himself. At one point, the huge weightlifter noticed that one of the boys was in line a second time, possibly a third. When the reappearing student finally made his way back to the signature desk, Paul placed his mighty grip on the boy’s shoulder, held him firmly, and loudly exclaimed, “What are you doing son?” The boy declared, “Oh, I believe what you said about free enterprise, Mr. Anderson.” “What do you mean,” asked the big fellow. The boy then verbally knocked-out the mighty giant with a most powerful declaration: “I’m selling your photographs,” the young one replied. With such a logical explanation, the only thing Anderson could do was sign another photograph for the ambitious boy and encourage him to go make a profit.

Yours in strength and health,
Rob Drucker