Through a series of events, mainly the outbreak of World War II, I moved in to my grandparent’s house in 1939. I was 6 years old and very impressionable. Grandfather was 5 foot 3 inches tall and 66 years old, ancient in my eyes.
I found him strange. He started every morning by sun-bathing in the nude for half an hour. There was a cellar under the house and he would sit on the cellar steps, shielded from view on the sides by canvas screens. This was followed by a half-hour of exercises in the living room, a morning bath and dressing routine which included fastening on a thick leather belt to contain a protruding hernia. He then drank 2 glasses of boiling water. Breakfast consisted of a plate of thick oatmeal porridge on which he sprinkled ‘iron’ powder, explaining that the iron kept him strong. He finished his meal with a glass of carrot juice, freshly squeezed by the cook. He came home from his shop at lunchtime, and had an hour’s siesta before heading back to the store for the afternoon session. All this in the 1940s and at an age when many men are thinking of retiring.
Grandpa was a follower of Bernarr MacFadden who lived from 1868 to 1955. He was the predecessor of Charles Atlas and is credited with beginning the culture of health and fitness in the United States. MacFadden is described on the internet as a, “Body-builder, Health Advocate, Nutritionist, Teacher, Author, Publisher, Resort Owner, and Founder of Physcultopathy”. He founded the magazine ‘Physical Culture’ in 1899 and grandpa was an avid reader and disciple. MacFadden became the most successful magazine publisher in history.
Both men are long gone, but their devotion to physical fitness lives on.