SI Vault
December 08, 1958
Decision for Dorsey
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December 08, 1958

Events & Discoveries

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A shy and demure little Atalanta whose father is one of Tokyo's leading flour merchants, the Little Antelope Girl told newsmen in a TV interview soon afterward, "Everything is just like a dream."

"Who is the best tennis player, you or the crown prince?" the press boys asked.

The future Empress (who won a regional championship while still in her teens) simpered prettily. "The prince, of course," she said.

Conquest of the Continent

On September 16, as you may have read here, a Detroit vegetarian named Erwin Erkfitz set out to walk in ripple-soled shoes from Los Angeles to New York. In consequence, one chilly morning last week, half a dozen sleepy people including a public relations man for ripple-soled shoes took up a 4:30 a.m. watch at the Manhattan exit of the underriver Holland Tunnel. At 5:09 a.m., 71 days after his start from California, Erkfitz came through the tunnel to complete his conquest of America.

The arrival was slightly marred by the fact that Erkfitz had been refused police permission to walk through the tunnel and had to cover the last mile or two in a station wagon. But he had set a record and behind him lay more than 5,280,000 steps, more than 3,000 miles, more than $2,000 for assorted expenses, 67 days of actual walking time, and the rubber treads of six pairs of ripplesoled shoes. Ahead of him lay NBC-TV's Today show.

"I'm Fred McNamara," said the man from Reilly, Brown & Tapply advertising agency. "Boy, am I glad to see you. Thought you were going to be late. I've got to get you to the studio by 6 o'clock or we've had it." Erkfitz shook hands vigorously, spun nimbly to demonstrate his animated, cross-country walking style to a bystander, then heel-and-toed back to the agency man. "I'm ready to go," he said. "The sooner the better. It's a wonderful opportunity to go on national television. First thing I want to say is 'Let's use our legs or lose our legs.' Then I want to tell the mayors in all the cities to back walking and hiking clubs. Walking is the greatest exercise in the world. Blood is real polite. It won't go where it ain't asked. How do you ask it? Exercise. What's the best exercise? Walking."

"He's not only the champion walker, he's the champion talker," interrupted Arnold Stein, driver of the station wagon that accompanied Erwin from Los Angeles. "All right, everybody, let's go," said Fred McNamara. "And Erwin, when you go on the air, give short answers." "Right. I'll watch it," said Erwin. "O.K.," said Fred. "In the meantime, study this," and he handed the walking man a pamphlet entitled Scientific Principles of Ripple-Sole. They were off.

The Today set was awash with stars, stagehands and cameramen when Erwin arrived in Radio City at 6. "I'm Gene Jones, a producer," said one, extending his hand. "Glad you could make it, Erwin. How're the legs? We're going to do a live pickup outside. You'll come breezing down the street and Dick McCutchen here—Dick, meet Erwin Erkfitz—will greet you and start an interview. You keep walking and talking. Act like you just got into town. Got it? It'll be a great bit." "I wrote the bit," said a lady in sunglasses. "Glad to meet you, Mr. Erkfitz." "Put that stocking cap on him, somebody," said the producer. "And roll up his pants legs a little. Let's make Erwin look like a walker. O.K., Erwin?" "Let's go, Erwin," said Mr. McCutchen. "I want to go through a dry run before air time." "One minute," said Mr. McNamara. "Erwin, when you mention the ripple soles...," he was saying as they moved out of earshot.

At 7:10 a.m. a Salvation Army band, also scheduled for an outdoor pickup on Today, cleared the street, everybody tensed up, and Erwin Erkfitz went out on the network at seven mph singing "Breathe, breathe, breathing in so deeply/Fresh air will give us lots of pep, pep, pep...." After the outside bit, Erwin was back in the studio (he was run through a paper tape stretched across a doorway) chatting with Dave Garroway on a treadmill, munching sunflower seeds and raisins, and exhorting mayors everywhere to back walking and hiking clubs. When Mr. Garroway asked (by prearrangement with Mr. McNamara) "Do you wear a special shoe?" Erwin, right on cue, replied: "Yes, I wear a ripple-sole" and held his foot aloft. "That," breathed Mr. McNamara with satisfaction, "was what I've been waiting for."

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