Norman S. Woolworth of New Canaan, Conn. and Winthrop, Maine is a tall, 36-year-old, unfailingly good-humored sportsman of an uncommon breed. As owner of the Clearview Stable, which has its headquarters on the 1,750-acre family estate near Winthrop, Norman Woolworth is deeply committed to the tight little world of harness racing. In scarcely more than a decade in the sport, he has become a highly knowledgeable horseman and a first-rate amateur driver. Some of the great trotters and pacers of recent years—among them big money winners like Muncy Hanover, Bright Knight, Hillsota, Egyptian Princess, Sh Boom and Porterhouse—have raced under his silver, red and blue colors. (Porterhouse, winner of the American Trotting Championship last season, defends his title at Roosevelt Raceway this Saturday.) Last month Woolworth added another star to the cast in Meadow Skipper, a 3-year-old pacer for whom he is said to have paid $150,000.
Woolworth is a director of The Hambletonian Society, a director and vice-president of the Lexington Trots Breeders Association, a trustee of the Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. He is the donor of the Norman S. Woolworth Challenge Trophy, awarded to the amateur driver scoring the most points in races around the Grand Circuit. Harness racing proudly points to him as an owner and competitor in the great tradition of E. Roland Harriman and the others who kept the sport alive at Goshen in the 1920s and 1930s. " Norman Woolworth, a horseman has said, "is a young blood of the old school."
What makes Norman Woolworth a rare kind of sportsman is that—deeply involved as he is in harness racing—he has not lost interest in other sports. He has not been fenced in. He remains a man who is at home almost anywhere around the sporting scene. He still races a few Thoroughbreds. He is as emotionally involved as ever with the fortunes of the New York Yankees, the New York Rangers and the New York Giants of professional football. He continues to follow the fights, to hunt, to fish, to bowl and to play a game of golf that has improved to the point where his wife Toni, who was women's Eastern champion at 24, no longer can spot him a stroke a hole.
The most active participants in any of sport's tight little worlds are usually so wrapped up in their own affairs that they have difficulty in communicating with strangers from the outside. Not Norman Woolworth. Wherever he goes, he speaks the language like a native. For example, in describing the qualities of his great pacers, Muncy Hanover and Bright Knight, for the benefit of a baseball man some years ago, Woolworth said: "Now, Muncy Hanover is a little fellow. He takes three times as many steps as anyone else. But he's fast, and he reminds me of Phil Rizzuto tearing down to first base. Bright Knight is big and powerful. He reminds me of Moose Skowron."
Woolworth could have made the qualities of the pacers understood as easily in the world of books and music and the theater. His interest in the arts is as keen as his interest in sports. As a matter of fact, he is interested in so many things that he is up and about at 5 o'clock in the morning in order to have time to pursue at least some of them. Without ever appearing to be harried or hurried, he crams an amazing lot of activity into every day, keeping in touch with his New York office and his nonsporting investments, consulting by telephone with his driver-trainer, Earle Avery, wherever he may be, working with Link Keene, who supervises the breeding and training programs at Clearview in Winthrop.
He is not the sort of man who ever finds himself at a loss for something to do. One day 14 years ago he came close to being immobilized for some hours. It was the day he married Elaine Antonia Fanoni of New York. The ceremony was set for 4 p.m. at New York's Plaza hotel. If he was to observe the tradition that the groom is not to see the bride before the ceremony, it meant that he was faced with several hours of nervous floor pacing. So, instead of just waiting around, he decided the right move was to catch the first game of a double-header at Yankee Stadium.
"I still think it was a sensible thing to do," he says today, "but it caused me some embarrassment when Toni and I were standing in the receiving line responding to well-wishers after the ceremony. I got along fine until a close friend of mine came along and said the usual things about long life and happiness. I kept murmuring, 'Thank you, thank you,' and then I blurted out, 'Say, did you happen to hear what the Yanks did in the second game?' "
Happily, Norman Woolworth could not have had a more understanding bride. Toni Woolworth is a lifelong baseball fan. Her team, at the time, was the New York Giants (there is a Woolworth horse named Say Hey Kid), but her all-time baseball idol is the Yankees' Joe DiMaggio. As a matter of fact, she shared—and continues to share—all her husband's interests in sports. Their courting included many a ball game, hockey match and prizefight as well as a generous quota of afternoons (this was before Norman's harness racing phase) at Aqueduct and Belmont. Through it all, there were only two occasions that could be called downright unromantic. One night at a prizefight a fighter's rubber mouthpiece came flying out of the ring and landed in Toni's lap. She picked it up and hurled it back at the fighter. It was a little unnerving and, at the very next fight, it seemed to happen all over again. Only this time what fell in her lap was a set of chattering teeth that Norman Woolworth had picked up in a novelty shop.
The Woolworths—Norman, Toni and their son, Norman Jeffrey—spend their winters at their Connecticut home, which is set down on 65 acres in New Canaan, and their summers at their big, white rambling house in Winthrop. There are three other family houses on the Maine estate, which lies on the shores of Lake Cobbosseecontee. One belongs to Norman's mother, Mrs. Pauline Woolworth (his father died a year ago), another to his sister Pamela (Mrs. Bernard Combemale), and the third is the summer residence of Norman's brother Fred, who now spends his winters as owner and operator of El Convento Hotel in Puerto Rico.
Norman Woolworth is continually being asked in sporting circles about his family's connections with the founder of the 5 & 10� stores. The facts are that his grandfather was a cousin of the original F. W. Woolworth and himself established the first Woolworth stores in England. Norman's father, Norman B., tried managing a store in New London, Conn. as a very young man, did not care for the work and went off to build his own fortunes in real estate, sugar and other investments.