SI Vault
 
BEST-KEPT SECRETS
John Underwood
June 12, 1967
They are the decathlon men, who live in obscurity three out of every four years. Then come the Olympics, and these masters of all trades are acclaimed as the finest athletes in the world. They are, too. And they are also marvelously diverting fellows, as any visitor to the swinging pad near Santa Barbara can readily see. It is the home, training headquarters, friendly meeting place and haven from Psychedelia of most of the world's best of a singular breed
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 12, 1967

Best-kept Secrets

They are the decathlon men, who live in obscurity three out of every four years. Then come the Olympics, and these masters of all trades are acclaimed as the finest athletes in the world. They are, too. And they are also marvelously diverting fellows, as any visitor to the swinging pad near Santa Barbara can readily see. It is the home, training headquarters, friendly meeting place and haven from Psychedelia of most of the world's best of a singular breed

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

It came to pass that in his 24th year David Lewis Thoreson of California, a decathlon man, arose out of a torpor of inactivity and did bum his way to England, which is west of Sweden. He had his eye on Sweden also. He had grown tired in his own land of the confusion of trying to serve two masters, one the Amateur Athletic Union and the other the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and he said, "These cats just can't get together." As a consequence he had not been doing much decathloning. Neither had he been eating too well. So it was that he hitchhiked to New York and caught a night flight to Scotland and delivered himself unto the British with three cents in his pocket and a loaf of bread. It is written that decathlon men hang in there. "I was friendly to everyone. I talked to everyone," he said. "You talk to people, they feed you. It is the European custom."

He got to Bolstad, Sweden and took work at a summer resort and made money to go on to Uppsala. There he took lodging with a Swedish family, and he caught on at a bakery where he did wash the frosting from the pots and pans. Every morning the baker allowed him to partake of a doughnut and a small glass of milk.

Soon the urge to compete stirred again inside David Thoreson as it has stirred inside decathlon men from the days of Thorpe, Bausch, Mathias and Milton G. Campbell, and he went and won a local meet and got his name in the paper. "The next day the baker gave me three doughnuts and a large glass of milk," he said. He competed again, and won again, and behold there was a bigger, better story in the paper. With a picture. And from that day forward he got all the doughnuts he could eat, and they took him and showed him the icebox where the milk was kept.

I've been living with you seven months and how come you never told that story before?" asked Jerry Moro, the Canadian, stretched out on the couch, his fist holding up his jaw.

"You never asked," said Thoreson. He resumed his position on the living-room rug, contented, another exciting chapter in the genesis, exodus and revelation of Decathlon Man Thoreson completed.

"What is the point?" asked one in the circle of his audience. "That good things eventually come to the prodigal decathlon man? Or that his worth is measured in doughnuts?"

"Neither," said Bill Toomey. "That he couldn't get a date in America." (Lots of laughter.)

The little frame house is in suburban Isla Vista on the fringe of the California coastal city of Santa Barbara. The house is two blocks from the Pacific shore. It is about the size and shape of a large mobile home, with faded brown shingling and a tiny garage that sticks out like a turret in front. There are some rusty weights (for lifting) in the garage, but no car. No self-respecting automobile could fit in there. The living room has a gray-brown hooked rug and a burnt-orange couch, a portable TV on a desk, a large conical space heater, some empty Chianti bottles for decoration, a box of Dyanshine, books, magazines and, for wall relief and inspiration, two large Mexico City Olimpiada posters. There is an office-type water cooler in the kitchen, and a portable typewriter on the table for community use. The kitchen sink knows a dirty dish or two. The wastebaskets do a terrific service.

Upstairs are two bedrooms, with four single beds. One is not a bed in the classic sense. It is a mattress on the floor. This is where Bill Toomey fights the bends in his sacroiliac. The house rents for $180 a month. Sometimes Bill Toomey's telephone bill is equal to the rent—you never know when he is going to get the urge to call Sweden—so since he can afford it and the others cannot they have agreed to let him pay for his own phone.

The four inmates are all decathlon men—Bill Toomey of Port Washington, N.Y. and Laguna Beach, Calif.; Dave Thoreson of Valley City, N. Dak. and Oceanside, Calif.; Jerry Moro of San Martino al Tagliamento, Italy, and Trail, B.C.; and Olaf Lange of Munich, Germany. A fifth who hangs around a lot but at present rooms elsewhere is John Hemery. Originally a sprinter-hurdler from London, England, Hemery fell under the decathloners' influence and became a convert.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Related Topics
  ARTICLES GALLERIES COVERS
William Anthony Toomey 1 0 0
Russell Hodge 1 0 0
Jerry Moro 2 0 0
Dave Thoreson 3 0 0
Russ Hodge 6 0 0