Museum Hours: 11AM to 5PM. THURSDAY - SATURDAY | 770-945-4559

Two Champions in Buford, September 1955

Paul Anderson

To the delight of about 15 youngsters, the World’s Strongest Man, Paul Anderson of Toccoa, Ga., lifts them on his back at the Coosa Valley Fair in September, 1962. Photo courtesy of Rome Area History Museum and the Rome News Tribune.

A friend visited the Museum this week, and I felt I should share the story he told about his mother.  Many of us remember hearing about “Miss Myrt” and her success in the summer of 1955 on the WCBS-TV quiz show, “The $64,000 Question.” She won $32,000 with her knowledge of baseball.  Well, my story takes place when she returned to Buford, stepped off the train, and the crowds greeted her.  There was a parade, a “key to the city” presentation, and other entertainment.  It is this other entertainment that I want to write about.

During all the commotion and celebration, a man who would soon become world famous made a public appearance and performance.  Born in Toccoa, Georgia, and invited to appear at what many here in Northeast Georgia thought was the event of the year, Paul Anderson was growing in popularity even faster than our local legend, Myrt Power.

Paul was born in 1932, and during his high school years began a self-taught weight lifting program to increase size and strength in order to play football for Toccoa High School.  He attended Furman University for a year on a football scholarship before he later moved and met weightlifter Bob Peoples, who greatly influenced the direction of his life.  Paul became more advanced with his training and began making important connections within the weightlifting circuit.  He began competing first on the state, then national level, with a string of career successes following.

In the same year that Miss Myrt returned to Buford, Paul had set many national records and represented the USA in an international weightlifting competition in the Soviet Union, where he set a new world record on weight lifted overhead by any human to date: 402.5 pounds.  He went on later that year to become the 1955 World Heavyweight Champion in Munich and stacked up more world records.  Paul won an Olympic gold medal in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia; and those were just some of his career highlights.

I now return to Paul’s performance here in Buford in September 1955 on Myrt Power Day.  He had designed and created a platform that straddled his shoulders and allowed people to sit on each side so he could equally distribute their weight.  He instructed ALL the Buford High School cheerleaders to climb on this rack, and he successfully lifted it to the crowd’s amazement.   I had never heard this story until recently, nor have I ever seen a picture of the event; but the story comes directly from one who was lifted that day.  If anyone has a picture of this feat, or any other you feel is important in telling our History, please share them with the Museum.  I look forward to hearing your stories and possibly writing them here for others to enjoy.

Post a comment