• 73°

Brains and Brawn… Paul and the Two Little Pencils: Part 3

BY ALEX CAMPBELL

Paul’s plan sprang into his mind while he began traveling and speaking after he achieved fame in his Olympic weightlifting exploits.

He went to prisons and detention facilities all over America, and no doubt thought about his childhood bully.

As he plotted his return to Georgia, he knew what would happen if his plan was successful; there would be no bully left.

Paul’s trips to those prisons and jails helped him see how many people there was that used violence to get their way.

His strong Christian upbringing influenced him that God loved everyone. As a Christian, he realized what he must do.

He decided to open a youth home for troubled and homeless youth. Young people that hurt others used violence to get their way, and did not know how to properly assimilate into society could find help – young people like the one who used to torture him.

Paul Anderson was going to conquer not just his personal bully, but every bully he could bring into his youth home.

And he wouldn’t stop at bullies either. Young men addicted to drugs and alcohol, headed to prison, and those with no guidance at home could all change their lives.

There was only one problem. It is the same problem that prevents many dreams from becoming reality, money.

Paul needed money and lots of it if he were to purchase a large dwelling, provide food, shelter, education, social programs, etc. for these young men.

At the time, there was a rule that you could not be a professional athlete and compete in the Olympics.

Paul had a difficult decision to make.

Should he continue as an amateur taking no money for his physical exploits which would allow him to rewrite the record books over and over again, or should he turn his back on the sport that had transformed his life after only competing for a couple of years to make money to build his youth home.

It was an easy decision.

As Anderson began to travel and perform to raise money for his home, he indeed was ruled ineligible for the 1960 Olympics because he had accepted money.

At the 1960 Olympics the Soviet superheavyweight lifter,

Yury Vlasov, bested records set at the 1956 Olympics.
Despite leaving the sport, Anderson still had a competitive spirit. So, not to be outdone by his Russian counterpart, Anderson lifted the same weight as the Russian had done but with a caveat.

Anderson hoisted it three times to once again demonstrate he had no physical equal.

This feat solidified his position as the most dominant lifter in the world whether he was able to compete or not.

By 1961, Anderson’s vision of starting the home was coming into focus.

With a little more funding, he could open the doors soon. Anderson decided that he should perform a promotional stunt to attract attention to his efforts.

It would have been easy to perform another feat of strength, but the powerhouse was about to prove that when it came to physical prowess, he was no one-trick pony.

The strongman decided to ride a bicycle all the way from Vidalia, Georgia to Omaha, Nebraska.

Anderson wanted to end his ride at Boys Town, a home for boys, similar to what he envisioned for his own, that was the most famous youth home in the country (thanks to the 1938 Academy Award-winning movie).

Can you imagine a man of over 300 pounds riding a tiny little bicycle 1,200 miles through seven states?

In a lifetime of many jaw-dropping displays of physical acumen, for a man that size to complete that epic journey may have been his greatest.

He made the trip, and he found the final funding needed to make his dream come true.

Paul’s feat attracted the desired attention, but there was one fellow Georgian who would be instrumental.

Truett Cathy, of Chick-fil-a fame, became the first continuous contributor to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and by the end of 1961, Anderson accepted his first needy young man.

To keep the home running, he and his wife would average an epic 500 speaking engagements and strength exhibitions per year.

He would perform stunts such as hammering a nail with his bare fist and raising a table loaded with eight men onto his back.

Every year that he was physically able, the speaking and performing events created the bulk of the funding for the home.

Paul’s vision of founding a Christian-based youth home to help troubled young men was realized and are still there today.

It has helped thousands of young men to change their lives, families to be saved, parents to have their sons back…and changed the hearts of many bullies.

There was more than just a financial cost, however, to all of this work.

When ministering, Paul often told a story about a great racecar driver that was able to win a race in an old and broken-down car.

Paul always said that it was the driver that was most important.

I can’t find that he ever related that story to himself, but what a metaphor it was.

Although God blessed him with the most powerful body in history, even Anderson’s physical reserves had their limits.

Anderson had indeed been born with a kidney ailment, Bright’s disease, that damaged those organs in his youth.

The toll of traveling, speaking, working long hours into the night, and struggling with finances was sapping his strength and wearing him down.

It seems the very thing doctors warned his parents about as a small child may soon roar back to do something no one else could do…stop Paul Anderson.

To be continued…