The Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen (AOBS) is the arm of Weightlifting.Org, Inc. (WLO) that focuses on education regarding Iron Game history and drug free sport, while the parent (WLO) concentrates on the development of the sport of Weightlifting and the development of amateur athletes of all levels, with a special focus on developing athletes for national and international competition. The AOBS produces a quarterly newsletter and hosts an annual gala that educates, entertains and provides an opportunity to visit with legends of the Iron Game and make contact with others in the community. From first timers, to those who have never missed our annual event, we welcome all lovers of strength and health to the AOBS.
For information on the next such gala, please click here. To see a newsletter that describes one of our galas, please click here.We rely on donations to further the purposes of our organization. We are happy to receive donations of any kind. An annual donation of $25 entitles you to receive the AOBS newsletter and to obtain discounted tickets for our Annual/Dinner Reunion. If you are not already a supporter of WLO or the AOBS, please become a supporter today. Donations can be remitted to “Weightlifting.org, Inc” or to “AOBS”. You can also make contributions online through our Support Us page.
The History of the AOBS
The Association of Oldetime Barbell & Strongmen began with a modest idea – the notion of a birthday celebration for Sigmund Klein. Sig was a major figure in the Iron Game in the US and particularly in the NY area. Klein’s family emigrated to the US in 1903, when Sig was a year old. By the time he was a young teenager, he was exercising on a regular basis. Sig had developed extraordinary strength and a fine physique by the age of 22, when he moved from Cleveland to NY, to work with the legendary Professor Louis Attila.
Sadly, not long after Klein’s arrival in NY, Attila died and his gym was closed. A short time later, Sig reopened Attila’s studio. He later opened a gym under his own name in mid-town Manhattan, which he operated for nearly 50 years.
Because Klein was an accomplished strongman, poser and muscle control artist, anyone who was interested in any aspect of the Iron Game just had to seek out Sig’s appraisal and adivce if he/she passed through NYC, including AOBS founder Vic Boff.
On the occasion of Sig’s 80th birthday, Vic, Leo Murdock and several others decided to hold a surprise party in Sig’s honor. This celebration was held on March 27, 1982. The location was the well-known restaurant – Lenny’s Clam bar in Queens, NY (still operating). The turnout for the event was larger than expected and included such notables as John Grimek and Marvin Eder. The success of the event got Vic and Leo thinking about something bigger and more permanent.
After much thought, a second dinner was organized on November 3, 1984, under the banner the “Olde Time Barbell and Strongman Association”. This name later evolved into the current (AOBS) name of the organization. The gathering was held at Wally and Joseph’s Restaurant in mid-town Manhattan. It was limited to 50 people and sold out quickly. The gathering was so enthusiastic, as was the response to the concept of an actual organization devoted to the recognition of old time champions and Iron Game history, that a third dinner was quickly scheduled, for April 27 th of 1985.
The turnout for this gathering was by far the largest of the three events that had been held to date, and the excitement over the new organization convinced the founders of three things. First, that the demand for such an organization was enormous. Second, that the purpose of recognizing a series of greats over time was extremely appealing. Third, that they would need a bigger place for their future gatherings. Arrangements were made through the contacts of the founders with Rudy Riska, then the Athletic Director of the renowned Downtown Athletic Club, to hold the next event at that location (home of the legendary Heisman Trophy).
It was agreed that the first recipient of the organization’s Highest Achievement Award would be the immortal John Grimek. Widely acknowledged as the greatest physique star of his era, Grimek had also been an Olympian in Weightlifting and a writer and editor for magazines published by the then leading barbell company in the world – York Barbell. Literally hundreds showed up at the Downtown Athletic Club on May 10, 1986, to honor the great Grimek and to show their support for the organization.
Vic and his colleagues knew that evening that they have begun something great, something that should and would endure. The following year, the final elements of the organization began to take shape. There were 3 honorees: Bert Goodrich, Milo Steinborn and Johnny Mandel. While John Grimek represented a unique Renaissance man, Vic and the others felt it would be important to honor people in different realms of the Iron Game, balancing the contributions of several honorees in different disciplines going forward.
In another brilliant stroke, Vic arranged for several strength performers to appear at this dinner, something that was to become one of the event’s most popular features. It also happened that renowned artist, Jim Sanders, whose paintings have appeared in such famous settings as the White House, expressed an interest in presenting to the honorees a painting of them in their prime (he had already done so for John Grimek). At the same time, Iron Mike D’Angelo offered to take still photographs and video footage of the event. These features of the event made for a truly unforgettable evening for the honorees. Imagine being recognized by hundreds of your peers, hearing a brilliant summary of your accomplishments presented by an accomplished speaker, receiving an enormous plaque commemorating your accomplishments, receiving a painting of you in your prime and then having a video that captured the entire evening! Perhaps that is the reason why being honored by the AOBS has become coveted by so many in the Iron Game.
Beginning in 1988, the reunion was moved from the Spring to the Fall, where it continued uninterrupted through the year 2000. However, in 2000, another major change took place, with the event being moved to the Saddle Brook NJ Marriott Hotel, from the Downtown AC. The DAC had been a popular venue that included the fabulous downtown NYC location and the prestige of the Heisman or similar rooms for the banquet. It had offered another major advantage as well, weekend rooms at the DAC that were available in the $50 to $60 per night range. But when the DAC rooms became condos, the only option for out-of-towners was to stay in a downtown hotel at perhaps $200 per night! Instead, Vic was able to secure an arrangement at the Marriott hotel in Saddle Brook, NJ that provided banquet facilities and rooms at reasonable rates (although the central location that the Downtown AC offered was given up).
The Saddle Brook folks did a great job hosting their first reunion in 2000 and the next event was immediately planned there for October 6, 2001. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 resulted in the postponement of the 2001 reunion to June of 2002. And it has remained in that time slot since then. Upon Vic Boff’s tragic and untimely passing in November of 2002, Artie Drechsler was asked to guide the organization, and the first reunion under his leadership took place in June of 2003.
The organization has continued to grow, and in 2008 the location of reunion dinner was moved once again, to a larger facility – the Newark Airport Marriott Hotel. The Newark Marriott is a larger facility than the Saddle Brook Marriott, and is in a more convenient location for those who are flying in for the event. In 2008, the format of the event that was established in 1987 was been modified to specially celebrate the organization’s 25th reunion. Instead of recognizing 2 to 4 new honorees, all previous honorees who were still living (Clyde Emrich’s brilliant idea) were invited to an encore celebration of their achievements. The majority of them attended and the organization had its largest gathering ever – well in excess of 300 people. In 2009, and in each year since, the old format returned, with new honorees each year.
A Photo From The First AOBS Dinner In 1982 Honoring the Great Sig Klein
Sig Klein (center bottom
row) surrounded by his
friends (l.-r.) Walter (Golden
Superman) Podolak, Leo
Murdock and Al Broomer
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