Recently Bill and I visited the Stark Center for Physical Culture & Sports. This museum is located in the north section of the University of Texas football stadium. We followed the posted signs which instructed us to enter near the main food court (Gate 16) and take the elevator to the fifth floor.
The Stark Center was hosting a traveling exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum called The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936. This exhibit reviewed the political situation in Nazi Germany in the early 1930’s, especially restrictive policies regarding Jewish athletes. Around the world, various countries debated whether to boycott the 1936 games. The US decided to participate, but at the last minute, two Jewish members of the US team were not permitted to compete. The Nazi hosts were not pleased that US African Americans won 14 medals, including four golds by Jesse Owens.
Bill and I also toured the main Stark Center exhibit, Muscle & Grace: Images of Physical Culture & Sports, which featured items from their collection arranged in ten smaller galleries. Gallery themes included Muscle Beach, circus strongmen, and Texas golf legends Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, and Harvey Penick.
One gallery was devoted to Joe Weider (“The Master Blaster”), who published numerous bodybuilding and weightlifting magazines and was also Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mentor. He died in 2013 at the age of 93.
Barbells and weights were scattered throughout the galleries. Many were owned by famous bodybuilders, weightlifters, or stuntmen. The most unique was Bob Peoples‘ Stone-Loading Wooden Barbell, built by the aforementioned Bob (“Mr. Deadlift”) because iron weights were expensive during World War II.
Another gallery had a photographic tribute to Darrell Royal, beloved UT football coach from 1957 to 1976. UT fans mourned his death at age 88 in 2012.
An exact copy of a 10’6″ Italian statue, the Farnese Hercules, will soon be installed on a revolving platform in the Stark Center’s lobby. This 2000-pound replica is believed to be the only full-size model in North America.
The Stark Center was a surprisingly interesting place with a little bit of everything—even a German beer stein collection. I’d certainly recommend a visit to this unusual and free-of-charge museum.
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