Will the Real ‘Mighty Atom’ Please Stand Up?

TRUTH magazine cover c.1896 – ‘Harvard and Yale Beware’.
TRUTH magazine cover c.1896 – ‘Harvard and Yale Beware’.

4 August 2016

Boatsing Television (BTV) Presenter: Welcome everyone to this time-travel edition of To Tell the Truth, sponsored and hosted by the award-winning rowing history website … Hearrrr the Boat Sing. Tonight we have three people claiming to be rowing’s ‘Mighty Atom’ – can HTBS readers figure out who the real one is? Remember, only one of them is sworn to tell the TRUTH. It’s time to play…

First Contender: Hi everyone, my name is Joe Greenstein and it’s great to be back after being dead for nearly 40 years; time travel gameshows are the future, or in my case, the past! Hey, take a look at me, I’m only 5’4” – you can see I wasn’t a rower … but I was a coxswain, that’s what we were called back in my day. I was born in Poland in 1893 and moved to the States when things became difficult for us Jews. Straight away, I was asked to cox at the local rowing club in Galveston. Fancy place it was but they liked me and pretty soon I was on the national team heading back to Europe to race at the Olympics in Belgium. I must say that my rival for the coxswain’s seat, Sherman Clark, took it well when the crew was announced. Must have hurt him when we took the gold; 1920, what a year! Well after that, everyone called me the Mighty Atom. When I came back from Antwerp I put on a bit of weight and became a strongman. I kept the name Mighty Atom and made a good living. I never thought I’d have a biography written about me or have my own page on Wikipedia – no peeking now, not until you hear from the two imposters.

Joe Greenstein’s biography
Joe Greenstein’s biography – not to be confused with a book on fashion in the 1920s.

BTV Presenter: Thank you Joe. We’ll just have to wait and see what our judges make of your story. Galveston you say, how does that tune go? Oh yes, ‘Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying’. Not a problem for you Joe, but I’ll be humming that all the way home in the car! Our next contender please.

Second Contender: Short and sweet, like yourself Joe, but you’re not fooling anybody. You see, I’m famous; everyone knows me in the rowing world. I may have changed a little, because like Joe, I’ve being on the other side for more than 90 years. Marie Corelli, that’s my name and when I wasn’t writing my novels I was messing about on the river. I loved it so much that I got my own gondola on the river Avon in Stratford. People were always taking photographs of me and turning them into postcards. What do you think of this beauty?

Two swans amongst the rushes
Two swans amongst the rushes on the river Avon.

Of course, I got fed up with this invasion of my privacy and decided to take legal action but that’s another story. All I want to do today is claim the title of ‘Rowing’s Mighty Atom’. First of all, one of my novels just happens to be called The Mighty Atom (1896). Granted, it’s not a rowing book but it did cause a lot of rows!

Those pesky postcard people did me a favour in the end, helping me claim the title of the ‘Mighty Atom’.
Those pesky postcard people did me a favour in the end, helping me claim the title of the ‘Mighty Atom’.

I loved being rowed up and down the river and naturally fell in love with the other river types, especially those lovely young men from the local boat club. Did you know that I was president of the club? Yes, what an honour for us both! You may have read a little bit about my club on this TV channel’s website, Hear The Boat Sing. Back in May, one of the junior reporters with Reuters jumped ship and sent an article to HTBS about Leonard Willoughby’s 1911 rowing series in The Bystander. Willoughby got confused about the president’s position, stating it was held by Arthur Hodgson until 1902 and then by his son; the cheeky-devil fails to mention me. In 1901, I presented a beautiful silver trophy, the King’s Cup, to the club in celebration of Edward VII’s accession. It is still raced for every year at the regatta, although I don’t present it myself anymore.

I didn’t mind this postcard being published. The day I presented the cup to Stratford-on-Avon Boat Club, the captain called for ‘three cheers for Miss Corelli, our Mighty Atom’ and my boys threw their boaters in the air.
I didn’t mind this postcard being published. The day I presented the cup to Stratford-on-Avon Boat Club, the captain called for ‘three cheers for Miss Corelli, our Mighty Atom’ and my boys threw their boaters in the air.
The 1912 Regatta
The 1912 Regatta – I still don’t know what those prizes were, salad bowls perhaps.

Like Joe, I have several biographies and a Wiki page and a wonderful website which they say is “dedicated to the best-selling Victorian and Edwardian novelist, her life and times in Stratford-upon-Avon”, or as I like to say “dedicated to rowing’s ‘Mighty Atom’.

BTV Presenter: Very interesting Miss Corelli, if that’s your real name. You’re not related to those tyre people, are you? We’ll see what our panel of judges make of your story after we hear from our final contender.

Third Contender: Top of the morning to you all. Well, after listening to those two, you would think that we’re trying to find the Mighty Atom of coxing or gondolling, if there is such a thing. Not-at-all, there’s only one rowing Mighty Atom and that’s little old me, and I’m still alive which is more than can be said for those two imposters. I don’t suppose either of them ever heard of Twitter. Well one click is all you need to find that they know a Mighty Atom when they see one, especially since I changed my profile picture just for today’s show. Of course, I did a bit of rowing, both at home in Ireland and here in Blighty where I was given the name by none other than the founder of my local club in MK.

BTV Presenter: That’s all very well but what is your real name?

Third Contender: Oh, my name it means nothin’, my age it means less. If you want to know who I am, just check out the contributors’ page. Speaking of age, this is me in a boat over 30 years ago.

Carbocraft 4+ with wooden ‘Macon’ oars – me with hair – must be 1982/83.
Carbocraft 4+ with wooden ‘Macon’ oars – me with hair – must be 1982/83.

After I hung up my oars for the second time, I took up scribbling about rowing (don’t tell me you’ve not noticed the hidden Bob Dylan quotes!) and occasionally people even read them. I’m sure HTBS readers will know the truth when they hear it and this little ditty is just for them:

There was a little rower, nicknamed the Mighty Atom.
His moniker was difficult for Mighty A. to fathom.
You see, he wasn’t very big or even very small
And neither was he really short and certainly not tall.
One day when writing for a blog, his heart went in to spasm.
Oh dear, he thought, I do believe I’m the victim of sarcasm!

BTV Presenter: Thank you No. 3. That’s a first for the show. Now while we’re waiting for the results to come in we have a special throwback programme to show you. This edition of ‘To Tell the Truth’ was aired in the USA on 1 April 1958 and features Irish American Jack Kelly, Jr. Hosted by Bud Collyer, Jack appears as the central character in the second game (8.26 in) and won’t prove too difficult to identify. If only I could say the same about today’s trio!

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