The Paper Route
By Forrest (Jamie) Jamieson
Now and then when I find myself in a gathering of old-timers (persons of my
age), someone will mention how rough the Depression days were! As I look back
now, I don't recall that life was all that bad. True, I was always hungry
but that came with the territory of being young. I actually missed few
meals. A country boy that wasn't afraid to do hard work could always trade
work for a meal from a neighboring farmer.
So it was in the fall of 1931. An early maturing lad of 12 years, 5' 9"
and weighing close to 145 lbs, neighbors had only to tell me that I could pass
as a 14 or 15 year old and I would do anything in the line of hard physical
labor for them . My parents had difficulty in getting me to perform
routine menial chores.
In my world, at that time, a truly important happening had to do with baseball.
The St Louis Cardinals had just defeated the Philadelphia Athletics 4 games to 3
in the World Series. I became "hooked" on major league baseball and my
dream was to one day play baseball for the Cardinals. Reality presented a
different face. My father was closing in on his 65th birthday and worked
now and then as a farm laborer. This was in the final months of the Hoover
Administration — before FDR, the New Deal, old-age pensions and Social Security!
An older brother was "farmed out" to live with a chicken farmer for his board
and room. My younger brother and I shared a mattress placed on the floor.
My mother cooked on a wood stove and went outside to pump water. We all
shared a Chic Sale - type outhouse located 40 yards deep in the lot. We
managed to survive. It was at this time that the wheel of fortune spun in
Late that October, a man from the Sacramento Bee came to our place looking for
me. I was rarely ever at home during the day so he left word with my
mother that he had a job for me. Apparently, someone told him that I was
dependable? I met Vernon P. Willett the next day and he explained
why he was going to start a paper route.
It appeared that a number of homes, mainly farmhouses, were current subscribers
to the Bee. They received the paper by mail a day and sometimes two days
after it was printed in Sacramento. Mr. Willett hit upon the idea of
soliciting subscriptions along a certain 3 mile stretch of straight road, to
subscribe for the afternoon Bee. After spending a few days he had 30
subscribers. About half were already receiving the paper through the mail
and half were new subscribers. His "pitch" was that they would receive the
Bee on the same day that it was printed. At that time the Bee was an
afternoon paper that was printed daily at 11:30 AM in Sacramento (no Sunday
His promise was that the paper for this new route would be put aboard the 2 PM
Sacramento-Stockton Greyhound Bus, to be dropped off at the intersection of the
Lincoln Highway and the lone-Jackson Road (Now known as Highway 99 & Twin Cities
Road). The 30 subscribers were delighted.
Mr. Willett enthused that eventually other subscribers would join as the
word spread about. "Get in", I'll take you around the route". The
route started at the intersection of Highway 99 and Twin Cities Road and headed
directly east (toward Herald). The 30 prospective customers were thinly
scattered. Some customers were close to the road, some had their homes on
spur-roads that fed onto Twin Cities Road.
I started the route on November 1st. The total distance at the beginning
was six miles (out and back). I couldn't afford a bicycle so there was no
choice but to walk the route. It worked out that I netted 17 cents a month
for each customer. That amounted to $5.10. That doesn't seem much by
today's reckoning but that could purchase considerable in 1931. So, I
started out walking the route, thinking in terms of walking the full 6 miles.
I discovered on that first day that I was never to walk the full distance, out
The Greyhound bus dropped my bundle of papers, across the road from the Twin
Cities School, at Matt Leavey's restaurant and service station, at close to 2:30
PM. Twin Cities School was dismissed at 3:15 PM. Sunset varied from
4:45 to 5:30 PM. Obviously, I would have to step along.
That first month I felt sorry for myself, but once I got into the routine, I
realized that it was easy. As I headed east, my load lightened and as soon
as I delivered the last paper, I started hitch-hiking back homeward. I
never failed to catch a ride some part of the way back.
The winter months had the potential to be nasty, but I don't recall getting
drenched at any time during the entire 4 plus years was on the route. Get
rained on, yes, get soaked, no.
After the first 3 months, I reversed the order of delivering. I would pick
up my entire bundle of papers at the Greyhound bus drop-off, hitch a ride all
way to the end of the route and start delivering in reverse order. I
recall that it worked out to be faster.
So it went until I entered my freshman year at Galt High in the fall of 1933.
Leaving grade school and entering high school caused a time- change in my paper
pick-up and delivery times. My pick-up when I attended Twin Cities School
was school dismissal at 3:15 PM. Pick-up time after I started to high
school ranged between 3:45 and 4:00 PM . This later pick-up became a
daylight problem during the winter months. My subscribers were not happy
about the later delivery time. Something would have to be done to resolve
I knew that stepping up my pace would help in part. But exactly how I was
to do this, I hadn't a clue. I tried several patterns of walking fast and
trotting. One thing that I came up with was the power pole game.
Simply, it dealt with running at a certain pace without stopping. These
huge public utility poles were placed 85 yards apart on the right hand side of
the road (heading eastward toward Herald) and continued on past the end of the
route. I didn't measure the distance between these poles until years
later. At that time yardage didn't matter—it was a war between the
distances between those monstrous poles and my inner self. When I first
started this game, I couldn't run more than four of these distances between the
poles without stopping. How fast did I run? I did not run "flat-out"
because I knew that I could not possibly run "flat-out" for very long.
Also, I had to "stuff" each paper into either a mailbox or a newspaper
receptacle as quickly as possible and not mutilate it. Within the
framework of this "game", my object was to determine how many "distances"
between the huge poles I could "mow-down".
Before the end of March (1934) I conquered all the poles to the end of the
route. The pace was somewhere between a fast trot or jog. Whatever
the pace, it solved the problem having the papers delivered before the sun went
down. I didn't try the "power-pole game" every day. Maybe two or
three days in a week. When I did conquer all of the poles, I never tried
it again. For one thing, daylight hours were increasing and the need
The days on the paper route did leave a trace of habit pattern. Now,
whenever I day dream about something that has an exhilarating effect on me, I
feel an uncontrollable urge to get up and run. Did this mean that I was
beginning to enjoy running?
I mentioned earlier that just before the paper route I had become "hooked" on
major league baseball and that it was my dream to become a professional baseball
player. It could be that the Galt High School baseball teams of 1932 and
1933 played a part in my separating dream from reality?
The GABS baseball team of 1932 did not have an excellent win and lost record,
but it did have ten kids that played together all that year. When the
regular high school season was over they continued to play in summer league
games. Most of them tried out for and made the Lodi American Legion team.
As a matter of fact, there were more Galt kids playing on the Lodi team than
there were Lodi kids!
This playing baseball almost all summer had a surprising result Playing some 30
plus games that summer transformed some of the players from fairly good players
into seasoned veterans! Some players joined teams in the Sacramento Winter
League and this further added a higher level of experience. So when these
juniors and seniors returned to the 1933 Galt High team, it was no great
surprise they were undefeated in 12 consecutive league and C.I.F. play-off
games. Galt High won the Northern California C.I.F. title by
shutting out Woodland High 4 to 0. Stan Steely, Galt High's pitcher, was
an outstanding pitcher. Stan went on to play professional baseball in the
minor leagues. His career ended some 4 years later with a crippling
I watched enough of those 1933 games to begin to suspect that I might not be
good enough to be in their class. I looked forward that spring day in
April of 1934 when Coach Fry opened the baseball season with a "try-out" day.
I didn't think that 1 was a cinch but did believe that I was good enough to be
granted a tryout The coach totally ignored me. I was crushed! It was the
same coach that coached the Steely-led team. I learned later that while he
didn't have players comparable to the 1933 team, he earlier contacted current
prospects he knew and issued equipment to them. No "try-out" was held.
It was a consolation of sorts that no freshman did make the team. I moped
about a bit but life must go on. I vowed that I would show them next year!
In the fall of 1934, I returned to Galt High as a sophomore. A new
principal took over that fall and brought with him a new coach. In those
days in small rural schools, a coach taught all of the boys P.E. classes
and coached all team sports. I met the new coach when I reported to the
compulsory P.E. class. Some time after roil call and during the
organizing period, Coach Ellis called me aside and asked my name. He could
tell from his roll-call sheet that I was a sophomore but the roll-call didn't
show that I was 6' and weighed over 150 Ibs. "Do you play football?" "No,
I only play baseball", I answered. He then went on to make a sales talk
for football, but I wasn't listening and he soon realized it. I could
sense that I might have made an enemy?
I did get along with Ellis in the daily P.E. class that semester and into
the spring semester. The day after the last basketball games, shocking
news was announced that there would be no baseball team representing our high
school that spring. It was like a death in the family to me. The
announcement pointed out that due to the high cost of baseball equipment, a
change to having a track team would be made. Track would give an
opportunity to three times the number of baseball players to compete and the
total cost was less. Something was said about there being a Depression.
But I was angry and joined in with some of the few returning baseball players to
make up a petition, protesting this ridiculous and unbelievable circumstance.
When we could find only 40 signers (out of over 220 students) we knew our
chances were slim, but we submitted it nonetheless. It was turned down
politely but firmly.
I was a poor loser and sulked around and made myself a true enemy of Coach Ellis
as well as some of the other faculty members.
After three weeks of this immaturity, my best friend, a fellow baseball player,
cornered me and said, "Why don't you come out for track? You know that
there is a football throw event as one of 13 events in a track meet.
I'm out for it myself. You have a damn good arm and I think you'd do
better than me". I didn't say anything but I thought about it. I had
contacted someone the year before to take over the paper route earlier when I
thought I would be able to go out for baseball. I had taught him the route
then and knew that he would do a good job. I got in touch with him again
to see if he was still interested and he was. Okay, I'll give this a try.
Warren's comment about my having a strong arm might have turned the trick?
The next day I showed up at the track, dressed in my gym clothes and street
shoes and started throwing the football with my baseball friend. I wasn't
there long when Coach Ellis spotted me. He came over to where I was
throwing. He didn't have a smiling face. "What are you doing out
here?" I told him that I'd like to give throwing the football a try. He
grunted and with an edge of anger and impatience, responded, " Throwing the
football takes a lot more work than just throwing. You have to build up
your legs as well. To give you an idea, I want you to run a quarter-mile
to see how much running you need to do". He called across the field to a
senior, "Les, come over here!" "Les, I want to time you in a 440. Jamieson
here, will run with you. Both of you do the best you can". .
I never considered myself a runner. A runner was someone that could run
fast—like at a picnic-day. Usually a 50 or 100 yd. dash. I had
never seen a track meet nor had I won a picnic-day race.
Years later, sometime during WWH, I visited the Ellis family in San Francisco,
Coach Ellis confided that when he saw me out on the field that day he determined
that would not have me on the track team. I was a trouble maker that he
could do without. He said that it was not his intention to kick me off the
team without cause but rather to run me until I got tired of it and would quit
on my own.
Ellis started us off with a voice command. I tucked in behind Les and
followed him just off his shoulder for the first 220. Not bad, I thought!
Then I had a sudden, reckless impulse to throw away all caution, Hell, I run
spurts like this on the paper route! I can still hear my heavy street shoes make
a sort of plopping noise. I finished far ahead of Les. I was
breathing hard and knew that I couldn't have run much farther.
Coach Ellis came over to where I was wobbly trying to recover, resting my hands
on my knees, "I don't know what kind of baseball player you can be, but a look
at this stop-watch tells me that if you are smart enough to listen to me and do
what I tell you to do, you could be a damned good runner!"
Stop-watch time didn't mean much to me at that time but the passion with which
Ellis spoke, convinced me to listen and do as he suggested. It was truly a
turning point in my life. Ten days later, in my first track meet, I ran a
winning and much easier 54 sec flat.
The season was almost over before I ran in my first inter-school competition.
It took 10 days before I could get eligibility clearance to compete. Then
I ran in two dual meets, winning easily in 440 and 880 yd. doubles.
The times were not great but the competition was miserable. The only real
competition that I faced was when I ran in the Roseville Invitational meet.
Some 30 plus school were entered. I received a 4th place ribbon in the
half-mile run. The time of 2:06 was a good time for a sophomore.
The first Saturday in May initiated the first of the Northern California Section
(from Merced to the Oregon border) meets. These 1935 C.I. F.
Section elimination meets did just that. It eliminated me. No one
timed me that day but I suspect that my time was faster than my Roseville
Invitation effort. Jerry Lopes ran under 2 minutes in winning. I
placed fourth but only 3 were qualified to continue onto the next sub-division
My first year in track lasted only 5 weeks. I wasted almost a month
pushing the petition to retain baseball. I wouldn't have admitted it then
but I was pleased to have found this new activity.
That summer (1935) I worked as a header-tender on a grain harvester and was paid
$3.00 a day, working for 30 days. That was a lot of money and I went wild.
I bought my first suit before turning over the remainder to my father. I
regretted buying the suit ($ 15) when I later faced the question—just where
would I wear it?
I continued doing the paper route at the same time I worked on the harvester.
This was possible because the harvester crew started at 8: AM and finished at 4:
PM. All of the other crewmen were dairy workers and had to be available
for the evening milking. I didn't mind doing the route later, and
especially after swallowing the threshing dust earlier that morning. After
a shower, picking up the papers at 4: 30 PM and jogging over the route without
dust, made delivering papers a pleasure.
I decided to prepare myself for running in this, my junior year (1935-36).
Baseball still held an interest for me but I began to notice articles about the
on-coming Olympic Games that were to be held the next year in Berlin. I
read about Glen Cunningham and how he overcame being badly burned to eventually
break the world record for the mile run. Cunningham also held the national
high school record in the mile run at 4:24.4 (made in 1929 or 1930. My
choices of heroes was beginning to shift.
Although Coach Ellis was busy coaching football, he always took time to stop and
have a word with me. It was on one of these chats that he first learned
about my having had a paper route for the past four years. I'm not certain
that this disclosure had anything to do with Ellis telling me that there was
going to be a big cross country meet held at Linden (Southeast of Stockton and
about 25 miles from Galt). He said, "You might like to run in it. If
you, let me know and I'll arrange my Saturday to see that you get there.
Might be a good idea if you ran a little to prepare for it." I said, "Sure,
sounds like fun."
So, On a Saturday morning in mid-October, Coach Ellis came by the house and
picked me up for the trip to Linden. As he drove along, he explained that
the race would start at 10 o'clock sharp, but we should arrive there earlier to
go over the course before the start. He explained that cross country race
courses were not like the running on a standard quarter-mile track. No two
cross country courses were the same, so it was always a good idea to see what
was the course was like ahead of time.
A cross country meet was a new thing for central valley schools, in fact, it was
the first invitational cross country meet to be held in the Northern Section of
California. Coach Ellis was a native of Kansas where cross country was
established as a fall sport for high school athletes for a number of years.
We arrived early and I had a chance to walk the course that we were to run over.
And that helped me somewhat, but I was not prepared to see over 100 other
athletes gathered there to get ready to run in this one, gigantic race!
I was awestruck and in shock. It took some time to get all of us lined up
to start. We all lined up in the middle of the football field, with chalk
lines to direct us into a funnel-shaped opening that narrowed to the main
course, the width of a road. This was not like running on my paper route!
I did not get off well at all. My early concern was not to get crushed by
the mass of runners where we entered the main funnel at the main course.
Some started out in a sprint and after 600 yards a few were no longer interested
in running farther. The full distance was 1.72 miles and most of the early
sprinters were walking at the mile mark. I finally awoke to the fact that
I was in a footrace and moved up rapidly to pass runners on the final part of
the course. I finished fourth in a final sprint to the finish line.
Catalan of Stockton High won the race. He had run a 4:48 mile during the
previous track season. Doug Busby ( Sacramento High) placed second.
Busby was to win 120 HH in the state meet at Gridley. I don't recall who
It took several weeks for me to recover from the impact of this event. I
decided that I would do some extra running on my own in what was left of the
fall months. I was covering the paper route and merely added distance by
extending my regular route roads.
I gave up the paper route in mid-January, 1936. Times had changed since I
started on November 1, 1931. Roosevelt brought in old-age pensions, Social
Security, PWA, WPA, the New Deal, etc. I no longer had to do the route as
an act of survival. True, I hated the route in those initial years, but
over the entirety of the route's tenure it left me with a positive confidence.
I learned from the route not to be fearful of running longer distances at less
than a fast pace. Being on one's feet and jogging at an uninterrupted
rhythmic pace wasn't all that difficult and more surprising, I began to enjoy
such sessions. The key words were time running on one's feet—not the
distance of miles run!
When the 1936 track & field season opened in late March, I was ready for it.
Coach Ellis had just finished his basketball season and opened the season with a
home meet. He entered me in the mile run. I had never been timed in
a mile run but was aware that any time under 4:50 was respectable. I ran
that first mile in 4:45. It was easy!
I was to be undefeated in the Northern California Section (a section that
stretched from Merced to the Oregon border). This meant that for some nine
(9) races leading up the C.I.F. State Meet. I didn't have any
competition and I sorely needed it. I became what some refer to as a "hot-dogger"
-a show-off, etc. I would run with the pack for 3 laps and at the gun-lap,
blitz the field with a 61-62 second last lap. This was a display of rude
I didn't know at the time that Coach Ellis was not going to be at Galt High
School that next year, 1937, my senior year. He had already signed a
teaching contract with the San Francisco City Unified School District. It
was the goal of almost every teacher to land a teaching position with a large
city school district. It offered almost double the salary and the prospect
of obtaining life-long tenure.
On the day of the state meet Ellis picked me up at the high school and the two
of us headed north toward Gridley, the site of the 1936 C.I.F. State Track
As we drove along, Coach Ellis commented on the past season and how well I had
done. He mentioned that of the 16 runners entered in the race I was to run
in, nine runners had faster times than my best time. "It's not likely that
you'll be able to outrun the top runners from the Southern Section, the Los
Angeles Section, the North Coast Section. Some of the runners from those
big city schools ran faster times than you have and place third to get to
today's meet. Remember this, most of these top runners are seniors and
will not be around next year. Next year will be easier for you with them
gone. It will be good experience for you, so just get in there and do the
best you can."
Whether or not his intention was to take pressure off me, I don't know but the
effect was to liberate me. Where I was apprehensive as we drove earlier in
the trip, I now looked forward to get to Gridley.
When we reached the Gridley High School track, the meet had already started.
We didn't have to be there until much later. Coach Ellis ran into a
coaching acquaintance and sat with him in the stands. I wandered about
watching the pole vault and high jump finals. I saw Jerry Lopes of Auburn
win the 880 yd run in a 1:57.1 time. I knew Jerry because Auburn was in
our Northern Section.
I walked past a knot of spectators gathered around a radio, intently listening
to it. I asked, "What's going on?" The answer, "That's KFBK's broadcasting
this track meet." I was astounded! I didn't dream that they broadcast high
school track meets. I listened to the broadcast of the 440 yd. run.
The sportscaster cited the runners with the best previous times before the race
began and when the race started named the early leaders up to the finish.
It was exciting!
Then it struck me. They were going to broadcast my race in the mile.
Well, how about that! I thought: I don't have a chance to win according to Coach
Ellis, so why don't I just start out near the front, so the broadcaster will
call out my name at the beginning. Maybe someone back home at Galt may be
listening and hear my name. I became more and more excited the more I
thought about it. Then another thought hit me! There was this girl that I
had a schoolboy crush on, being a shy type where girls were concerned, I never
spoke ten words to this girl in the three years we were in school Maybe she'll
be listening to this broadcast and hear my name?
I couldn't wait for the race to start. The mile run was the next to last
running event, just before the 880 yd. relay. Finally, the time
came. After the scratches, the runners that didn't show up, there were 12
entries in mile as we lined up for the start. I was in lane 5 and at the
starter's gun, I broke out faster than ever before. I ran fast to clear
the crowd at the first turn and found myself on the pole in second place,
exactly where I wanted to be.
I counseled myself, stay right here as long as you can. At the end of the
first lap, I was about 7 yards behind the leader and I could hear heavy
breathing and lots of footsteps just behind me. Okay, just stay here and
see what happens.
I kept my second place position for another lap....Good show! The lead is now 5
yards. At 2 1/2 laps, I could no longer hear the breathing and footsteps
behind me. I was surprised that I was still there in 2nd place and yet
even more surprised that I was not as tired as I thought I would be.
Anyway, I certainly accomplished my plan of having the radio broadcaster mention
When I entered the backstretch of the last lap, I knew that the lead had
narrowed to less than 5 yards As I passed the 220 yd. mark on the
backstretch, half a lap to the finish line, the lead narrowed a few more yards.
I was astonished that I was running as well as I was. I was tired, but in
a numbing sort of way. I was so busy celebrating the fact that I was still
in 2nd place that the thought of winning never entered my mind.
Now, at the middle of the last turn (110 yds. from the finish line) I
could sense that Simon (Scott) was coming back to me. It wasn't that I
sprinting but rather maintaining my same pace while Simon was fading a bit.
We finished the last 50 yards with Simon gradually losing his lead little by
little but holding on to win by two feet. He was timed in 4:31.2 and I was
timed in 4:31.4 That race occurred over 60 years ago. I have re-run that
race over a thousand times since.
Coach Ellis consoled me on the way home. I had run eleven seconds
faster than my best previous mark. I was a 16 year-old junior who
wasn't supposed to run as well as I did. I never did tell Coach
Ellis about the radio broadcast. I was going to tell him about it
but decided not to when on the next Monday, when I returned to school and asked
if anyone had heard the State Track Meet on the radio. No one had.
I was to learn later that the radio station completed its broadcast of the State
Meet and had switched to a regularly planned program at 4PM. The
mile run was run at 5:10 P.M.
1 have stated above that I have re-run that race a thousand times.
The "what-ifs" have had several variants. If I had run the race
differently, would I have won the race? Would I have done better if I had
not heard the KFBK broad cast? Would I have won the race if I used my
usual "sit and kick" tactics?
In those days, 60 plus years ago, most high school track and field coaches had a
total training program lasting about 45 days. There would be little
or no fall training because cross country was practically non-existent.
Today, high school track and field practice usually starts with the new semester
(Feb. l). Cross country usually starts with opening of the fall
semester. Most good high school distance runners keep training through the
summer months. Compare the totals of 60 years ago with today’s training
numbers and you have an answer to the question, "Are today's kids as good as the
kids of yore who didn't have automobiles and television?” Today's kids have
better times and marks because they work harder, coupled with the fact that they
take more time to train than their grandfathers did!
When I was 12 years old, I started delivering newspapers. The route's
total distance was 6 miles. I did not have a bicycle so I had to walk,
trot, jog, run, or hitch-hike. An element of basic survival was involved
so I had no choice. But I did do It, I had that route for 4-1/2 years.
Consider the totality of these months of walking, trotting, jogging and just
plain running. By the time I was 16 years old I had acquired an out of the
ordinary state of physical fitness.
I started with a negative attitude to the act of running and with the passage of
time my attitude changed to positive. The socio/economic
(poverty/Depression) conditions had a strong influence on the resulting
successes, so give them their due. Had it not been for The Depression, I
would not have been involved with delivering papers under such unrewarding
conditions, but Necessity was involved!
I cannot pinpoint the exact time when my attitude to running changed from
negative to positive. Of course, it happened gradually. One day,
when I was going to high school, I became aware that I didn't mind running on
Earlier, I stated that Coach Vern Ellis was an outstanding coach as well as a
marvelous person and that I owed much to him. However, after all of these
years later, with apologies to the memory of Ellis, I now insist that my real
"coach" was the paper route!
By Michael Elsesser
A Look at the Man - Forrest Jamieson
"The runner is much more than a point-producing, time-recording machine.
He's an artist, as much as a man who plays a violin or writes poetry. The
runner must be allowed to develop his running as an art form."
Forrest Jamieson, to Runner's World Magazine "Booklet of the Month" No.
3 September 1971
Within the pantheon of track and field coaching legends, probably the name
least recognized today belongs to Forrest James "Jamie" Jamieson.
Long-time observers of the San Francisco running scene remember him as the
"father" of local high school distance running, having founded the first
Peninsula cross country team at Palo Alto (Paly) High in 1952. However,
his influence cuts a much broader swath throughout the pages of American
recreational running. To best appreciate Forrest Jamieson's impact, we
shall return to his youth, to an era when the mile was the longest distance run
in high school track programs and cross country teams challenged marching bands
for halftime entertainment honors at Friday night football games
Born in 1919 in Bend, Oregon (coincidentally - or maybe not - a current
hotbed of teenage running talent), Forrest moved with his family to the
California Central Valley town of Galt (near Sacramento) in 1925. Vast
networks of criss-crossing country roads provided fertile running venues;
Forrest would soon develop 55-second quarter-mile speed by running between
telephone poles while delivering the Sacramento Bee newspaper on his childhood
paper route. After competing on Galt High's first cross country team in
1935, moving to the 880 yard and one mile "distance" events during the spring
track season was natural - and highly successful, since his sit-and-kick tactics
garnered a near-miss second-place finish in the mile run at the 1936 California
High School State Track & Field Championships.
It was during his prep track days that Forrest befriended a younger
competitor from nearby rival Stockton High. Many years later, editor and
publisher Bert Nelson would profoundly influence the world of track and field.
**** Graduation from Galt in 1937 was followed by two successful years as a
"do-everything" sprinter/middle-distance runner at Sacramento City College.
Forrest's versatility as a 50 second quarter miler/4:30 miler/10-flat two miler
caught the attention of Franklin "Pitcher" Johnson, track coach at Drake
University who was recruiting in Northern California while interviewing for the
head coaching position at Stanford University (a job he was offered and did
accept). Johnson saw in Forrest the ideal relay specialist, a runner
capable of handling relay legs from the 440 distance on up while scoring
occasional points in the open 880 and mile. Forrest accepted the track
scholarship offer; off to Des Moines he went.
Through his participation on Drake's cross country team, Forrest became
acutely aware of the popularity of this autumn sport throughout the Midwest and
East Coast. (Indeed, Bill Easton - who became Drake's head coach a year
later - hailed from Indiana, a state long embracing of harrier talents.
Indiana University was twice AAU national champion in the 1930s, also winning
NCAA Division I titles in 1938 and 1940. Drake would later dominate
collegiate cross country during the war years, winning NCAA championships in
1944-1945-1946.) Forrest also recognized the important carryover conditioning
effects of fall turf running into the winter/spring track season, which became
clearly evident in the spring of 1941 when he helped lead Drake to a relay
circuit trifecta, winning the 4x880 relay at the Texas, Kansas and Drake Relays.
Drake was a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. Once a year, in
early spring, each conference school would hold a dual track and field meet with
a local non-conference school for the benefit of it's freshmen, who were
ineligible to compete in all NCAA varsity sports at the time. To determine
the best freshman team in the conference, each school would mail ("post") the
results of each freshmen meet to conference headquarters, which would then
tabulate the results and announce the school rankings and best marks.
Years later these paper, or "postal" meets, provided the inspiration for
Forrest's signature innovation as a distance running coach.
Forrest met and married his wife Ruth while at Drake; he graduated in 1943
with his B.A. in Liberal Arts/English.
World War II beckoned; three years of naval service - first as an enlisted
chief petty officer, later as a commissioned officer - took Forrest on tours of
duty to New Caledonia, Okinawa, Pearl Harbor and other landmarks of wartime
fame. During this period, Forrest's running background found him serving
his country as "Chief Athletic Specialist", responsible for maintaining the
physical fitness and preparedness of his ships' crews.
Putting ashore for good in 1946, Forrest enrolled in the San Diego State
College (later University) teachers' accreditation program; he received his
California teaching credentials a year later. He served as an assistant
coach on the track and field team during this period.
Riding the initial shock wave of America's post-war economic boom, Forrest
accepted his first teaching position at newly opened Chula Vista High School in
San Diego County. Here, in the fall of 1947, Forrest Jamieson launched his
head coaching career by founding the school's (boys) cross country program.
Cross country was not new to Southern California. Contemporary records
indicate that Southern Section championships (including San Diego County
schools, which did not form their own section until 1960) date to 1926.
However, few multi-team invitationals were held, in part due to the paucity of
high schools offering cross country as an interscholastic sport. Rather,
most races were dual meets, oftentimes scheduled to start and conclude on tracks
during halftimes of football games.
Effective? Probably. Demeaning? Forrest certainly thought so, and set
about to implement his own solution.
It seemed logical to him that a regularly scheduled series of meets, held at
a single racing venue central to all participating schools, was a more
reasonable option. Thus was born the "Center Meet", an invitational meet
held two or three times each season, every year, offering each runner the
opportunity to guage his progress over the span of his high school running
career. In the fall of 1948, following a year of promoting and
browbeating, Chula Vista hosted its first Center Meet on the grounds of San
Diego State College. As the post-war economic boom accelerated, more
schools opened and more cross country teams sprang forth; Forrest's Center Meets
Coach Jamieson returned to Northern California in 1950 intent on pursuing his
Master's Degree at Stanford University, but found himself instead consigned to
naval duties at to the onset of the Korean War. Forrest returned home in
late 1951 to resume his Stanford studies; by spring 1952 he was teaching and
coaching track and field at nearby Palo Alto High School. In autumn of
that year, Paly had its first cross country team.
Cross country on the San Francisco Peninsula was non-existant at that time.
Indeed, throughout the entire San Francisco Bay area, only Balboa, Poly (now
closed) and Lowell of San Francisco, Lincoln and Tech of San Jose, Hayward,
Bishop O'Dowd and El Cerrito in the East Bay, and Tamalpais in the North Bay are
known to have offered the sport following the war. Even Stanford
University had no cross country team. But it did have a beautiful,
verdant, oak-studded golf course located midway between San Francisco and San
Jose. Just the perfect venue for a Center Meet.
With the assistance of Jack Weiershauser, then head track and field coach at
Stanford, Forrest convinced the University's administration to open its golf
course each fall to the local high school harriers. These Peninsula Center
Meets grew in popularity to 1200 meet participants, eventually overwhelming the
local golfing community which persuaded Stanford to kick the kids off their
course following the 1963 season. Fortunately, through the dedicated
efforts of former Carlmont High coach Loren Lansberry and former College of San
Mateo coach Bob Rush, a permanent home nestled in the Belmont foothills
overlooking the Crystal Springs Reservoirs was secured, where the tradition of
holding Center Meets on the last three Thursdays in October continues to this
day over the rustic, sepentine trails of Crystal Springs International Cross
Stanford University, under new head track and field coach Payton Jordan,
reinstated cross country as an intercollegiate sport in the fall of 1956.
The decade of the X50s proved kind to Forrest Jamieson and his thinclads at
Paly. Winning and record breaking continued unabated, each success
breeding an ever-growing crucible of talented runners to continue the cycle.
Two mile, four mile and distance medley relay records and nation-leading times
were the order of the day. Paly's cross country teams were consistent
North Coast Section champions, captained by a succession of elite harrier stars.
Great coaches beget great athletes; Forrest's legacy will forever be linked
to the career of Ron Larrieu, arguably America's first teenage distance running
prodigy (predating Gerry Lindgren by a decade). Ron Larrieu helped
catapult Palo Alto's cross country team to national prominence while gaining
personal glory as Northern California's Premier harrier throughout his junior
and senior seasons. However, Larrieu's defining prep moment occurred on
the track in late March 1956 when - with virtually the entire San Francisco Bay
area track community in attendance - he raced two miles in 9:39.3, breaking the
national scholastic mark of 9:44.3 set 31 years earlier.
That effort was true history in-the-making, as it represents a clearly
defined launching point for recognition of the two mile run as a legitimate and
necessary addition to high school track programs throughout the country.
Until then, distance running on all levels in the United States was so neglected
that the 9:44.3 from 1925 was not even officially recognized in the high school
record books. Indeed, high school officials discontinued the two mile run
in the early 1930s following a decision to lower the prep eligibility age limit
from 20 to 19. They believed the strain of running such a long distance
was too much for a teenager to handle.
This process for acceptance of the two mile run was fully realized by the
1970s, when elite high school boys broke 9 minutes on a seemingly routine basis.
Ron Larrieu emerged in the early 1960s as one of the country's top distance
specialists, ultimately representing the United States in the 10,000 meters at
the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. In retrospect, Ron and (younger sister)
Francine Larrieu were true pioneers, standard bearers for generations of
American distance runners throughout the past four decades.
Paly's wildly successful distance running program brought similar recognition
to its coach. The name Forrest Jamieson became synonymous with winning and
records on the prep level. He was respected nationwide by his peers as a
builder of character as well as a molder of champions.
Possibly the zenith of Forrest's first decade as coach occurred in June 1956
when Brutus Hamilton, Forrest's close friend and CAL Bears head track coach,
chose him to chair the high school segment of the 1st International Track and
Field Coaches Clinic held on the UC-Berkeley campus. Financing from the US
State Department helped fly in coaches from around the world, bringing
international fame to all in attendance. The original, unvarnished
transcript of Forrest's presentation, "Cross Country for High School Coaches as
I See It," a 15-page distillation of his administrative and coaching
philosophies then extant, is included in this appendix.
By the mid-1950s, head coach Bill Bowerman had built the University of Oregon
cross country and track and field squads into national powerhouses.
Bowerman himself was gaining legendary status as a coach and technical
innovator, constantly tinkering with running surfaces and new shoe designs.
With Stanford's harrier program revived under Payton Jordon, Bowerman brought
his team to the Stanford Golf Course in the fall of 1957 - and his first
encounter with Forrest Jamieson. Their lasting friendship would soon have
profound implications on American recreational and competitive distance running.
Hungarian runners, under internationally renowned coach Mihaly Igloi, were
all the rage in 1955-1956, setting and resetting world distance records and
winning major international races. A move was afoot following the 1956
Hungarian uprising to bring Igloi to the United States (which eventually did
occur) in an attempt to improve elite American distance running.
Forrest Jamieson had a different idea. If he could help runners such as
Ron Larrieu develop world-class talent, why couldn't other high school coaches
throughout the country do the same? Seeking to further develop American distance
running talent at the grass roots level, while concurrently promoting interest
and participation in the sport of cross country, Forrest began the process of
organizing and promoting a nationwide series of "postal meets", two mile races
run on tracks following the conclusion of the cross country season.
This variation on postal track meets from his Drake years would determine an
unofficial national high school cross country team champion: simply total up the
times from the top five runners from each participating postal meet team; the
team with the lowest aggregate time would be the winner. Standardized
track surfaces and the two mile distance would ensure the accuracy of this
nationwide competition. Coaches from around the country would mail or
telex their team and individual times to a central reporting body; results would
then be tabulated and announced soon afterwards.
Forrest first approached SPORTS ILLUSTRATED - and was promptly sent packing.
A more sympathetic ear had to be found - and was, just a few miles away in the
adjacent town of Los Altos. There, Bert Nelson, Forrest's former high
school rival, was editing a small, growing publication titled TRACK AND FIELD
NEWS, a magazine he co-founded with his brother Cordner in 1948. Nelson
readily agreed to promote Forrest's postal meets. Postal meet directors
would mail results to TRACK AND FIELD NEWS, which would tally up the results and
report the top teams and individuals in its January issues.
Through this format, Forrest annually challenged the nation's top high school
cross country teams to match the marks put up by his Paly squads. With
publicity offered through the magazine and the PALO ALTO TIMES newspaper, the
first two mile postal race competitions were launched throughout the United
States following the conclusion of the 1957 cross country season. 1957's
national winner was Morningside of Inglewood, CA in 50:25.5 (10:05.1 per
runner); Paly placed second in 51:14.2.
Paly's John Northway took individual honors in 9:47.0. Within a few
years, nation-leading marks dropped significantly below 50 minutes (sub-10:00
two mile average for five runners). Like the Center Meets, postal
competitions exploded in quality and popularity, rivaling sectional and even
state meets throughout the country for prominence as the "peak" meets of the
year. Eventually, schools competed in up to four postals yearly in an
attempt to beat competing marks. Even three mile postal races were run
during the "boom" years of the late X60s and X70s. Again, Forrest's
instincts for promoting and nurturing young American distance talent had proven
right on target.
As the coup de' grace, California officials finally added the two mile run to
the state track championship format in 1965.
By 1959, Forrest Jamieson had garnered a lifetime of achievements during his
twelve years of coaching. Seeking a change, and wishing to take advantage
of travel and teaching opportunities abroad offered through the State
Department, Forrest, Ruth and their three boys boarded the Pacific Orient Liner
bound for the South Pacific. This year-long sabbatical had been brewing
for years, stirred not only by Forrest's interests in the region's youth fitness
programs, but especially by the phenomenal performances of Australia's elite
middle distance runners - Herb Elliot, John Landy, et. Al. - trained
by mercurial coach Percy Cerruty.
Before anchoring in Australia, the Pacific Orient berthed in New Zealand for
the first two months of the journey. While conducting coaching clinics
throughout Kiwi land, Forrest received word of a shoe cobbler in Auckland, a
former runner renowned throughout this island nation for his revolutionary
coaching methods employed by the country's top distance runners. Though
their first meeting was a bit icy and restrained, Forrest's lifelong friendship
had begun with Arthur Lydiard, mentor to Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and many
others who would gain lasting fame a year later at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.
Forrest was astounded to discover that, in this relatively small city of
Auckland (population 600,000), on a geographically isolated chain of South
Pacific islands, there resided a close-knit clan of some seven of the world's
greatest distance runners, all living and training within a few miles of
Lydiard's home. Equally impressive were the Auckland-area citizens'
"joggers clubs", encouraged and inspired by Lydiard to run 50-60 miles per week,
just for the health of it.
Forrest's fortuitous introduction to Arthur Lydiard, a man now judged to be
one of the most influential figures in the history of distance running, would
challenge and dramatically alter his approach to training American high
schoolers. Their meeting would ultimately usher in a golden new era in the
annuals of American distance running.
Arthur Lydiard was a show cobbler by trade. In the 1950s, before
Olympic glory allowed him to cash in on his name, being a shoe tradesman was his
Forrest remembered good friend Bill Bowerman's show design tinkering after
meeting coach/cobbler Lydiard. Jamie wrote Bowerman, who corresponded with
Lydiard throughout 1960. In January 1961 Bowerman sent star miler Dyrol
Burleson down to New Zealand to compete on the Kiwi summer track and field
circuit and receive firsthand knowledge of the Lydiard training ssystem. A
year later, Bill Bowerman traveled to New Zealand to meet the now famous coach
of gold medalists Peter Snell and Murray Halberg.
Like Jamie, Bowerman was struck not only by Lydiard's revolutionary training
methods, but by how certain of these concepts -specifically, slow running over
long distances, or "jogging" - were being used every day by the local
population. Upon returning to the US, Bowerman promoted jogging as a
health-enhancing exercise to the citizens in his hometown of Eugene. To
these track-mad fans, here was a way to vicariously experience the activity they
loved as a sport. Bowerman found himself preaching to the choir; in short
order, people of all ages were jogging around the streets and trails of Eugene.
Bowerman then wrote Jogging, which described his ideas on slow distance fitness
running. The jogging craze in America had begun.
Oh yes, Bowerman's shoe tinkering. It is unknown to this author exactly
what advice Lydiard offered in regards to shoe design. What is known is
that many years later, Bowerman's outer sole "waffle" design led to the
formation of a small enterprise known as Blue Ribbon Sports. In time, the
company changed its name to a certain goddess of Greek mythology; it no longer
is a small enterprise.
Following his sabbatical, Forrest returned to Palo Alto High School and
resumed his coaching duties in the fall of 1960. He remained Paly's coach
through the spring of 1963.
Forrest parlayed his contacts in the State Department to further
international coaching assignments that continued throughout the 1970s.
Mexico, Papau New Guinea and New Zealand (several times) were interspersed with
teaching and coaching positions at St. Francis High/Mountain View, Pt Loma
High/San Diego, Terman Junior High/Palo Alto, and a final stint as head coach at
Palo Alto High in 1971-1973.
The Jamieson family moved to the San Diego area in 1973, where until 1984
Forrest worked six months each year in an administrative position at the Del Mar
Race Track. He spent the other six months coaching high school and
undertaking various state department assignments, usually in the South Pacific,
frequently New Zealand where he had developed quite a following. In 1984,
37 years after founding Chula Vista High's cross country program, Forrest put
down the whistle for what he thought would be the last time. In 1987,
Forrest and Ruth Jamieson "retired" to the Central Valley town of Lodi, near his
boyhood home in Galt.
However, by 1990, feeling an itch for coaching again that he just couldn't
scratch away, Jamie signed on at Tokay High School in Lodi - but not as a
distance coach. Long aware of a camaraderie unique amongst pole vaulters,
he volunteered his efforts as the school's new pole vault assistant. A
year later, with the opening of Bear Creek High School in north Stockton,
Forrest accepted his last paid coaching position by starting, for the third time
in his career, the school's cross country teams. The somewhat sad and
telling circumstances surrounding these two positions is retold in the following
reprinting of an article on Jamie which appeared in the June 1991 publication of
Joe Henderson's Running Commentary.
To this day one can find Forrest Jamieson involved as ever, volunteering his
efforts as a timer at high school cross country competitions and as a pole vault
official at prep track and field meets throughout the S to ck ton-Lodi region of
Technological innovations, changing population demographics, competition for
talent from other sports, Title IX, different training methods: these factors
and many others have dramatically altered the San Francisco Bay area running
landscape since Forrest Jamieson blazed the first trails back in 1952. The
(belated) 1987 introduction of California's State High School Cross Country
Championships, plus huge mid-season interstate invitationals and the continued
success of the Kinney/Foot Locker National Championships begun in 1979, have
conspired to relegate most postal meets to the pages of history; postals were,
quite literally, victims of their own remarkable success. Center Meets
live on at Crystal Springs, though attracting only local entries as they compete
for talent with the hugely popular Stanford and Mt SAC Invitationals and other
meets drawing regional talent.
Forrest Jamieson's singular goal was to improve both the status and quality
of distance running in the United States by starting at the grass-roots level
with the high school runner. The explosion in popularity of cross country
and two mile track racing in the 11960s and 1970s remains testament to his
vision, resourcefulness and unflagging determination. The popularity of
jogging as a fitness exercise, medically verified in Dr. Ken Cooper's 1968
best-seller Aerobics and by numerous other scientific studies before and since,
can be traced to the 1959-1960 conjunction of Messrs. Lydiard, Jamieson
In many ways, this retelling of Forrest Jamieson's career is the story of the
post-war "modern era" of distance running in America.
One minor but noteworthy item from the history books: it is recorded that
Forrest Jamieson captured second place in the mile run at the 1936 California
state championships. His time of 4:31.5 established a new Galt High School
Sixty years later, it still is.
"I don't coach, I coax. I don't demand. I just try to persuade.
There's a difference."
This was scanned from a copy that was formatted
incorrectly. The paragraph breaks are as close to original as can be
done. A few spellings were corrected.