percy williams olympic gold medal 1928


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Samuel Hawley is a writer of narrative nonfiction and fiction. His books are highly eclectic. He has written about 16th-century East Asian history, 19th-century Korean-American relations, Olympic sprinting and land speed racing and a circus elephant named Topsy who was electrocuted in 1903. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.


fred williams charlotte rhodes marriage
The registration certificate for the marriage of Frederick Williams and Charlotte Rhodes, December 14, 1904. They would have one child: Percy Alfred Williams, born on May 19, 1908. Fred, listed here as a "mariner," would soon find employment at BC Electric Railway, where he would work for the rest of his life. (One of his co-workers at BC Electric in the 1910s was a fellow English expatriate named William Pratt, later to become the actor Boris Karloff.) Charlotte is listed here as 20 years old but was in fact 17. (Vancouver Public Library)

percy williams childhood stanley park circa 1910
Percy Williams (center), age three, on an outing to Vancouver's Stanley Park in 1911. Percy's father Fred Williams stands with his foot on the running board at right. (Percy WIlliams Collection, hereafter PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

Percy Williams age 5
Percy in the snow with his teddy bear. He appears to be about five here, so this photo would date to around 1913. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

percy alfred williams age five
Percy, about age five, with his teddy bear. He was a beautiful little boy. His mother Charlotte (generally called "Dot") liked to dress him up. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

percy and dot williams circa 1912
Percy and Charlotte Williams circa 1913. The handwriting on the photo reads "Percy & Mother".
(PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

percy williams cupid arrow
Young Percy dressed up by Dot as cupid. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

percy williams cadet circa 1920
Percy, around ten years old, in his cadet outfit. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

george howard drawn by percy williams
A drawing by young Percy (note the initials "P.A.W" at bottom right), copied from a Vancouver newspaper cartoon, of theater impresario George B. Howard. Howard had an unknown but evidently close relationship with Percy's mother after she separated from Fred Williams. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

bob granger swimming champ
At about this same time, Percy's future coach Bob Granger was a young man struggling to find his way in life. Bob would never have much success with a conventional career, bouncing from one clerking job to another. He was just too caught up in sports, first as an athlete and then as a coach. This clipping from the Vancouver Sun, July 9, 1917, is evidence of his prowess as a swimmer. (author's collection)

percy williams with dog
Percy with his dog Spot. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

Victoria St Michaels school percy williams
In 1920, at the time of the break-up of Charlotte's and Fred's marriage, Percy was sent away for a term to St. Michaels University School in Victoria, BC. It was here that he started to show a significant talent for running. Here is a page from the school's magazine Black and Red for June of that year, listing Percy as setting a new school record in the under-13 100-yard dash at the St. Michaels' annual athletic meet. (courtesy St. Michaels University School, special thanks to Brenda Waksel, Library Technician and Archivist)

percy williams on horse with gun
Percy in chaps and with rifle on horseback, on holiday at a farm near Lytton, BC. He thoroughly enjoyed these rugged vacations of baling hay and doing chores and hunting. His family encouraged them as a way to build up his strength after a childhood bout of rheumatic fever that doctors said had damaged his heart. (PWC, BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum)

charlottte williams
Percy's mother Charlotte Williams in the mid-1920s. (City of Vancouver Archives)

samuel hawley i just ran percy williams worlds fastest human

copyright 2011 Samuel Hawley