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.


Here are a few of the letters Percy wrote to his mother and his friends at the time of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

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Sunday, July 21, 1928

Holland Hotel, Amsterdam

Mes Chers Enfants:

     Everything here is uckle buckle. Yesterday I met a lot of fellows on the American team, Paddock, Scholtz and some others.

     This place may be all right for some people but I think it’s the bunk. Vancouver is bad enough but there’s foreigners here any and every place you go. They gawk and stare at us but the best of it all is that we can stand up before them, look straight in their faces and tell them to go to Eagle Lake, and I’m telling you we certainly tell them off.

     Talk about cheap good gosh you can get suits here for 8 guilders 75 cents. This is exactly $3.50 in our money, and they are good suits, three piece and everything. I’m buying an expensive one and so are about three other fellows. Pilling, Glover, Jimmy Ball and I went into a store and ordered suits for all of us. Pretty expensive too, 25 guilders 25 cents. This is just a shade under ten dollars. The suit is an English whipcord. Not Bad Eh?

     I’m rooming with Stan Glover, Doral Pilling and Harry Warren now. We picked up Warren in London. Doral is a great big fellow and he and I go around all the time together. If we get into a row I’m sure he can get us out. He was boxing champ at his school for awhile. Bob Granger blew in yesterday. I certainly was glad to see him.

     Has Wee Dupe been behaving himself with the girls? I suppose it’s a silly question to ask because I’m sure he hasn’t. Doggone but I wish I was up at Ethle’s camp this week end, all we do here is run, in the morning and at night. It seems to put a rough edge on your temper. The slightest little thing makes you mad. They say a fellow is in good shape if he’s that way. Well maybe, but I doubt it.


     I guess I’m behind now in dues so I’ll enclose a couple of dollars.

          Remember me to every body,

                                                                        Votre bon ami,


August 4, 1928

Holland Hotel, Amsterdam

Dear Mother:

     Everything here is just great. I guess there isn’t any use in telling you about the 100 and 220 sprints because you can read all about it in the write-ups. To-day is the last day we have to run or maybe we will have to run tomorrow too we aren’t sure yet.

     We leave here Monday morning for London, and take part in the Empire Games in which there were fifteen of out team chosen to take part. This is the most that has ever been chosen from Canada before. After that I think they want some of us to go to Scotland or Ireland and then I think that a few of us are wanted to go to Paris to make a showing in some meet. If we go, it will be by plane that should be quite an experience. I have had offers from nearly everyone to go and run in their country. Sweden, Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia and New Zealand.

     Last night an other fellow and myself were invited to have dinner at the England training camp and they certainly gave us a reception.

     I have an awful slew of telegrams and cables from everybody. Everybody on the team has decided that I must go to the best University now without fail. They tell me that all I have to do is chose my own school and then let that school know. All the officials here have decided also that I must go to school. This morning I got a telegram from some firm in Vancouver that if I hadn’t decided to go to school that I would be given a good position as soon as I returned home. Not so bad. I don’t know what I have to do for the committee here but they have decided that they won’t let me run any more flat races. They are only going to let me run in relay races.

     There isn’t anything more to write about now so just remember me to everybody. I think we are leaving England on the 24th of this month.



August 9, 1928

Onslow Court Hotel, London

Dear Mother:

     We are now in London. I often wondered at some of the expressions used in “So this is London.” I don’t now. You can go along the street and inquire for some place on the opposite side of the street and any body you ask will first give you a blank stare and then shake their head, say they never heard of the place, and then go quietly back to their day-dreaming ... [Went to the zoo with Doral Pilling. Impressed by the buses and subways. Having a hard time finding decent presents for people.] ... Doral and I have come to the conclusion that the slogan over here is, “What’s good enough for my grand father is good enough for me.” That is the way in which everything here is run.


     I can’t imagine anyone saving up good money and then wasting it by buying accommodations in Europe for a trip. It’s plain foolish.... Remember me to the Millars, Allens and Spuddie.

Love Always,


Sunday [August 12, 1928]

Grand Hotel, Paris


....The trip over in the plane was great, they carried the girls’ chaperone off the plane on a truck. She fainted a couple of times and was in a deuce of a fix the rest of the trip. The others were nearly as bad. Sea-sickness is nothing compared to this. I wouldn’t have cared if the plane went down in a tail-spin. We started up in one plane and got up a long way when the pilot found the engine was stalling. So we nicely glided back to earth and started off in another plane. Then the trouble started. Every once in awhile the plane would hit a pocket and then it would roll like a ship in a storm. They supply us all with nice paper bags for any excess baggage we wish to dispose of during the trip. I still have mine for a souvenir along with one other fellow....

samuelhawley I JUST RAN percy williams the worlds fasetst human

copyright   2011 Samuel Hawley