The Silver Lining in a Melrose Attic
Clarence DeMar Wins and Loses a Trophy
Recently a collector discovered a wee bit of Irish silver in an attic in Melrose, Masachusetts.
In need of some repair, this is a First Place trophy for the 1933 Cleveland "Irish Day" Marathon, won by the legendary Boston Marathon champion Clarence DeMar. The race took place on August 17th, sponsored by the United Irish Societies of Cleveland.
DeMar lived in Melrose with his mother from age 21 until his early 40s and was a member of the Melrose American Legion Post. He often wore a Melrose singlet in races, as shown here when he won the 1930 Boston Marathon.
He later moved to Keene, New Hampshire, so did he leave the trophy in the attic of his mother's Melrose home when he moved?
Demar was 44 years old at the time of the Cleveland Marathon, he had won the Boston Marathon for a record seventh and final time three years earlier. 31 runners entered the inaugural Irish Day race which DeMar won in 2 hours 54 minutes.
In Demar's 1937 autobiography "Marathon" he recounts the Cleveland Marathon in the chapter, "Some Victories in My Old Age":
After 1930, my next marathon victory did not come until 1933, when I was invited to Cleveland for the first marathon of the United Irish Societies . We ran from one side of the city right through the center of the lake metropolis and ended at Euclid Park.
We're willing to bet that the arch was the finish line.
Photo courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society
The race came on a scorching day. I had the lead at the half way point and tore through the principal streets of Cleveland with two motor cops and sirens clearing the way. The Irish must have great influence out there to thus stall traffic and other business right in the middle of the afternoon.
I was both amused and pleased to have authority precede me and clear the road before thousands of Ohioans. Many of them had not seen races before and hence were not so enthusiastic as in Boston or New York. However, they seemed to know me and several shouted something like "DeMar-r-r, the old fellow is pretty good yet." In all my career I've never felt prouder than this day in the lead with two sirens screeching passage.
Coming down the last few miles I was sure of winning, barring accident, but small boys on bikes always a threat to make one. Finally I won in a little over three hours. Percy Wyer of Toronto, forty-eight years old, was second. Percy's friends let it be known that he could have beaten me only the officials led him on the wrong course. But they were mistaken. It happened this way. At a point about 18 miles from the start in some park the arrow on the course pointed one way and the officials for some reason steered all the runners including Wyer and myself over another route for a few miles.
It was unfortunate that so excellent a race should have had this flaw. They might at least have taken down the sign. When the arrow says one way and the officials another, the only thing to do is to go as the officials say. Usually courses are fairly well marked with signs or guides. I only recall going wrong once in all my experience. That was a minor race and I got back on the course before the finish and no one knew the difference. Once, too, in a cross country race at Franklin Park, Boston, they told us to go between the red and white flags, but that there were also some golf course flags and to use our own judgement on these! I simply followed the leaders.
Percy Wyer of the Monarch Althetic Club finished second. Here's a picture.
Wyer competed in the marathon at two Olympics representing Canada, he finished 45th at the 1928 Amsterdam Games and DeMar finished 27th. Wyer finished 30th in the 1936 Berlin Games.
Many thanks to Gerard Ottaviano for the trophy photo and information on the inaugural Cleveland Marathon. Gerard plans to restore the trophy to its former glory.
November 13, 2021