As Labor Day rolls around this year, members of a local athletic association are getting ready to celebrate a milestone anniversary.
The Edgewater Athletic Association, a men’s group in the gated waterfront Throggs Neck community, is preparing to host the centennial celebration of Edgewater Park’s Labor Day Olympics.
The annual test of athletic prowess and show of sportsmanship will include three days of activities over the holiday weekend, with a total of 118 athletic and family-oriented events, including many swimming and field events, according to the program.
“So many races that originally started 100 years ago are still in the program,” said Brendan McArdle, EAA president, adding “The whole event this year is going to be focused around the 100th anniversary.”
Both children and parents in the community look forward to the mini-Olympics every year, said McArdle.
In addition to the races, some of the activities from the 1910s and 1920s, like a pie-eating contest, will be part of this year’s events, he said.
The committee shared photos with the Bronx Times of swimming and running races from the 1920s that are in the spirit of the games taking place from Saturday, September 3 to Monday, September 5.
The Olympics got their start, according to a narrative published in the Edgewater Park Volunteer Ambulance Corps.’ publication The Alarm in 1988, when Edgewater Park was a summer community of only seasonal tents and bungalows.
Many of the occupants of the camp in the summer during the early years were members of boy’s clubs, according to the narrative.
“These young fellows were members of Bronx athletic groups, church associations, or the YMCA, and many of them were fine athletes,” the narrative reads.
Vinnie Bennett and Ed Aram appear to have been the first organizers, and at first they geared the events towards adults, with children watching from the sidelines or participating in a handful of lesser events.
“Only the adults won medals, while the children won prizes of tennis racquets, brownie cameras, baseballs or skates,” stated the narrative.
The EAA itself goes back to the 1920s, and it continued to hold the games with a break only in the final years of the Great Depression and during World War II.
When they were revived in 1947, they were modernized, streamlined and systematized into a pocket-sized Olympics, according to the narrative.
The Bronx Times’ own history columnist, the late Bill Twomey, wrote about the early days of the games, said McArdle.
Among early events were a ‘Charlie Chaplin Race’ for women where their ankles were loosely tied together to make them walk in a shuffle, like the famous movie actor, stated Twomey in his column.
There was also a Chaplin novelty race for men where they started out in bathing suits and had to add clothing as they ran along the course, he wrote
Water contests included canoe tilting, where opponents used long poles to tip each other’s canoe, stated Twomey, and also diving.