In 1935 Lewis Gorton and his brothers played in the Failford Football Club. As there were no gyms at the time, training was difficult, so Gorton wrote to Don Athaldo for his mail-order exercise sheets with a personalised program. It was called the ‘Athalding’ method of bodybuilding and after following the program for a month participants sent in a report and received their next training program.1
In the 1920s and 30s Don Athaldo made a name for himself as one of Australia’s famous strongmen. His feats of strength included lifting automobiles, carrying horses up ladders and pulling passenger-laden buses up hills.2 His name was famous internationally and he held many world records for his feats of strength.3 But Athaldo had not always been this way.
Don Athaldo had been born Walter Joseph Lyons in 1895, Condoblin, NSW.4 His mother died soon after his birth and Lyons himself was a sickly child. After seeing a strongman perform at a circus and reading about ancient Greece, Lyons decided to increase his physical strength by correspondence and set upon a lifetime of exercise and empowering others to be the best they could be. In the 1920s he changed his name to ‘Don Athaldo’ and forged his new career, usually performing in a leopard skin cloth and ankle-length boots.5
Many people in Taree may remember the VS sailing boat ‘Athaldo’ that graced the Manning River for years. The boat was owned and named by Dallas Eggins.6 Eggins’s wife, Ruth May Lyons, was Athaldo’s daughter.7
Author: Ian Gorton
1 Don Athaldo, Meet Don Athaldo, Sydney: D Athaldo, 193?.
2 Western Mail, 3 March 1932, 28; Referee, 28 May 1930, 7; Daily Pictorial, 21 February 1930, 12.
3 Daily Telegraph, 1 October 1929, 7.
4 NSW BDM 2634/1895.
5 Richard White, Athaldo, Don (1894-1965). Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/athaldo-don-9396
6 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 19 December 1952, 12.
7 NSW BDM, marriage index No. 6595/1948; Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 31 October 1952, 2.