Among the giants! Mr. Bennie is worthy of a statue here in Chester. There’s nothing I can write that could come close to representing what he meant to so many of us boys involved in sports. I never ran track or played organized football, and still, Mr. Bennie was among the most recognized men in the city.

Bennie3
Mr. Bennie was the center of attention when Chester High School dedicated their new track (I don’t remember the year but it was when Greg Thornton was school district superintendent)

Someone gave me this reprint of a Bennie Wright article several years ago. It’s an article from the Chester Times when he was first discovered as a track phenom as an 8th grader written way back on Thursday, May 8, 1947, by Fred Wilson…

Mr. Joseph M. Joseph, principal of Smedley Junior High School, is not usually a very excitable person. Consequently we were rather surprised yesterday at the sound of his voice over our telephone. Mr. Joseph was definitely excited. 

“Did you see what that kid from Douglass did in that track meet Tuesday?” Yes, we had. A boy by the name of Wright had won both the 100 and 220-yard dashes. “Did you check his times?” NO, we hadn’t paid much attention to them. 

“Well, I clocked those races and his times almost popped my eyes out when I saw them,” said Mr. Joseph. He did under 11 seconds in the 100-yard dash and was ten yards ahead of the field. He was also under 23 seconds in the 220 and he was 20 yards in front. We checked the watches, too, and they were accurate.”

A check of that “under 11 seconds” and “under 23 seconds” proved to be 10.3 for the century and 22.8 for the furlong. That is only a tenth of a second slower that the best time of the year for any high school youngster in the 100. No high school runner has shaded 23 seconds in the 220 this year. 

“I know,” said Mr. Joseph. “Keep your eyes on this boy. Ben Wright is his name. He runs exactly like Eddie Tolan. He is built like him and he ‘floats’ over the track just like Tolan. His legs don’t seem to be touching the track.”

Eddie Tolan, for the benefit of the present generation of track hopefuls whose memories may not go back 15 years, won the 100-meter dash in the 1932 Olympics. One of the most powerful runners of all times, his 10.3 seconds for the 100 meters stands as the Olympic record. 

Benny’s speed was first noticed on the football field last fall by London Jones, physical education instructor at the Douglass School. The youngster could really move in a football suit and he looked like a real track prospect to Jones. 

Since there are no facilities for track at Douglass, Jones gives the youngsters what little instruction he can, runs them in a few informal races in gym classes, and sends them up to the Chester High coach, Jack Crawford.

Jones and Crawford are old classmates at West Chester State Teachers College, Jones ran the 440 and occasionally the half-mile for the Teachers and also played three years of football. The gridiron combination of 1924 won the state teachers college championship.

“Benny is a very muscular boy,” says Jones. “ He has big shoulders and is built more like the old style sprinters. He is smaller than Eddie Tolen. I think he is built more like Howard Drew, the old California star.”

“Benny is in the ninth grade and will go to the high school next year.” Continued Jones. “This is the first time he has run in any meet although I do have the boys run a few races in gym class. He is not yet 16.” The youngster, incidentally, lives at 226 Flower street.

“Douglass had a couple of other good boys in that meet,” Jones said. “Jimmy Harper should be a good 220 man. He’s not very far behind Benny now. Teddy Rothwell is mighty good, too. He is smaller than Wright but has plenty of ability. If Jack can get another good man to go with these three he can have an awfully good sprint relay team.”

All of which brings up an extremely interesting point. Why not give the kids in our local junior high schools a break by making track facilities and equipment available? Track and field events are far better means of building youngsters up physically in the spring than baseball and softball. 

Not only will it be a break for the youngsters. It will also provide a groundwork for better track teams for Chester High School in the future. This year the Clippers took their rightful place in the track sun when they won the Delco championships at Lansdowne. And it is high time, too.

Chester has the largest school population of any district in the county. And yet Upper Darby had a five-year stranglehold on the Delco title until the Clippers broke it this year. The answer is in the program in the junior high schools. Upper Darby has a fine junior high track program and it has won more county championships than any other school. 

Let’s got a similar program here and beginning with the victory of this season, perhaps Chester can duplicate or better the Royals’ record of five straight championships. 

Bennie2
Mr. Benny and current school district receiver Juan Baughn