Who Knew Harry Hart?

Friend Charles got marooned on a Seychellois island from drinking too much. Drink – hard liquor – made them forget about their yacht and it broke anchor and drifted off without them. He’s writing a book about his adventures, of which more later, when he has published and become famous. On this lonely island he met ‘an Empire Games javelin champion.’

I went looking for who that might be, and found:

Henry Beltsazer “Harry” Hart – an SA athlete born in Harrismith, Orange River Colony on the 2nd of September 1905. He died in Reitz on the 10th of November 1979.

At the 1930 Empire Games in Canada he won the gold medals in the discus and shot put competitions, and bronze in the javelin throw. He finished fifth in the 120 yards hurdles.

In 1932 he went to the Olympics in Los Angeles, USA and finished tenth in shot put, twelfth in the discus and eleventh in the decathlon.

At the 1934 Empire Games in London (originally awarded to Johannesburg, but changed to London due to concerns regarding the treatment of black and Asian athletes by South African officials and fans) he won his second brace of Empire gold medals in the discus throw and shot put competitions. In the javelin throw contest he won silver (well, any Free State javelin-gooier is a friend of mine!).

Hart was the owner of the Royal Hotel in Reitz, Free State, South Africa. He was friends with actors Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, US swimmer and Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller and CR ‘Blackie’ Swart – at that time a cowboy actor; later the first state president of South Africa. His study at the Reitz Royal Hotel – not really ‘Royal’ – displayed hundreds of photographs of himself in the company of these famous stars, as well as with US swimmer and actress Esther Williams, Irish actress Maureen O’Sullivan – Jane in six Tarzan movies – and others.

Henry Harry Hart himself was apparently offered the part of Tarzan but refused as he had to return home to his farm to practice for the Empire Games. Hmm – ‘Hollywood? Reitz? Ag, fanks, I’ll take Reitz, OK?’

Lucky Johnny Weissmuller – shown here with Maureen O’Sullivan.

The SA team to Canada in 1930: