Bannister and Landy: The Miracle Mile

Copyright Don Janus

Copyright Don Janus

Yesterday, May 6, marked the 60th anniversary of the first sub four-minute mile in recorded history. British runner Roger Bannister set the record in 1954, during a meet between the British Amateur Athletics Association and Oxford University at Iffley Road track in Oxford. Bannister set a British record in the 1500 meters at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He finished a disappointing fourth at those games and briefly considered retiring from running. It was then that he decided to become the first man to run a sub four-minute mile.

The four-minute mark loomed large in the minds of distance runners in the period following World War II. Up until that point, the world record had been broken fairly consistently. The disruption in training caused by the war, however, left Gunder Hägg of Sweden as the record holder from July 17, 1945 onward. Bannister was not the only man with a legitimate shot at breaking the four-minute barrier. Australian John Landy and American Wes Santee both recorded times of 4:02 in 1953. In fact, Landy broke Bannister’s record in June 1954 with a time of 3:57:9. This week’s monument, photographed by Don Janus, encapsulates the rivalry between Landy and Bannister. Specifically, it pays homage to the Aug. 7, 1954 race between the two men during the British Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada. It was the first mile race where two runners finished in under four minutes. It was also the only time the two men raced against each other. Bannister, lagging behind, used a burst of speed during the last 90 yards to win the race. The sculpture depicts the moment Bannister, on the left, passed Landy as Landy looked over the wrong shoulder for his competitor.

The bronze statue was created by Jack Harman, based on a photograph by Vancouver Sun photographer Charlie Warner. The statue was created in 1967 and stood in front of Empire Stadium, site of the race, until the stadium was demolished in 1993. It now stands at the Pacific National Exhibition, an area in Vancouver that hosts a 17-day summer fair annually. Upon seeing the sculpture, Landy joked: “While Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back, I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze for looking back.”

Bannister, 85, and Landy, 84, have both gone on to do much outside of the sports realm. After breaking the world record, Bannister had a distinguished 40-year career as a neurologist. He was knighted in 1975. Landy, a noted naturalist, has written two books on natural history and was a distinguished public speaker for many years. In 2001, he was appointed Governor of Victoria, Australia, serving until 2006.

The world record in the mile continued to fall three or four times a decade until July 7, 1999, when Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco set the mark at 3:43:13. After nearly 15 years, that mark has yet to be broken.

1910 Lynn School in Garfield County, Washington

Copyright Robin Flint

Copyright Robin Flint

This week Lost Places travels to the northwestern United States–Washington State, to be exact–courtesy of photographer Robin Flint.  This is the 1910 Lynn School, located just off East Lynn Road near the Central Ferry crossing of the Snake River.  Flint writes: “My favorite photo subjects are abandoned vehicles and houses in rural settings. Ghost towns are great, but locations like this one are preferred since they are generally miles from other attractions and I don’t have to wait for anyone to get out of my shot.”

Garfield County sits in southeastern Washington, in a region of fertile hills and prairies north of the Snake River known as the Palouse.  The Palouse region underwent a settlement boom in the 1880’s.  Now, Garfield County is Washington’s most sparsely populated county with just 3.2 inhabitants per square mile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  The 2010 population was 2,266.  The population was almost double in 1910, during the heyday of the one room schoolhouse.

One room schoolhouses were based on a British system developed in the 1790’s called the “Bell-Lancaster Method.”  Under this system, students of all ages were grouped together.  Students who were able would help the teacher with tasks such as cleaning erasers and bringing coal and water into the school.  Older pupils would also pass on their knowledge to younger students.

Horace Mann began advocating for reform in the mid-1800’s.  Mann, appointed as Massachusetts Secretary of Education in 1837, stressed the importance of universal education to create a strong base of educated citizens for the fledgling U.S. republic.  He used as his basis a model not from a republic, but from a kingdom.  The Kingdom of Prussia, which consisted of parts of present-day Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium, and the Czech Republic.  Prussia had introduced an eight-year, tax-funded, compulsory course of education in the early 19th Century.  Mann’s reforms worked.  By the time the 1910 Lynn School was operational, 72 percent of U.S. children attended school.  Half of those students did so in one-room schools.

By the 1920’s, motorized school buses allowed students to travel longer distances to school.  Albert L. Luce, a Ford dealer from Georgia, produce a bus body for a Ford Model T.  Luce would go on to create the Bluebird, the first iron bus design.  The increase in safety and distance made  consolidation inevitable.  By the 1940’s, one-room schools had been replaced in all but the most remote rural areas.

One-room schools are not extinct in the U.S., though.  According to the One-Room Schoolhouse Center, 26 school are still in operation across the U.S.  Ones that still survive are often re-purposed as restaurants, private residences, shops, and lodging areas.  No word on what plans, if any, are in store for the 1910 Lynn School.  If anyone matriculates onto Lost Places and has any information, let us know.  We’re always interested in what happens to lost places–and we’re eager students.