by Frank Hyde
January 20, 1962
Dick’s mustache was more familiar than his name wherever sportsman congregated here, and that’s the way it is in the Adirondacks today.
In case the familiar name hasn’t popped out at you from the printed page recently in these parts, Dick is doing right well, thank you.
He’s operating a restaurant in Lake Placid, capital of the state’s winter sports. Name of his place? Handlebars Restaurant, natch!
“You know,” Dick grinned during a recent Jamestown visit, “that story about the letter from Italy is true and it happened once since I went to Lake Placid. A fellow sent me a picture I requested. He just addressed it with a sketch of a mustache and sent it along to Lake Placid. It was delivered without a bit of trouble.”
Friends of Shearman still laugh over one occasion when the famed facial adornment put him behind the eight ball so to speak.
Dick was at South Bend for a Notre Dame – Oklahoma football game years ago. Naturally, some Sooner fans on hand for the game mistook him for the late “Alfalfa Bill Murray, then governor of Oklahoma.
During the afternoon a party stared in one of the hotel room. A friend of Shearman’s was getting his kicks out of introducing Dick to the guests as the Oklahoma governor. Later in the evening voices were raised in song. There came a knock at the door and Dick, who happened to be near, opened it to greet an elderly gentleman whose mustache would run a close second to Dick’s elegant bit of facial outcropping.
“I have the room next door and really, I’d like to get a little sleep,” the man explained politely. “Could your friends sing in just a slightly more mellow tempo?”
Dick, always the gentleman apologized profusely then invited the stranger into the room. “Come right in, I’m Alfalfa Bill Murray, the governor of Oklahoma, and we were just whooping it up a bit for our team,” he explained.
The visitor’s eyes twinkled. Suddenly he broke out laughing. “Now that is a strange coincidence, because I happen to be Alfalfa Bill Murray.”
There’s been a lot of laughs and a lot of legends in the wake of the big, affable Shearman. Like the time the Russians gave him the blanket tossing routine.
Dick, then president of the American Amateur Skating Union, accompanied the United States skaters to the world meet in Moscow. Relations between the United States and Russia were strained then (1955) as they are today. “But the Russians virtually adopted us,” Dick explained later.
One day near the end of the meet, there was a roar from the spectators. Hundreds of them dashed toward Shearman. “”I thought I had offended them in some manner and the only thing I could think of to do was pray - so I did.” Shearman laughed later.
But it seemed Dick’s mustache had made such a hit with the Reds they were giving him the special treatment reserved for those they consider something extra. Strong hands grabbed the Jamestowner, he was tossed into a blanket held by a dozen husky Muscovites. Then came the toss. “At times it felt like I was being tossed 20 feet in the air, but when they finished they rolled me out on my feet none the worse for wear,” Shearman laughed later in relating the incident.
Dick first led the Unites States skaters to Oslo for the Olympics in 1952.
When it appeared the Americans would be unable to compete at Moscow three years later because of lack of funds, Jamestown came to the rescue. Helen Quackenbush, started a contest between local civic clubs to see which could raise the most money toward the trip. The drive caught on nationally. Money rolled in and two weeks later the Americans were on a special plane winging toward Russia.
“That was one of my biggest thrills- the way the people here got behind us,” Dick has always acknowledged in later years.
While attending the world bobsled meet in Germany, Dick became acquainted with the man who influenced his present hobby – sledding. Eugenio Monti of Italy had won the title at Garmisch. He and Dick became fast friends. After Shearman returned he wrote Monti: “If you ever get ready to sell that sled, let me know. I’d like to bid on it.”
Later Monti wrote. There would be no bidding. His friend, Shearman would have the sled. A price was agreed on so today Dick owns the Podar with which Monti raced the world’s two man title.
Stan Benham, one of the world’s greatest, a Lake Placid resident and friend of Dick’s before the Jamestown man moved to the Adirondacks village, first introduced him to bobsledding. Today Shearman is a regular at the Lake Placid races. He has long ago won his novice race which graduated him into the ranks of the senior amateurs. “That’s tough competition. I’ve picked up some seconds and am still hoping for a first,” Dick told Jamestown friends on his last trek to the homeland.
The Shearman’s move to Lake Placid in ’55 but only Dick and the missus remain at home. Mary Derry is now Mrs. George Schroeder of Pittsburgh and has three children; Susie is married to former Jamestowner, Clifford Osmer. They live in Buffalo and also have three children. Kathy is now Mrs. Charles Barone of Jamestown. They have one child.
Some of the greats of sledding are regulars at Lake Placid. Benham lives there and visitors include Art Tyler from Boston, who is considering retiring; Bill Hall, the Vermont champ; John Elmer of Plattsburgh and a host of Canadian contenders.
Benham retired last year but is back for more and will be competing in the world meet at Garmisch Jan. 20 – 28.
Two big ones, the nationals and the North American championships, are coming up at Lake Placid in February.
Sledding is a big sport at Lake Placid for the general public as well as the seasoned contestants. Rids can be had for $1 (half mile run) and $2 down the big course, the mile layout. The shorter run, however, must be made first.
Sledding at Lake Placid is rigidly controlled by the Adirondacks Bobsled Club.
All four men push to start one of the bigger sleds. The driver leaps on first followed by the No. 1 man, then No. 2 and the brakeman last. Sometimes they lose the brakeman, who pushes too long and can’t make the leap. Disqualification follows.
‘They’re real fussy”, “Dick explained. “One day an overly critical official told me to quit smoking. I might drop the cigarette and be disqualified. I just told him okay, that we’d be sure to not spit out our gum either.”
It was a typical Shearman answer, from a man who has been dealing with over-officious officials for years.