Columnist Juanita Lovret: Chamber raised $190 to send future Olympian to tryouts

Columnist Juanita Lovret: Chamber raised $190 to send future Olympian to tryouts

August 07, 2007|By ocregister

Juanita Lovret

Remember When

Seventy-five years ago this month a young Tustin woman won a gold medal in the 400-meter relay as a member of the United States women’s relay team at the 1932 Olympics in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

As a child Evelyn Furtsch was known for winning any race she entered. At Tustin High School there was no girls track. So she played basketball, field hockey and baseball, but her gym teacher, Grace Shults, told the Tustin track coach, Vincent Humeston, how fast she was. He invited her to run with the boys’ track team and was impressed enough to contact the Los Angeles Athletic Club about training for the coming Olympics in 1932.

Aileen Allen, who was training a few girls, invited her to try out with them. She won all the races and was invited to join them. When the Los Angeles Athletic Club sent three girls to a national meet in New Jersey in 1931, Evelyn was one of them. After an 11-day car trip across the country with Humeston and her mother, Evelyn came in second at the meet, beating Stella Walsh, who was considered a world champion, and won a silver medal in the 100 meters.

Encouraged by this , Evelyn decided to train for the 1932 Olympics with Humeston as her coach. When Olympic tryouts were held in Chicago in 1932 in the midst of the Depression, the Los Angeles Athletic Club couldn’t afford to send the girls they had been training.

However, the Tustin Chamber of Commerce came to Evelyn’s rescue, going door to door to raise money to send her, her mother and Humeston to Chicago. They collected $190 and the trio drove to Chicago in Humeston’s car and stayed with Mrs. Furtsch’s cousin.

Evelyn won her preliminary heat and her semifinal heat, but fell at the tape in the finals. She was disqualified and eliminated from the Olympic team, but when Humeston called Aileen Allen to explain what had happened, he was instructed to bring her home quickly. A message that she was going to be on the team was waiting when they arrived in Tustin.

Evelyn joined six other girls in Los Angeles and began training with Olympic coach George Vreeland. When he selected the relay team, it included Mary Carew as first runner, Evelyn second, Annette Rogers third, and Wilhelmina Von Bremen fourth. The relay was one of the last events in the Olympics so the girls had a week to practice passing the baton and polishing their teamwork.

After breaking both the Olympic and the world record, running the relay in 46.9 seconds, the runners received gold medals, which were packaged in boxes, not attached to ribbons as they are today, but the ceremony with the American flag being raised and the national anthem played was the same.

Evelyn returned home to a flurry of recognition ceremonies and banquets. She enrolled at Santa Ana College in the fall. By the time the next Olympics was held, she was married to Joe Ojeda and had a baby daughter. She later had a son and eventually became a realtor.

As she says, “When we ran in 1932 we just loved to run and loved to be a part of something as exciting as the Olympics. It was only part of our life and when it was over, we went back to doing our own thing.”

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.