“This is a man’s world,” James Brown sang as sweat poured down his face and his voice cut with a plaintive soul that only he and maybe Otis Redding seemed capable of producing. But the Godfather of Soul wasn’t through, concluding, “but it would be nothing, nothing, notthhiiinnnng without a woman or a girl!”
This is the way that it once was. Less we forget.
I was watching an old Groucho Marx “You Bet Your Life” TV show on YouTube recently while churning away on the elliptical cross trainer. The episode was from 1954 and was sponsored by “De Soto-Plymouth from your Chrysler dealer”.
The half-hour game show featured a series of three couples who spun a wheel and won some money, but the real entertainment was watching Groucho interact with the couples who were little more than foils for his legendary ad libs.
But in each separate case when it came time to actually play the game, it was the man who took complete control, whether in determining the value of the question, or in giving the answer, rarely even conferring with his female partner, even when you could tell he didn’t know the answer and she did.
On each occasion the woman stood meekly by as Groucho asked the questions with the same patronizing tone that the man then answered. That’s just how the world was, and still is in many places. The strong will take and assume their right to do so.
This was the attitude that formed the world-view of generation after generation of women, know your place, it’s a man’s world.
But for quiet but dignified women like Michigan native Alice Schneider, a pioneering contributor to the New York Road Runners who passed away September 24th, that attitude was never a comfortable fit, nor one to be blindly perpetuated. The country was changing as Alice was coming of age. And so was the sport of running.
Alice wasn’t one of the front people at the East 89th Street headquarters of the NYRR. Legendary impresario Fred Lebow soaked up most of the media spotlight. But in a time when the sport was still developing and finding its way, Alice was an invaluable pathfinder. It was the work that she did behind the scenes in timing, scoring and computerized registration that laid the foundation for the immense organization we see today.
She along with her husband Allan Steinfeld was also among the first generation to spend the great bulk of their professional careers in the sport of running as it boomed, developed, then took its place within the mainstream of American life.
The world has always been a we’ll-do-what-we-have-to-do kind of place. In the early years at 9 East 89th Street with Fred and Allan there was an we-are-all-in-it togetherness that Alice helped form. The sport and NYRR in many ways was her family.
This is sport once thought, as James Brown sang, “this is a man’s world”. But people like Alice Schneider bet her professional life on this game, and then showed by her example, dedication and good humor that it wouldn’t have become anywhere near what it is today without such as her backing it, forming it, loving it.
Our deepest condolences to Allan and the rest of the NYRR family on their loss.
4 thoughts on “NO LONGER SIMPLY A MAN’S WORLD”
This makes me sad. I worked for Alice as volunteer in 1980 and 1980 processing marathon entries (on paper!) in an office on Broadway. She was always friendly and had a great sense of humor. We all laughed in the summer of ’80 when we held in our hands Alberto Salazar’s application with his predicted time of 2:10. And that summer, a few of us traveled to Flushing Meadow for a 5K, and Allan was gracious enough to pace me to my first 5K under 20 minutes (19:35.) Both great people, and my memories of that time of my life will last forever.
Toni: I have not seen Allan Steinfeld in several years and even longer for Alice… but I well remember their role and contributions in the first running boom of the late ’70’s and 80’s and how they (along with Fred Lebow and other members of the NYRRC) were on the “cutting edge” of shaping and developing competitive road running as it grew from it’s regional infancy into a national competitive athletic and business force. Allan and Alice were a great team and did much for the NYRRC (some of which many people wrongly assumed Fred did) and our great sport…. and I mourn Alice’s passing and send my heartfelt condolences to Allan. RIP, Alice. Craig Virgin
Toni – I did not know that Alice passed away. She and Allan were a formidable team in the early days of the NYRR. I recall so well when they gave us a tour of their computer system in the very early days and they did indeed establish the template for timing and scoring. My sincere condolences to Allan and the NYRR. Gloria Ratti
What a lovely tribute. Thank you. I never had the good fortune to meet Alice, but I do know and have great respect for Allan, a man who has always treated me graciously, a man who I consider to be a friend. Knowing Allan, knowing what a kind and good man he is (his brother lives in San Marcos CA two blocks away from where I used to live; when that area suffered a devastating wildfire in May 2014, Allan got in touch with me to make sure that I was alright), I can only imagine what a lovely woman Alice must have been. I am so sorry I never got to know her and I offer my deepest condolences to Allan…it is such a heartbreak to lose the love of one’s life.