Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!
Willennar Genealogy Center’s “Extraordinary Hoosiers” Project focuses on four individuals from DeKalb County History: medical pioneer Bonnell Souder; circus founder M. K. Houlton; Egbert Mott, DeKalb County’s first practicing lawyer; and Olympian Don Lash, the focus of today’s #TBT.
Donald Ray Lash was born in Bluffton, Indiana, on August 15, 1912, the son of Brandon and Pearl Lash. When he was young, the family often spent their summers out at Brandon’s parents’ farm. This was where Don would later say he’d learned to run: during harvest time, he’d chase the young rabbits darting out of the fields and catch them, one by one.
When Don was about 8 or 9, the family moved up to Auburn. He ended up attending Auburn High School, where Coach Zeke Young, who’d noticed him running, got him to join the track team. Don did exceedingly well, winning at most meets he attended. His senior year he won the state championship for both the mile and half-mile races.
In the fall of 1933, Don started attending Indiana University. Thanks to a scholarship from Auburn High School, his tuition was covered, but because he’d helped pay for an emergency operation for one of his sisters, Don had almost no money for food or room and board. His coach, Billy Hayes, learned about his predicament, paid him to water his lawn, and then set up him with a job at the university’s kitchens. The Delta Chi fraternity took him in and gave him a place to sleep.
While attending I.U., Don broke Paavo Nurmi’s world record for the 2-mile race.
Don’s athletics took him beyond school competitions, though. He competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where everyone expected he would do quite well. Unfortunately, due to the long boat ride and being unable to work out as he normally would, Don was out of shape by the time they got to Berlin—where he found out his races were scheduled for the first two days after they arrived. With no time to get back in good condition, he had to settle for returning home without a medal. In 1938, however, he was awarded the prestigious James E. Sullivan award for athletic achievement and good sportsmanship.
The photograph above is from Don’s Berlin Olympics scrapbook.