Bodybuilding back in the 1950’s had a social prominence that perhaps does not exist today. You could rarely find a magazine that didn’t have an advert somewhere explaining how the Charles Atlas system could transform your physique – no longer would you be the weedy specimen who got sand kicked in their face. The hopefuls bidding for a Mr Universe title were the epitome of the well-developed, muscular men representing what every man in the street might like to see in the mirror. It was in this era that ex-Liverpool policeman Arnold Dyson set his stall to develop his physique and challenge for the ultimate title.
Born in Oldham in 1925 he served as a drill sergeant in the war achieving some success in boxing. In the late 1940’s, while serving as a police officer in Liverpool he developed an interest in body building and began to establish his own routines and exercises. Within a short space of time, in 1948, he was a finalist in the Mr Britain contest. Deciding that his police duties were not compatible with his training regime he left the force and became a travelling salesman. In the early 1950’s he opened his own gym at his residence at 20 Oxford Street L7. This building now bears a blue plaque commemorating its former use.
Dyson’s defining success came in 1953 when he won the Mr Universe contest. Interestingly, the contestant who came third behind Dyson went on to find fame himself, being the actor Sean Connery. Following his success, alongside a World’s Strongest Man title, he continued to run his gymnasium and also carved out a successful career on the professional wrestling circuit. A typical advert of the time (Manchester Evening News 22.4.1954) announced that Arnold Dyson “the chosen Mr Universe now a Top-ranking Wrestler” would fight Count Bartelli at Levenshulme Skating Rink. His fame also saw him sit alongside Hollywood star Errol Flynn as a judge in the ATV show “TV Adonis of Great Britain”(Ripley & Heanor News 7.9.1956).
Arnold Dyson married Doris Passmore in 1949. They lived initially at 44 Mulgrave Street L8 before moving to Oxford Street. In the early 1960’s they moved to 1 Lyndon Drive L18. I have not been able to confirm this 100% but I believe Arnold Dyson died in Oldham in 2003.
Dyson's home and location of his gymnasium throughout the 1950's.
The plaque on 26 Oxford Street
Arnold Dyson's home in the 1960's.
Contestants at the 1953 Mr Universe contest - highlighted is third-placed Sean Connery
© Liverpool Footprints