Born in 1910, Jack Beers’ early years echo a familiar East Side story.
His Austrian immigrant parents were desperately poor. His family shared a cold water flat on East Sixth Street, heating it with bits of coal that had fallen off trucks. Jack pitched in by hawking the Daily News on Avenue B.
As a teenager, he performed as a strongman in city clubs and on vaudeville stages, earning local fame and the title “New York City’s Strongest Boy.”
His story is chronicled in the 2006 documentary Holes in My Shoes, which features Jack, then 94, talking about his life and revisiting his old East Side haunts.
After a hand injury at a pool hall ended his strongman career, he went to work at Fassler Iron Works on East 10th Street and helped build New York’s top skyscrapers. He trained dogs and later became a character actor.
As the trailer from Holes in My Shoes shows, Beers retained amazing power even as a very senior citizen—watch him rip a phone book apart with his bare hands. He died a few days short of his 99th birthday.
[Photo: Holes in My Shoes]