1946 - 1947
Director: David A. Field
- President: Arnold M. Gibbs
- Women's Manager: Mary Eiseman
- Men's Manager: Charles Pinckney
- Gymnastics Manager: Cyril Miller
- Best Act: Mixed Triples Balancing - Gloria Myers, Frank Brannock and Arnold Gibbs
“The purpose of our organization is to promote interest in gymnastics and allied activities. Not only does such recreation provide a source of strength, balance, and grace to the participants, but it also offers entertainment to the student body and friends of the University. The officers extend their welcome to students interested in their program.”1947 Home Show Program
The year was 1946. World War II was over and it was time for a lot of men and women to comehome and resume lives disrupted by the conflict. One of them was David A. Field.
Mr. Field moved with his wife, Barbara Jean, and daughter, Jean Ann, to Maryland where he had accepted a position as an instructor of Physical Education at the University.
Many veterans of the war came to the College Park campus that year, beneficiaries of the GI bill which provided education expenses to returning veterans. With enrollment approaching 8,000, the campus was, as Al Kuckhoff puts it,
“experiencing severe growing pains from the influx of Veterans as evidenced by the Veteran's barracks, aka the V.B.'s. These were temporary wooden barracks a la the Army, the interior of which were divided into small rooms equipped with double bunks. They were located in the field behind Byrd Stadium. Mud City.”
Despite the less than ideal accommodations, the atmosphere on campus was generally upbeat. Again Al Kuckhoff explains,
“We had a good feeling about ourselves and our country in those days. We felt like winners, not whiners... we had a hell of a good time.”
It was at this time and in this atmosphere of optimism that Mr. Field finally had a chance to fulfill a dream of his, to start his very own gymnastics team and Gymkana Troupe.
Early in October, the gymnastics team began its first workouts, practicing daily from 4 - 5:30 p.m. in the Old Gym (now the site of Annapolis Hall). Mr. Field recruited people himself and used the Diamondback to get the notice out to interested men.
In those days men's competitive gymnasticsevents were Horizontal Bar, Side Horse, Parallel Bars, Long Horse (a type of vaulting), Tumbling, Trampoline and Flying Rings.
The apparatus for flying rings was similar to what is used at present for still rings routines, except, as Nick Orrick explains,
“Flying rings are made of steel covered with leather and are considerably heavier than still rings. This made for a smooth swing, and it also made it possible to release and regrasp the rings without having them go sailing away.”
Routines on the flying rings incorporated some of the timing necessary for the flying trapeze. Dr. Kramer explains,
“You did similar types of things that you did on still rings, except that you were in motion. You still did your dislocates, your inlocates, your handstands, and even your crosses, but it was more of a moving routine... because you timed your moves at the ends of your swings, to do your inlocates, your dislocates. Of course in the bottom of your swing, you could get in some skills too, that were conducive to that part of the swing, but you had to be very careful that you didn't add too much momentum... It wasn't an easy type of apparatus to work.”
The team worked out on equipment inside the Old Gym as well as on sets of pipe parallel bars and flying rings in the yard outside the gym.
The high point of the gymnastic team's initial season (Spring 1947) was the Intramural Gymnastic Tournament held on March 27 in the Men's Gym. The tournament was attended by many University students and faculty members. Charles Pinckney took first place in Tumbling while Tom Bolgiano won in Trampoline.
All in all, 1946-47 was a successful first showing for the gymnastic team and a good start in a drive to get gymnastics recognized as a varsity sport by the University.
During the Fall 1946 semester, David Field also put out the invitation for interested students to join the University of Maryland Gymkana Troupe.
The Troupe started its workouts in November of 1946, in the Old Gym. Both men and women were encouraged to take part, no experience required, a stipulation that has been a cornerstone of Gymkana ever since.
One of Gymkana's first hurdles was to receive formal approval from the Student Life Committee. This came in December.
Another challenge for the group was bringing people up to an acceptable skill level. Dr. Field recalls,
“There were few people who had had gymnastic experience in those days, so over at the Old Gym we started teaching forward rolls and backward rolls, cartwheels, knee drops on the trampoline, eventually somersaults on the trampoline and we worked ourselves up from there.”
Despite such challenges, the Troupe started to give performances within a few months of forming. Gymkana's first public appearance was at Ritchie Coliseum on January 10, 1947, at the halftime of the Maryland-George Washington basketball game.
That first year was very much an experimental time for the Troupe. At three additional halftimes of Maryland Basketball games, the troupers performed parallel bars, balancing and pyramids, and trampoline.
In addition, the Troupe performed off campus, generally at high schools in the area. Due to the fact that they had no means to transport a lot of equipment during the early years, the troupers often had to rely on acts that required little or no equipment. The first of these shows was on January 29. Chuck Pinckney remembers,
“Dave Field called up several of us over the Christmas holidays and said he'd agreed to put on a show at Mount Rainier High School the next day. We had no idea what we were going to do, but got on stage and started improvising. Dave would tell two of us where to stand and then press to a handstand on our heads - that sort of thing.”
Troupers also did acts involving rope skipping, pitching or adagio, and balancing poses.
On April 23, 1947, after having given seven performances, the Gymkana Troupe held its First Annual Home Show. The Old Gym, site of all the workouts, was alsothe location of that first Home Show. A capacity crowd of 500 attended. With music provided by the University Orchestra and other musicians, the Gymkana Troupe was able to put on a fourteen act show, just five months after its inception.
With a successful first year, the support of the faculty, the approval of the Student Life Committee, the financial support of the Student Government Association, and most importantly of all, a dedicated director and a group of enthusiastic members, the University of Maryland Gymkana Troupe had a solid base on which to build. And build it would.
- Maryland-GW Basketball halftime show
- Maryland-UNC Basketball halftime show
- Mt. Ranier High School
- Maryland-Duke Basketball halftime show
- Maryland-VMI Basketball halftime show
- Mt. Ranier High School
- Beltsville Elementary School
- Home Show (Wednesday, April 23, 1947)
- Greenbelt High School