1947 - 1948
Director: David A. Field
- President: Tom Bolgiano
- Vice President: William Foland
- Secretary: Augusta Johnson
- Treasurer: Peggy Welty
- Co-Gymnastic Chairmen: Gloria Myers and Charles Pinckney
- Best Act: "The Gladiator and His Lady" (Roman Chair) - Gloria Myers and Chuck Finch
- Best Female Trouper: Gloria Myers
- Best Male Trouper: Chuck Finch
BIGGER AND BETTER
The gymnastics team began working out in the fall semester, with many of its veterans returning, as well as some new talent joining.
With the addition of the rope climb, eight competitive events in all were held at the second Intramural Competition on March 12, 1948. Again the competition was open to any male.
At the competition, five members of the Maryland team put in excellent performances. William Gaiser led off with a win in the side horse. Charles Pinckney held onto his first place title in tumbling in addition to taking first in his other two events, horizontal bar and parallel bars. Walter Clark won the rope climb, and Tom Bolgiano took first in trampoline. Al Kuckhoff, new to the gymnastics team that year, took first place in the flying rings.
"The first year we had our Home Show we were proud of it, but it really wasn't much as compared with those at Illinois..., but when you saw it the second year, and the third, and the fourth, you could see improvement, the same as you can see improvement today."
Dr. David A. Field
While the first road shows and Home Show may not have been as good at those back at Illinois, they were good enough to peak the interest of many students and of the public.
The Gymkana troupers continued to add new and innovative acts their repertoire.
"The Roman Chair" was one such act. Chuck Finch as base, would lie back over the specially constructed chair which had a strap on the seat to hold his feet. In this position, he grasped Gloria Myers' feet and pressed back up into a standing position.
Ladder Pyramids was an all female act involving three women standing between and supporting two vertical ladders while three girls on each of the ladders performed various poses. (See Ladders.)
Gymkana also continued to feature comedy, with Walter Clark and Rolf Scovell performing "Casey at the Bat".
James Spear added a little magic to the shows with such tricks as conjuring a rabbit after mixing flour and eggs in a bowl.
But perhaps the most crowd astonishing act of all that year was "The Skyscrapers". Chuck Finch, as the base or understander, held up a 20 foot perch pole, while Gordon Zollinhoffer would climb up and do poses from handstands to levers on the perch at the top. Audiences were routinely cautioned to be quiet while this act was going on, due to the danger involved.
"Why I ever took a chance on having an act like this in the Troupe, I don't know."
Dr. David A. Field
There was no lack of opportunities for the troupers to show off their new talents. Gymkana's reputation had spread quickly and so many requests for shows came in to David Field that he was forced to turn some down. One highlight of the season was an appearance on WTTG Television in Washington D.C. in December of 1947. Television was a fledgling industry in those days. The show appeared in approximately 10,000 homes, Gymkana's largest audience up until that time.
In all, the Troupe would give 22 performances during its "road show" season. While ten of those performances were on campus, for halftime activities, boxing matches, Boy Scout rallies, etc., the majority of shows were out in the community, including an overnight trip, Gymkana's first, to Camp Ritchie, Maryland. The extensive travel for some of the shows brought with it a new problem.
Dr. Field explains,
"I'll never forget, in the early days, the difficulty we had in trying to get (the approval of) Dean Adele Stamp. She was the dean of women and believed that men and women should not have anything to do with each other in social activities. Therefore at first we had all sorts of difficulty getting men and women to take bus trips together. Eventually, though, through the display of behavior on the part of our men and women, she approved."
But the requirements necessary to keep Dean Stamp's approval were fairly strict and applied for many years thereafter.
"Each trip had to be chaperoned by a woman... You had to make sure that the list was in by Wednesday or Tuesday evening of who was going to participate and who was going to be chaperoned and what time you would be leaving, what time you would be returning, and etc. And of course you had to deliver each person to their dormitory and sorority house. So it wasn't an easy task."
Dr. George Kramer
Vivian Courtney, the dean's secretary, often took on the duty of chaperone. In appreciation for her help, she would later be made the Gymkana Troupe's first honorary member.
Wrapping up its season on Thursday, April 12, 1948, the Troupe performed its second annual Home Show. Due to the popularity of the previous Home Show, the decision was made to move the location of Home Show that year to Ritchie Coliseum, which could hold thousands. The troupers performed twenty-seven acts in all that night, from singing to flag twirling to ballroom dancing, to the more gymnastic oriented events, including lots of hand balancing. The show ended with the “Olympia Finale”, a statuary act. The nature of this last act was kept secret from the public up until the night of the show.
Establishing a tradition that would go on through the years, Gymkana held its first annual banquet, a time for recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of the year. Gloria Myers and Chuck Finch were the first members to be honored by their fellow troupers as Best Female and Best Male Troupers.