Susan Poulos Indian Club Memories
Susan Poulos grew up with Indian Clubs. I recently asked Susan some questions regarding her experiences and here is her story in an interview style format. Many thanks to you Susan Poulos for sharing Indian Club memories.
Could you start by telling us about your parents interests and how you came to be involved with Indian Clubs?
Susan Poulos:- My parents were born in the early 1900’s. After graduating from high school, both went on to become college educated. Mom received a Teaching Certificate that qualified her to teach school and help support my Dad financially for several years while Dad, who’d graduated from college, went on to take post graduate college courses. He chose to take pre-medical college courses with a goal of being trained in athletics. He enrolled in the YMCA College of George Williams College near Chicago, Illinois. (George Williams College still exists today and is affiliated with Aurora University, Aurora, Illinois.)
During their summers off from college courses, my parents worked at a Music Camp in Michigan and on their days off they played 54 holes of golf (carried their clubs and walked a hilly course) and then went swimming in the evening!
In college my Dad, Howard Daniels, was a member of a touring gymnastic group and perhaps that’s where/when he learned to swing Indian Clubs and perform an Indian Club Drill. Dad ultimately decided that he wanted a job in athletics, but he didn’t want to be a “Gym (Gymnasium) Teacher” in the public school systems. Instead, he wanted at job in athletics whereby men and boys came to his classes because they WANTED to, not because they HAD to (as boys would have to do in the public school systems).
Thus, ultimately, after working in a Community Settlement House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and taking a job in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, my parents decided to return to their home state of Minnesota and Dad accepted a job at the Winona, Minnesota, YMCA as their Physical Education Director. Meanwhile, Mom (Myrt) kept herself busy teaching and playing tennis and in 1941, she became the City Tennis Champion!
Thus, that’s where daughter, Susan, was born and grew until the age of eleven years old.
In 1954, Dad got a job transfer to the East Side YMCA in St.Paul, Minnesota, and the family of three moved to St.Paul’s East Side. There, my Dad conducted the YMCA men and boy’s gym classes, while my Mom conducted the Y’s women and girl’s gym classes. She enjoyed the success of having 100 women in her Y Slimnastics (Body toning and exercise) class.
Meanwhile, Susan, the daughter of two very athletic parents, was taught, at a young age, how to swim. Dad used a piano bench to teach Susan how to keep her legs stiff and straight while she kicked and how to move her arms correctly while tilting her head to the side to take a breath. Thus, when Susan got into the swimming pool she pretty much knew exactly how to swim and currently (at the date of this e-mail) enjoys swimming a mile a week in a Community pool.
At St. Paul’s East Side YMCA, Myrt and Howard decided that every two years they’d schedule a “Gym Show” so that the boys and girls, representing their individual classes, could perform for the general public what they were being taught at the Y. A ticketed admission “Show,” this gave the boys and girls an incentive to try harder and accomplish more in their classes!
Indian Club Drill
Can you tell us about the learning process for Indian Clubs?
Susan Poulos:- When learning the Indian Club Drill, I think that the movements were taught in the order in which they were done in the Drill – simple upper arm back circles, shoulder high; then the simple upper arm front circles were taught and then these two Movements were put together. Thus, in my YouTube video – “Indian Club Drill Instructions” I’ve broken the whole drill down into 20 Movements. The instructions appear on red background frames and are then followed by actually performing those instructions. The entire Drill is performed, to music, at the end of the instructions.
Indian Club Drill Instructions
What age were you when you started swinging Indian Clubs?
Susan Poulos:- I think I was about 12 years old when Dad taught me the Indian Club Drill. I just went with Dad up to the YMCA when he conducted his class of Y boys and I just “joined the group” learning the Indian Club Drill.
How did you learn the Indian Club Swinging Drill, what did you do first, second, etc?
Susan Poulos:- From memory the Drill was taught in the order in which the Movements were done in the Drill. Some of those Movements obviously took more time learning than others.
(As a side note…I belong to a mega 2 campus Christian church and they use flags often in Conferences held at the Church and even sometimes in various pageants and special events there. Thus, I thought that some of the Movements in the Indian Club/Flag Drill could be incorporated into these Church Conferences, pageants and special events. So, I announced the start up of a class for this purpose. Perhaps about 20 interested men and women showed up for the class, but after several classes it became evident that, perhaps because they were adults, they found it impossible to do many of the Movements! I was quite amazed at this! I really worked with them, even simplifying and breaking down the Movements into their simplest forms. Still they couldn’t do them! Thus, ultimately, I think there were about 6-8 that stuck with it for quite a few class sessions, but because the flag waving in a Church has a whole different meaning, it became apparent that the Drill was not a “good fit” for the Church functions. Flag waving in my Church has a whole different meaning and purpose, i.e. red flags often stand for blood atonement, cleansing, the wrath of God, judgement, death, love, etc., while blue flags stand for the heavenly realm, grace, prayer, healing, etc. Well, you get the idea! Thus, I cancelled the classes. Now, I could have, I suppose, gone to some of the local Gymnastic Schools and offered to teach Indian Club swinging, but, well, I wasn’t inclined to do that. I am hoping that Mike Simpson in the UK, you, Paul, in Australia, and others like you will endeavor to keep this “lost art” of Indian Club Swinging alive! Thank you for your efforts to do this!
Indian Club Flag Drill
How proficient were you before you started on combinations, or were they part of the learning process?
Susan Poulos:- The combinations were just part of the learning process.
Did you work in groups?
Susan Poulos:- Initially, when I was about 12 years old, I learned the Drill along with the YMCA boys in my Dad’s gym class. We comprised “a class of students learning the Drill.”
The choreography, I would assume would have been prepared for displays?
Susan Poulos:- Yes, the objective for that initial class (when I was about 12 years old) was Dad’s “YMCA Gym Show.” held at St. Paul’s East Side YMCA. My parents Myrt and Howard decided that every two years they’d schedule a “Gym Show” so that the boys and girls, representing their individual classes, could perform for the general public by presenting a display of their new skills.
These shows were by ticketed admission for the general public, this “Show” gave the boys and girls an incentive to try harder and accomplish more in their classes! Here are some photos I’ve found from those Gym Shows. (Sorry I couldn’t find more photos, this all goes back about 50 years! No other photos have survived.)
The photo below shows four of us doing the Indian Club Drill (yes, that’s me in front – MANY years ago!). I have to tell you a short story about the two Y boys on each side of me. We were all 9th graders in junior high school (about 14 years old) and we decided to do the Indian Club Drill for the school’s talent show. Because we’d used fire on the ends of the Indian Clubs for the YMCA Gym Show, we decided we’d do so for the school’s talent show as well. There were TWO performances. The first performance was performed perfectly, but during the intermission between the two talent shows we had to remove the burned cotton balls from the ends of the Indian Clubs, make new cotton balls and then nail them to the ends of the Indian Clubs in time for the second performance. The old phrase “haste makes waste” proved to be true as we didn’t pack the cotton tight enough and with the Mineral Spirit fluid on them that we hadn’t squeezed out properly, suddenly, during the second performance pieces of the cotton began flying off! Besides landing in the hair of the one boy (and he had to stop the drill to put it out), some of the cotton landed on the curtain (on the auditorium’s stage) and so the curtain caught on fire. The school’s janitor rushed up on stage and began beating the curtain to put it out! Meanwhile, the whole student body had jumped to their feet and with wide eyes, began to shout “Oh, boy, no school tomorrow!”
Aw, it was really something, Paul! And, years later, when I was “working out/exercising” at the YMCA a man said to me, “You look familiar to me, were you ever in a talent show at Cleveland Junior High School?”
To my embarrassment, it was the Principal of that Junior High School.
Well, in conclusion, my Dad put reflective tape on the Indian clubs which made for an interesting act and he also used florescent tape along with black light. With all of the lights out in the gymnasium/auditorium except for the black light, it made for an interesting act.
And, there were the Indian Clubs that my Dad had made. Of course, this is old technology by today’s standards, but these electrically lighted Indian Clubs made for an interesting act in a completely darkened gymnasium/auditorium. A portion of the Indian Clubs was hollowed out and two small light bulbs were wired to appear in the hollowed out portion which was covered by heavy duty plastic. A green bulb and a red bulb were fitted into the hollowed-out portions with wires that went through the handles of the Clubs out to the side of the room. There, a person sat with an attached switch and could switch the colors in the clubs from green, to red, and then red and green, together. Throughout the Drill the colors changed from green, to red, and then red and green, together. With all of the lights out in the gymnasium/auditorium, it made for an interesting act!
In conclusion, here are four sets of “Indian Clubs” I’ve used over the years (minus the clubs with fire on the ends). Left to right, 3/4 lb. clubs, 1 lb. clubs, red juggling pins (plastic, very light weight and easy to swing) and Dad’s “creation” (very old clubs now!) that were electrically wired. A wired cord goes to each club (person swinging these clubs must wear a long sleeved shirt to keep the cords from getting tangled up). Inside the plastic portion of the clubs there is a small green and a small red bulb. From the handle end of the clubs the wired cords come together into one wired cord and at the distant end of that one wired cord there’s a switch that allows a person to switch the color of the bulbs from green, to red, to red and green together. That switch is attached to a wired cord that goes to the electrical outlet.
Over the years I’ve swung either the Flags or the red juggling pins for many talent shows, plus I was in the center spot light doing a solo Flag Drill at my 1200 seat church for their 4th of July “Freedom Celebration” several years ago. Now, at age 72, I can still perform this Drill and I still love doing it!
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