Friday, August 20, 2010

"O! Tis excellent to have a giant's strength"

This quote from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, was Vic Tanny's senior quote in the 1935 Saga (the former yearbook of our college.) In a school like ours with such an active physical education program it is good to recall something of Vic Tanny's accomplishments.

First you have to understand that in the 1930s there was little in the way of gyms or health clubs as we know them today. A young man who wanted to work with weights might find himself, like Vic, in his garage, using sandbags tied to broomsticks and other home made equipment!

Although he trained as a junior high teacher, Vic Tanny was passionate about exercise, weight training and body building, and these became his career. His greatest accomplishment was to be a pioneer of the modern health club movement.

He opened his first gym shortly after WWII in Santa Monica, near the original "Muscle Beach." It was the 7,000 square foot basement of a USO club, and became fondly known as "The Dungeon." It was the place to train for weightlifters and body builders in the 1940s and 1950s. Members included actor Steve Reeves and Joe Gold, who went on to establish the famous Gold's Gym.

From this beginning Vic established a chain of clubs, moving away from the "dungeon" model to one where more ordinary men and women might feel at home. Among other things he pioneered the idea of paying membership fees by installment, making membership more workable for people.

Although in later years financial problems led to his chain of clubs being sold, mostly to Bally's, Vic Tanny '35 remains to this day a respected figure in the history of physical training and health clubs. (Pictured here is Vic in the one of his clubs in the early 1960s.)