Over ONE MILLION POUNDS – that’s what Paul Fogarty’s mail attests – over one million pounds and miles and miles of waistlines have been trimmed and slimmed from the figures of Midwest women in the past six years. All of this has been accomplished by the largest calisthenics class, “Your Figure, Ladies,” Paul Fogarty’s television program featured daily on WGN-TV, Chicago (1955).
Debbie Drake was the first high-profile female TV fitness star. Her syndicated programs, “The Debbie Drake Show” and “Debbie Drake’s Dancercise,” aired from 1960-1978. In 1960, an estimated 70% of married women were full-time housewives. Debbie showed them the way to a “shapely-figure” as well as how to make a man happy with her best-selling record album, “How to Keep Your Husband Happy = Look Slim - Keep Trim:”
The Modern Health Spa
In keeping with the 50’s spirit of “Big,” health spas emerged as big business during this Era. With the economy being good, luxurious health spas were constructed, replacing the “dingy gym” and gave everyone the opportunity to experience this thing called “fitness” and the good life it produced!
At this time the “King of the Health Club” was Vic Tanny. Vic opened his first health club in 1936 in Rochester, NY. His innovation was to use bright colors, wall-to-wall carpeting, full-length mirrors, chrome machines and inspiring background music which was a sharp contrast to the gloomy gymnasium typical in that day. In 1939, Tanny moved to Santa Monica, California and began to build a chain of more than 90 clubs throughout the United States and Canada.
Jack LaLanne said of Vic, “Tanny was the first to reshape the concept of a gymnasium from a room where grubby men simply sweated under barbells into one where chromium-plated, controlled weights were set in carpeted suites with adjacent spas, tennis courts and swimming pools.”
It has been said that, “the life of luxury is the lull to apathy.” This may have been what caused our nation to go “soft” during the 1950’s. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) received a shocking report that infuriated the Commander in Chief. The report presented grim statistics about the fitness levels of America’s youth. (Adults also were getting flabby!)
Eisenhower took immediate action and called for a meeting of all the top fitness experts of the day to develop a plan of attack. The President’s Counsel on Youth Fitness was formed in 1956 to combat the problem. This was not the first time that a president got involved in the health and fitness of our nation. Back in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) said, “The State’s paramount concern should be the health of its people.”
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1858-1919) was a great spokesperson for fitness in America and led by example. As a child he was sickly, suffering from asthma and poor eyesight. He exercised vigorously to improve his health and increase his body strength as served to inspire many.
After Eisenhower, the council continued its efforts to help our nation get fit. President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) would change the name to The President’s Council on Physical Fitness. LBJ would add, “and Sports” to encourage lasting fitness gains through sports and games.
In 1972, The Presidential Sports Award was established under President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) to motivate Americans to participate regularly in fitness/sports activity and in 1984, President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) proclaimed May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. (Regan is remembered for pumping up the economy as well as “Pumping Iron” himself!)