NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

Jazz.2uyya@timelimit.unicyclist.com writes:
>Central park is really a fun place to go when the weather’s nice. Even
>though it gets crowded at times, it’s fantastic that there are almost
>always so many walk-ins and first-timers willing to give a unicycle a
>whirl. The atmosphere’s pretty energetic and it’s neat to sometimes sit
>back and peoplewatch.
There certainly is a lot to be said for the Bandshell area of Central
Park. One add’l item is that we have recruited some members just bc they
were walking by and spotted us there. These ppl have been both former
unicyclists who decided to start up again or ppl who had never ridden
before but who became interested after trying one of our spare unis for
awhile. I should add, tho, that I don’t think that this method of
“recruiting” has added too many serious members of the club, but there
is always the chance.
>
>From what I understand, CP was the site of a different NYC unicycle club
>years and years ago.
True. John Foss organized the first (I think) and only other (I think)
uni club. John, please fill us in on some details. I know the club
basically disbanded (dis-bandshelled?) about a dozen years ago when John
moved away. I remember hooking up with the club (along with my brother)
many years ago, just once. There was a guy who appeared to be riding a
circular table with pedals on either side, an attached seat, and rubber
around the rimi of the huge ‘wheel.’ I think there was also a multi-wheel
uni, as well as some other odd items.

from what I understand, the former club, not benefiting from the internet,
had a smaller membership (we average about 20 riders) and met even less
frequently than we do (we meet 2-3 times a month). I wish I’d known more
about that old club – I’d be a better rider today if I’d been more
involved back then.
>
>
>Grant’s Tomb has a flatter surface and there’s generally less people
>walking into your way. It doesn’t have the same energy nor the
>conveniently located food vendors, though. It’s a better skills
>practice area, but then again, I do not have that much trouble finding
>empty, relatively flat parking lots.
GT is wonderful, and there are occasional vendors when the weather
improves. It’s also really easy to find parking up there and is closer and
easier to reach (and park at) for some of our members, which is why it’s
nice to vary the venue. We are also about to add a time in Brooklyn’s
Prospect Park. I just scouted a great location yesterday, and there are
quite a few of us coming from Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, so it’ll
be nice for those members (including me) not to have to travel so far.

Come out and join us! E-mail me if you want more info.

David Stone
Co-founder, Unatics of NY
1st Sunday / 3rd Saturday

RE: NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

> >From what I understand, CP was the site of a different NYC
> >unicycle club years and years ago.

> True. John Foss organized the first (I think) and only other
> (I think) uni club.

Certainly not. Maybe the only club with a voice here in newsgroup land, but
hey, this is New York. You have to assume it has not only happened before,
but many times. My assumption is that there have been dozens of unicycle
groups/clubs of various levels of organization over the years, probably
starting as early as the 50’s or 60’s. But few of them, if any, were
affiliated with the USA or other large unicycling body, so they came and
went without our knowledge.

In Westbury, Bill Jenack had groups of riders that did shows and parades,
but I don’t know how often they did things in the City. The 1971 event at
the CP Bandshell was put together by the Stelber company, who made unicycles
somewhere in quality between a Troxel and an old Savage. Closer to the
Troxels. They had Bill Jenack as an event spokesperson (and contact person
for lots of riders), though I’m told the agreement was that he was under no
obligation to imply in any way that the Stelber unicycle was in any way a
superior product.

Jerry King had his neighborhood group of riders in the 60’s. Though they
went on to much fame and publicity, there must have been dozens or even
hundreds of similar neighborhood groups around the 5 boros over the years.

When I lived in NY we started a loose organization called the Big Apple
Unicycle Club. There was a small group of riders from Brooklyn, some guys
from Puerto Rico who had moved to NYC (like David Ramos and Daniel Dumeng),
another group led by Wayne Pounds, from somewhere in Manhattan, some old
King Charles riders, my friends and I from Long Island, and miscellaneous
individuals from here & there.

Our get-togethers were pretty rare, as we had to join up from all over the
map. I wonder which one it was you guys came to? I remember once a group
ride in CP, where we took a group photo on top of a big rock at that little
castle place. I think that same day we did rock-hopping on some other rocks
near the baseball fields in the Southwest corner of the park. Other times,
we got together for basketball on courts near the Great Lawn, or at a
different location uptown. Beyond those rare gatherings, we joined forces
for a few parades, both in Manhattan and Nassau County. The Puerto Rican Day
Parade was always a big one, plus we rode in the Korean Day Parade a few
times. On Long Island I remember a big group for the Glen Cove Thanksgiving
Parade.

There were other groups as well. Frederick Johnson had a group of girls from
a school where he worked on the upper West side. In the early days, all of
the girls were from the Dominican Republic, and they went to several
unicycle conventions, including at least one UNICON, representing that
country. I don’t know if they are still active.

> I know the club basically disbanded (dis-bandshelled?) about a dozen years

> ago when John moved away.

I don’t think we ever actually rode at the bandshell, except for the CP
CircusFest event, which was held there in 1988 and 89. Those were fun
events, with lots of unicycling, juggling, and a big show. The 1990 event
was held in Flushing Meadows Park, and we had an outdoor circus and
sideshow, where I had the dubious honor of doing my whole performance “on
grass”.

I moved to CA in the fall of 1994, and my club, the Long Island Unicyclists
(Westbury), basically ceased to exist at that time. We had started that club
(Greg Milstein and me) in 1985 at Eisenhower Park. In 1987 we got a gym and
moved inside. This was at the Westbury PAL.

Meanwhile there was also a juggling club in my area. It started from a core
group of jugglers calling themselves the Santini Brothers (based on the
moving company of that name). They had graduated from Bethpage High School,
and had gotten access to their auxiliary gym. So that’s where we went on
Monday nights. This lasted several years, until all the original juggling
guys gradually dropped out and they realized there was nobody using the gym
who lived in the school district.

> There was a guy who appeared to be riding a
> circular table with pedals on either side, an attached seat,
> and rubber around the rimi of the huge ‘wheel.’

Huh? That does not ring a bell at all. Could you describe it some more?

> I think there was also a multi-wheel uni, as well as some
> other odd items.

The multi-wheeler could have been Ken Fuchs, but he didn’t ride with us too
much in the later years. I wonder if you hooked up with us or with a
different group? :slight_smile:

I hope that was interesting reading.

Stay on top,
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
jfoss@unicycling.com

“We were discussing Big Mac Meals. I think that has little if anything to do
with cow parts. There are probably more UNICYCLE parts in a Big Mac than cow
parts.” - Greg Harper on cuisine

Re: RE: NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

john_foss@asinet.com writes:
>
>> There was a guy who appeared to be riding a
>> circular table with pedals on either side, an attached seat,
>> and rubber around the rim of the huge ‘wheel.’
>
>Huh? That does not ring a bell at all. Could you describe it some more?
Perhaps I have misremembered it, but I was struck by the awesomeness of
this weird wheel – it looked like an actual table converted to a uni or
even an UW. I don’t know if my brother still has a photo – I tihnk he
took one. John Stone?
>
>> I think there was also a multi-wheel uni, as well as some
>> other odd items.
>
>The multi-wheeler could have been Ken Fuchs, but he didn’t ride with us
>too
>much in the later years. I wonder if you hooked up with us or with a
>different group? :slight_smile:
No, I remember meeting you for the first time and being very impressed and
thrilled with the whole experience.
>
>I hope that was interesting reading.
You bet. I am glad you corrected some of my impressions and errors so that
I can carry on the history a bit more accurately.
By the way, this doesn’t count for an early NYC club, but in the early 80s
my friends and I used to ride around with t-shirts reading “Hell on Wheel”
to go along with our matching outfits. It was fun, and if pressed, I guess
I’d have to call us a loose club, but to me, it was just pals in uniforms
riding on unicycles.
>
>Stay on top,
>John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
David Stone
Co-founder, Unatics of NY
1st Sunday / 3rd Saturday
@ Central Park Bandshell
1:30 start time after 11/1/01

RE: RE: NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

> Perhaps I have misremembered it, but I was struck by the
> awesomeness of
> this weird wheel – it looked like an actual table converted
> to a uni or
> even an UW. I don’t know if my brother still has a photo – I tihnk he
> took one. John Stone?

Maybe you’re describing Ken Fuchs’ 27" ultimate wheel? It had a tire of
wheelchair rubber (solid), and a real nice, varnished wood finish. --I was
thinking of a big table. Ken’s is more of an end-table.

> No, I remember meeting you for the first time and being very
> impressed and thrilled with the whole experience.

Okay. Was it in Central Park? Did we do a group photo anywhere? Maybe you
don’t remember if you don’t have one. Joey Colon was there. He had a 42"
pneumatic big wheel. I don’t remember who all else.

> I can carry on the history a bit more accurately.
> By the way, this doesn’t count for an early NYC club, but in
> the early 80s
> my friends and I used to ride around with t-shirts reading
> “Hell on Wheel”
> to go along with our matching outfits. It was fun, and if
> pressed, I guess
> I’d have to call us a loose club, but to me, it was just pals
> in uniforms riding on unicycles.

Hey, if you guys had uniforms you were more organized than most of the
groups I referred to. I also have an old T-shirt that says “Hell on Wheel”.
I think it also has a picture of a unicycle and flames, but it’s at the
bottom of a drawer somewhere. I think mine was made by Bill Karbo in
Minnesota in the mid-80s.

JF

Re: NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

John,

I enjoyed the history. I’ve often wondered how common it was to see a
unicycle in NYC in the 60’s through the 80s These days it’s rare. A
frequent comment I get is “A unicycle! I haven’t seen one of those since I
was a kid!” They smile and get all nostalgic. I always invite them to try
it again

I run into a LOT of people who were familiar with the King Charles Troupe .
I often wonder just how common it was to see a uni in NYC in the 60’s and
70’s. And I wonder if the number of unicyclists has diminished, overall,
over the years.

> There were other groups as well. Frederick Johnson had a group of girls
from
> a school where he worked on the upper West side. In the early days, all of
> the girls were from the Dominican Republic, and they went to several
> unicycle conventions, including at least one UNICON, representing that
> country. I don’t know if they are still active.

David and I finally met Frederick Johnson a few months ago. His school
group lives on under a new teacher. I think one of our club member might
have gotten started there.

Joe

RE: NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

> I enjoyed the history. I’ve often wondered how common it was to see a
> unicycle in NYC in the 60’s through the 80s These days it’s rare.

At a guess, I’d have to say it has always been rare. Though the number of
riders has surely increased and decreased over the years, it has probably
always remained below the “background noise” level.

This is true for everywhere I’ve lived. In my 20+ years of riding, sighting
total strangers riding unicycles when I’m out and about happens probably
about once a year. This does not count street performers or other public
entertainers, which I will go out of my way to see.

Do others out there have the same results? Do you see more unicyclists, or
less?

> I run into a LOT of people who were familiar with the King
> Charles Troupe. I often wonder just how common it was to see a
> uni in NYC in the 60’s and 70’s.

I’m sure it wasn’t, unless you were in or near the neighborhoods where
groups of unicyclists lived. Naturally if you lived in the area of the
Bronx(?) where the King Charles Troupe developed, you would have thought
unicycles very common.

The same was true in the Westbury area of Long Island. There were definitely
lots of unicyclists around there in the 60’s and 70’s, thanks to Bill
Jenack. He has lots of old pictures of kids riding on his street (as seen in
most of Jack Wiley’s unicycling books), and lots more of kids riding around
the local town pool, which was at the end of the street. He spent a lot of
time outside doing youth activities, including teaching diving, being a Boy
Scout leader (at least when his kids were that age), and just having a bunch
of circus equipment out in the yard.

20 years after that, I would frequently run into people who were part of
that group all over Long Island. They’d be grown up and usually moved at
least a little ways away from Westbury, but all would have about the same
things to say when they saw my car full of unicycles. The conversation would
always start the same way: “Did you know the Jenacks?”

> And I wonder if the number of unicyclists has
> diminished, overall, over the years.

I have often wondered the same. I think there was a big surge in unicycle
use in the late 60s, early 70’s when Schwinn introduced their unicycles.
During the 70’s there were a lot of decent Japanese unicycles available as
well (except for seats, of which Schwinn had the best at the time). These
seem to have faded by the early 80s, and were eventually replaced by the
unicycles we now know as CyclePro, United, Torker, Savage, etc.

Miyata was available starting in the early 80’s, but “available” only to
people who knew how to order one. They were hardly ever in stores. I believe
Teresa Hemminger (Abrahams) was the first Miyata owner in Michigan, having
brought one home from the 1980 USA Nationals, courtesy of the Japan team. My
friend Bradley Bradley ordered one from a local bike shop, but it was taking
too long so he called Bill Jenack and ordered one. I was there when he did
it, my one and only chance to talk to Mr. Jenack before he died, and I
missed it. Later I ended up buying the Miyata that finally arrived at Bill’s
Bike & Puck (hockey) in Livonia. This was the first one sold in a store in
Michigan, and they told me it had been the display model at the big bike
trade show in NYC the previous month. That unicycle is where I learned a
great deal of my early skills. It was stolen, along with my car, the day I
delivered the first issue of the USA Newsletter entitled “On One Wheel” to
the printer, in early 1983.

Stay on top,
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
jfoss@unicycling.com

“We were discussing Big Mac Meals. I think that has little if anything to do
with cow parts. There are probably more UNICYCLE parts in a Big Mac than cow
parts.” - Greg Harper on cuisine

I randomly see people out on the street or sidewalk riding unicycles once a year at most. I meet people who used to ride or who still have a unicycle in a garage or attic at a rate of about three per year. I am 49 years old and, in my life, the number of people with whom I have been associated through school, work, or socially who owned and rode unicycles is six. All other riders that I know I have sought out solely because of unicycling.

Harper,

Think about this though (actually I bet you have) …

If you have any kind of regular riding schedule and regular stomping grounds, the people in those areas may think unicyclists are prolific, because they may see you every day or every week! “There’s that Unicycle Man again.”

That reminds me … I thought of a Chorus or verse fragment to a country-and-western song about a unicycle rider …

“Unicycle man, Unicycle man,
You can kiss me whenever you wanna.
Unicycle man, I know ya don’t wanna,
Cause the wheel is yer master and the road is yer mama.”

I’ll leave it up to somebody else to finish. I have found that singing it as I ride helps my concentration on the unicycle.

Lewis

Lewis-

Usually I say, “photos, please.” In this case I’ll say video WITH sound AND a red cowboy hat that is 3 sizes too small, please. I think a ukelele would be a nice final touch.

any uni clubs in VA?

Re: NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

On Thu, 11 Apr 2002 09:33:32 -0700, John Foss <john_foss@asinet.com>
wrote:

>In my 20+ years of riding, sighting
>total strangers riding unicycles when I’m out and about happens probably
>about once a year. This does not count street performers or other public
>entertainers, which I will go out of my way to see.
>
>Do others out there have the same results? Do you see more unicyclists, or
>less?

I’ve been riding now for 1.5 years. In all that time I only once saw a
complete stranger unicycling, in the streets of the village where my
parents live. The four of us (family, including 3 unicyclists) where
in a car and we didn’t stop.

It happened halfway the 1.5 years. So I can’t comment really on “more
unicyclists, or less”.

Klaas Bil

“To trigger/fool/saturate/overload Echelon, the following has been picked automagically from a database:”
“Security Consulting, Ramsi Bin Al-Shib, MYK”

RE: NYC Unicycle clubs, then and now

John Foss <john_foss@asinet.com> wrote in
news:mailman.1018541780.14649.rsu@unicycling.org:

>
> Do others out there have the same results? Do you see more
> unicyclists, or less?

In my personal experience, I started when I was about 13, in Japan. By
some stroke of luck, a teacher at my school was into juggling and
unicycling. He was the only other person I knew that could ride. Some of
the kids rode my uni at school, but nobody got into it. I knew a guy at a
bike shop in my neighborhood in Japan who could ride, and had a giraffe. I
remember him being able to freemount a 6-foot giraffe pretty well. That
was around 1983 or 84.

I didn’t see another unicycle until 1989, in East Lansing MI, when two
girls in a car brought one to the gas station where I was working at the
time and asked me to put air in the tire. I asked if I could ride it and
they looked at me like I was crazy, but I managed to wobble 20 feet or so
across the parking lot. The seat was too high, or I probably could have
gone further.

Fast forward to August 2001, when I suddenly decided to buy a unicycle. I
don’t know why, but I just wanted to ride again, so I got my 20"
Cycledesign, found this group, and posted about riders in the area. I
emailed a bunch of people from the roster, and found the Uni-Psychos in Ft
Worth. I’ve been riding with them weekly since.

The occurence in East Lansing in 1989 was the only random sighting of
unicycles that I’ve ever seen. The reaction that a lot of people give me
when I mention unicycles (literally shocked, in some cases) doesn’t leave
me too optimistic about seeing more in the future. It may gain some
popularity, IMHO, due to more specialized unis coming out, but in any group
of good bike riders, only 1 or 2 will ever try the uni. The rest will
immediately dismiss it as impossible. I guess it’s their loss. :slight_smile:

John