Not Past It - Every Little Thing: Behind the Pom Poms

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Hey, not past it listeners this week.

We’ve got a special episode for you.

From our friends over at every little thing every week, host floor Lichtman answers.

Your burning questions about well, every little thing and in this episode, she dives into the origins of cheerleading, where did all that rah-rah-sis-boom-bah start and who gets to Define what cheerleading really is?


It’s a wild ride through cheer camp.

Oops, and pompoms but also individualism and identity, if you are a hardcore, bring it on fan like me.

This is the story for.

You not pass.

It will be back next week with a brand new episode.


But until then, here’s every little thing with behind the pom-poms.

Cheerleading’s checkered past, Tod Cas.


Here’s a podcast.

Here’s our podcast.


You have reached the every little thing helpline.


Give me a b.

Give me an e.

Give me an e.

Give me a pee.

Hey, for us, it’s Jessica, my husband and I were talking earlier today around 4:20 and we won’t wondering how did cheerleading start it is a factual emergency.


Thanks Guy.


Hey, it’s Flora from every little thing.

Hey, Flora Jessica.

It’s funny a lot of Nurse call us with questions.

They thought up around 4:20 looking for lasagna recipes.


Telling us our Eclipse episode lines up perfectly with the Wizard of Oz.

It’s a good time to clear your mind and we were doing such and I literally have no recollection of how the question was brought up, but I think I just in true 420, fashion.


Spun around to my husband and said, hey, Cheerleaders are weird.

What do you mean?

All of the cheers?

All the moves, the clothing, the social status, the pom-poms, you know, standing on top of each other, throwing people in the air, just the whole thing.


If you look at it out of context, seems real strange, did you have any first-hand experience with the strangeness?

I was a cheerleader for a small period of My Life.

As a kid, it was intense.

If girls did their hair, it was, it had to be the same exact way.


A use the exact same products.

Like if it was a certain scrunchie, it had to be the same color.

It had to look the same.

I mean, it was, it was very conformed, how about the cheers?

You want to give me a cheer from your cheerleading days.

Okay, so we were the Eagles and for some reason someone decided that we should say, whoop, whoop, klom clom, which runs together if you’re a southerner, but that is literally claw them.


So we would just scream, whoop, whoop, clomp clomp and the entire crowd would do it.

It was really strange loop.

Clomp clomp, it’s like encouraging physical harm as well.

You know, it’s just the whole thing.

How did your cheerleading days come to an end?


You know, I wanted there to be more individualism and there wasn’t but maybe there’s something to that in the history of it.

I don’t know.

There is Hmm.

What do you want to know?

I do need to know where it was started, who jumped up first and said, like, you know, hey, give me an A and, like, what are the first person say like, did they say here’s your a, you know, like how strange was that?


I would like to know if it was always, or started as female lead.

I really need to know where pom-poms came from Jessica.

I’m gonna give you an a, I’m an Indian.

And I’m going to give you a swear.

What’s that spell?


And swor okay, actually I’m not going to give you an answer but Natalie Adams will.


Jessica, Natalie is a professor at the University of Alabama and a former high school cheerleader.



I was a cheerleader back in the day when you had to have no Talent whatsoever.

I could do a cartwheel in a split.

What was the team?

The Wildcats The mighty Winnsboro Wildcats.

Do you remember any of the cheers?

Oh, yeah, yeah.

So we always ended the pep rally and the football game with two bits, four bits six, bits a dollar.


All for the Wildcats stand up and holler, Natalie is hollered on the field and in the field, she wrote the book on the history of cheerleading.

I co-authored with one of my very dear friends, a book called cheerleader, an American icon.

We had a Of fun writing this book.


We drank a lot of wine and practice cheerleading jumps on the back porch.

I can see it.

Do you ever do that?

I don’t, I mean, I drink a ton of wine.

So you asked how did cheerleading begin?



How do you imagine the first cheerleader?

I truly don’t know why, but I picture a male, I don’t know.

Like a group of guys like fighting over something.

You know, and it just kind of like Turned And into this, uh, get him, get him, and do this, and do that.


And it just in, it took off from there.

When I say your rightish, you say I’m rightish the first cheerleaders were all male.

I’m so excited at that’s right.

So I want to send you a picture of the people involved in the first documented moment in cheerleading history, will also put it on Instagram at alt show.



Okay, so we’re talking like Abe, Lincoln style, most of them have bow ties and I’m really truly think one of them has a cane Abe.

Lincoln is actually not a bad reference because cheerleading seems to get going in 1869.


There’s a lot of folklore, and of surrounding cheerleading and its history.

But most people agree that the kind of first cheer was, actually at a game between Rutgers and Princeton.

A group of residents broke out into this cheer, which was rah.


Rah, sis, boom, boom, boom.

Should we do that like anytime?

There’s like a good fact or something that you enjoy learning, should you do?

And okay, the chair is called the Princeton locomotive, and they’re still doing it to this day?


I feel like they could come up with something else.

I mean, they’re like really smart, right?

I guess.

In the early days cheering wasn’t that organized.

It was just a bunch of dudes.

Sisha, sisha saying, on the sisya sidelines, there were cheers, but not cheerleaders.


But that changed 30 years later, the person who’s usually given the credit as being.

The first cheerleader, was a guy by the name of Johnny Campbell, and that was 18, 19. 98 at the University of Minnesota.

So in The Story Goes, the Johnny Campbell was at a game.


He was so overcome with team spirit and I don’t know, Minnesota grain, alcohol, that he led the crowd in a cheer.

This is how cheer got its leader, but he wouldn’t be called that.

He would have been called like the router King.

The yell leader, the Yale Master, the yell Marshall, but no man is he L Island pretty soon.


Yell Marshals form, yell platoons.

Around 1905, 1910.

You start seeing, you know, a squad and it would be small, like, for are we letting women in yet?

No, still all men.

Look, just probably like what you would imagine it.


An Ivy League school white, dude, clean-cut athletic Argyle sweaters, you know, maybe a pipe.

Exactly, that really gets a crowd going, you know?

Well if that doesn’t get you going, maybe a cheer from the time will it’s sexy and math based.


Well, there is one from Georgia Tech when Georgia Tech was all male.

They had a cheer that said, differential y differential X to hell with differentials we want sex, I’m sorry.

But who’s gonna say yes to that?


Now, imagine them yelling, we want sex while bouncing on a trampoline trampoline that was there.

Top of choice.

One of the reasons.

Why girls and young women weren’t allowed is because that would have been very unseemly far.

A young woman to be bouncing off a trampoline and that cheerleading would make girls too.


Masculine another concern about women.

Did you just give me an a, I did, I did.

Come on big point there.

Another concern was that women’s voices were to shrill to command a crowd.

The Frog, throated last He’s that’s what they were called.


Oh no.

I feel like frog throated lassies is the vocal fry.

Troll of the 1930s haha, but we know frog threaded lassies.

Get on that trampoline.

Eventually, what happens is during World War, two young men, leave the college campuses and girls flock to cheerleading because their positions there.


And when the war ended women held on to those positions because this is one of the few athletic opportunities for women at the time.

They didn’t want to leave.

Yeah, very similar to women that got to work for the first time, they were like, hmm, I kind of like this.

I don’t want to leave by the 1950s, the cheerleading gender Dynamic has flipped cheerleading becomes very much feminized, high schools tended, to be almost all girls and these girls are putting their own twist on cheerleading.


They make their own uniforms create their own.

Cheers, it’s all very artisanal and locally sourced, all right, all right.

Let me give you an example of a cheerful.

Um, the time.

Well, checkable voting about The lights are bright round.


We’re definitely in the Northeast here.


So just compare Lobster Lobster rah-rah to the cheers.

We have today which all sort of sound the same like they could be coming from any school.

Any where here ready?


Okay, succ ESS, that’s the way we spell success.

I do notice that we spell a lot more.

Oh, and when you played that, I, you know, had one of those like PTSD Shivers and I was like, oh yeah, we always did the ready.


Okay, and like one arm up in the air that always started with that Jessica.

There’s a reason why you always started with that and why we all know the same spelling, cheers it traces back to the 1950s, And one GE.


Oh, Lawrence Herkimer was the father of cheerleading there would not be the cheerleading as we know it today.

Had there not been Lawrence Herkimer.

Didn’t expect it to be a man.

He had the right personality.


Oh yes, I’ve dubs.

People would laugh and call a key or key after the break.

We’re going to hear all about the person who turned jumping up and down and yelling into a gazillion dollar Empire.

Jessica have you heard of a herkie?


I have like half of a split one leg bent.

Yes, it is a famous, cheerleading jump.

If you imagine a cheerleader doing a jump it would be this one.

I know about the her key.

So the her key was named after the so-called father of cheerleading, it was his signature move and his nickname are by calling Marky somebody called him in Lawrence.


You know, if they called on the phone and ask for Lawrence, you knew that that’s not somebody that I know knowing it probably somebody’s selling something, that’s her key sister-in-law, Barbara Hazelwood, he was married to my sister.

Dorothy, when did you meet him?

Oh, when I was a baby in the crib, he was around and I was a flower girl and their wedding.


When I was five, Jessica, what do you want to know about her key?

Well, I would like to put a face to the name.

All right, let me send you a picture.

Okay, so this guy has a lot of Pep for sure.


Yeah, that’s verified.

Oh yes, it was perky Herky.

Sometimes people would laugh and call a key or keys that could not be any better.

I know he’s in like white kids, White Sox, white pants, white handkerchief, like around his neck, tight.


Polo shirt.

I just noticed all the women screaming.

Below him.

Yes, he’s like mid herkie.

Jump above five.


Five, white women all dressed in white all with like the same haircut.

Yes, yeah.

They look like they’re supposed to be doing mock horror but they’re doing Real Horror instead.



Yeah, I think that’s true.

So that was her key in his Heyday, but here’s how he got his start Herky was a cheerleader in high school and college.

He loved it so much that after graduation.


He kept going to cheerlead at football games and at one game he gets so excited.

He did backflips all the way down the field.

Someone took a picture, it ended up in a big National magazine and that’s when his phone started to ring, where he received a phone call from a doctor Hackney down in Huntsville.


Texas, it’s Sam Houston State, teachers college and A phone call back in those days where was pretty Beauty was pretty serious.

If somebody called you on long distance.

Wow, that was a big deal.

So he called her key to see if he would go down and train some of his cheerleaders, he was called in to bring some pep to this cheerleading squad and after he did this training, the phone rang again and again, and again, and then it just snowballed all from the black Phillips.


So her key and his wife, Dorothy saw a business opportunity and took it.

They were really were team.

They were almost like George Burns and Gracie Allen.

I mean they were you don’t you probably don’t even know who they were.



You’re the sweetest husband, it all house, I can see it herc.

You could just light up a room and Dorothy could to her key and Dorothy get to work.

They start with the cheer clinics and then expand the business into merchandise.


We sell the cheerleader, uniforms the sweaters and your shoes, the cheerleader shoes, necklaces used to be really popular and we’re a little megaphone necklace around your neck to show that you’re a cheerleader.

But the pas de resistance of Their merchandising business, was essentially a crumpled piece of paper that her key patented.


The Pom-Pom give me a why give me an e.

Give me an s.

Yes, it’s just a natural thing.

When you’re jumping up and down yelling and screaming for your team, you want something to shake her key created and patented the Pom-Pom.



But technically, we’re pronouncing it wrong.

There’s a whole possibly apocryphal story.

He was doing a cheerleader.

Clinic in Hawaii.

And so he said to the girls, he said, okay, I want all you Pom-Pom girls to come over here, the P om peel em and they all started kind of snickering and giggling.


Well, he found out that and Hawaiian.

That was not a very nice girl.

A pompom, girl was not a very nice girl.

What do you mean that?

A very nice girl?

Well, that was like a lady of ill repute was a pompom girl, and I guess a stripper.


Something, I don’t know something.

So let’s change that.

I’ve it to pump on with an N with an n p.

Om p 0n.

I’ve been calling those crepe paper shakers.

A girl Ville repute for the last.

I don’t know 30 years of my life.


I didn’t stick, but it is the official patent and name.

It’s kind of amazing that they’re still.

They’re still around kind of a low-tech invention.

Yes, yes.

And they cost quite a bit.

I remember my parents not being sure if they could afford that attachment to my gear, there were just like, oh you gotta have these.


You can’t borrow with another girl again.

So her key have the cheerleading world in the palm of his hand.

By the peak of the business, they were grossing Millions a year and selling the majority of cheerleading uniform.

An equipment bought in the US but the biggest part of his business were cheerleading camps.


Her keys cheerleading camp for offered throughout the country at these camps cheerleaders.

Learn to give me an a do.

A herkie jump, hold their arms in a tight militaristic style through these camps, cheerleading got standardized, that makes sense.

Our expert, Natalie went to one of her keys camps when she was a teenager.


She had a good time.

Oh absolutely.

Because I come from very A small town and we went by ourselves and we were able to do things like smoking the dorm room.


Oh absolutely.

We look forward to it, but the camps didn’t just teach teen smokers how to do basket tosses and pony Mounds.

They also taught teen smokers teen spirit.

So one of the most coveted things that you can while it is the most coveted thing you Bring home from cheerleading camp is called the spirit stick.


This was another her convention.

He was at a cheerleading camp in Redlands, University in California.

And there was a cheerleading squad that they weren’t that good in terms of just cheer execution, but they were really enthusiastic.

And so he went and broke off of, you know, a twig off of a tree and handed it to him and said, here’s your spirit, stick your the most spirited squatted at this camp and it’s then started becoming a tradition.


Only a few teams got to bring it home.

Um, My team, my team never brought it home you, too busy smoking, cigarettes.

It was smoking, cigarettes and drinking, but it wasn’t all fun and drinking games.

There are also Daily lectures at the camp to pump up the peppers.


And this part is cray Jessica.

Can you give me a z z?

This part is crazy.

One of the things that would happen at cheerleading camp is you were very much made to I understand that you were at the top of the social hierarchy at your high school, if you were a cheerleader.


So, like we had a cheer that everybody would do, and it was called c h éeer leader-1.

S, oh, yes.

And we are the best, and we would just all sing this about ourselves started my morning.

That way.


It’s very empowering, but yeah.

So the idea that you were, you were the bomb at your high school that Is crazy here, right?

Totally cray.

You know, it’s not like these girls just got this idea.

Someone told them it was okay and it was passed through generations, that’s crazy.


There’s this great quote from her keys telling some people out of Camp, when you become a cheerleader, you become an instant, not an instant cup of coffee, an instant success, you become instantly, popular instantly imitated, and instant trendsetter what you do.


You wear how you act, what you are everything about you will be carefully studied and carefully copied by all the other girls.

It’s fascinating because I mean, it’s like her key helped create this idea.

Then, as a pressed, a lot of high school students, if you are not at the top of the food chain, oh, absolutely.


Yeah, being a cheerleader is being a lot of things and they’re all good things.

Maybe that’s right.

At one time or another.

We all want to be cheerleaders.

Everything you’re not.


I’m cool.

It’s crazy that it lasted this long and your Insight was spot on.

There is a strange uniformity to cheerleading, and that was by design by Lawrence.

Herkimer’s design.

It was him Herky jerky, turkey jerky.


I hope we’ve made some space for you to contemplate other questions during your next 420 session.

Why Garfield is weird, right?

He eats meat loaf.

It’s was on how do you think that’s probably Taro?

It’s lasagna still strange, though.


Flora, I mean, I think that would be really detrimental to a cat.

All right, will you give me a b?

Y e, give me a b.


Give me a.

Why, why?

You were late.

Gimme an e.




There’s a lot more to this cheerleading story that you should know about which is why we will be back later this week with a second episode about the Fallout from her keys.

Master plan, will hear about the lack of diversity in cheerleading and the struggle to change that during the height of integrating.


The schools, whenever schools were being desegregated one of the hardest things to integrate were actually the cheerleading squads that’s on the Next episode of elt. you cannot find the answer to give us a call, a 33 ring elt that’s 833 ring, elt Every little thing is produced by Aaron race.


BB Flanagan, Annette, Heist and floor elect men with help from Nicole bazooka and Doug Barron.

Our Consulting editors are Caitlin Kenny and or hey, just mixed by dhara.

Hirsch scored by dhara, Hirsch and Bobby Lord.



Whoop, clomp clomp, ah, goodbye.