Tumbling Socialists

Husband and I attended a family wedding in Milwaukee, WI recently. The ceremony and reception were held in the ballroom at Turner Hall, a historic building constructed in 1882. It takes its name from the German word “turnen” which means gymnastics or physical fitness. It was built for the members of Milwaukee’s Turners, a German-American gymnastic and political association. The photo at the top is of actual Milwaukee Turners.  The building was quite ornate, but under restoration, with murals and photographs all over the walls and stairwells. The hall boasts of a ballroom, beer hall, and theatre, as well as a gymnasium where gymnastics is still taught.

The Turners began in Germany in 1811 to train young men in physical fitness and to resist Napoleon and anti-democratic forms of government.  It was a nationalistic gymnastic organization, usually quite liberal in philosophy.  Men tumbled and planned revolutions.  The Turners were very active in the revolution of 1848. They didn’t do so well in that revolution, and many fled to the US, with a great number serving in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Turners provided an honor guard at Abe Lincoln’s inauguration as well as at his funeral. There were Turner Halls all over the US in the 19th Century in areas where there were concentrations of German immigrants. The Milwaukee chapter was founded in 1853 with the name “Socialist Turnverein”.  All three of Milwaukee’s Socialist mayors were Turners.

The Turners held gymnastic competitions and provided social, political, and cultural support to German immigrants. The Turners are the reason we have physical education in our schools.  They supported women’s suffrage, and, by the 1920’s, girls were also getting gymnastic training at the Milwaukee hall. My sister in law’s 90 year old mother tumbled and did rings and uneven bars there, under the direction of a male coach who would wack her with a stick if she messed up.  They often espoused the motto  “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body”,  but I really like the more explicit motto below:

Liberty against all oppression

Tolerance against all fanaticism

Reason against all superstition

Justice against all exploitation

If you started an organization, what would your motto be?

23 thoughts on “Tumbling Socialists”

  1. Rise and Roll Over Baboons!

    I love this organization and this picture Renee. How does an organization combine tumbling and political revolution? They don’t seem to inhabit the same universe, but they must somehow.

    I don’t have even a germ of an idea for a motto. I do still know the 4-H pledge though, so that will have to do. I loved 4-H:

    I pledge my Head for clearer thinking
    My Heart for greater loyalty
    my Hands for larger service
    and my Health to better living
    for my club, my community,
    my country, and my world.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I would make a lousy leader at this point in my life.
    As a young gal I was more active and vocal in terms of leadership with in organizations….the largest was organizing and conducting a synod assembly of Lutheran youth at a college location. It went well ‘tho I was told by one of the pastors to wear shoes…..bare feet were my total look dress or slacks…and in those days it was bell bottoms and mini skirts/dresses. (my father had strict rules as to just how mini an outfit I could wear)

    My values haven’t changed….
    Tolerance and appreciation for all peoples & faiths/religions….’tho I have no tolerance for groups which abuse in the name of religion or out of ignorance.

    Education continues throughout life and one can learn something from all….even if it simply confirms ones own beliefs.

    I am such a hermit….not one to socialize other than church here(my sister in law is the lead Pastor) i sit with my brother….and when home my little Fika Kaffe group of three. So I would not be one to start any group anymore. My energy goes toward my swimming and my art….still fighting programs on this iPad & learning to use the “pencil”. It is more work/practice than I thought it would be….so I’m in beginning stages but into enough to have finished some designs for Bergquists and one for my niece….her last tattoo….a Scandinavian design which included her boys names and nephew. That was a challenge which forced me into learning to work with the pencil and come up with a design she will wear for life…and I will see every time we’re together.

    Well i ramble…another reason I’d never make a good leader….my mind carries thoughts that ramble from one minut connection to another & another…..

    Listening to MPR and just heard today’s weather…in Duluth it was 32…I’m going to need to bundle or layer for my flight home….and I will be delighted to do so.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. if rambling is a problem its news to me
    i am their leader but my people are leaving i need to go see what they’re up to….
    my colleagues all recognize the different ways we all work
    one of my best things is ramble. i call it brainstorming and it has become valued because others brains don’t work that way. my current new business partner calls it my stupid human trick ala dave letterman

    ot. daves mom died at 92 yesterday and dave turned 70 today

    my club would be a brainstorming group, i love ideas
    implementing would incorporate my stupid human trick with others who have different gifts

    motto : go for it. now!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. There is little chance I would ever “start an organization.” If I did start one, I’d have to go to its meetings, and that’s out of character for me. So you are asking me to engage in a fantasy. I’ll start an organization the day I vote for the Dark Side.

    But, just for fantasy’s sake, if I did come up with a motto, it would be:

    Together we can do what is not possible to do alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love the photo too. I’m with Steve. Not a leader, not even much of a joiner of groups. I’ll fall back on Groucho Marx’s classic quote: I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I can’t say what my organization would be or do, because by its organizing principles it would have no obvious reason to meet, but its motto would be:

    – Over your choices
    – Over your beliefs
    – Over your conscience

    Liked by 4 people

  7. What a great photo, Renee. Nice post too.

    Here’s a video of a Danish gymnastics instructor who for 25 years did a program on Danish radio. Yes, you read that right, the radio. I remember listening to him as a child, and dad doing the exercises when he was home. Don’t know why reading your story, Renee, made me think of him, and am quite surprised that I could actually drag his name out of the recesses of my mind. Kaptain Jespersen was known and loved by all Danes, and this clip is such a blast from the past. He was a former military officer, and his instructions are orders barked out with great authority. Too bad you won’t be able to understand what he saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The idea of my starting an organization is laughable, but if I did, it would be an organization of one and the motto would be “Getting Things Done is Overrated.”


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