As we all shelter in place, people have gotten creative in how they keep themselves fit as well as entertained. I’m surprised that the hula hoop hasn’t made a comeback. Or maybe it has, but just not in my neighborhood. Maybe people are hula hooping indoors or in their backyards.
With the parks now open, perhaps we’ll see a resurgence of what was once a national craze. According to Smithsonian Magazine, 1958 was the year that the United States “went dizzy for hula hoops.” So, I should not have been surprised when I stumbled across as Petaluma Argus Courier article describing a hula hoop contest that was held at McNear Park on October 4, 1958.
Spectators crowded the McNear Park grandstands to watch 300 children compete in Petaluma’s first ever hula hoop contest. The event was sponsored by the Petaluma Recreation Department and O’Neill Drug Company. Bertha Buckett, playground leader employed by the Recreation Department, was in charge. Judges were Lillian Robertson, Eleanor Ghisletta, L.eonora C. White, Hulda Koehnke, Cleona Ternes, Alma Gustafson, Anna Breedlove, and Earl Gerhardt. Judges for the finals were Judge Rolland Webb, Frank Toner and Bill Soberanes.
The finalists were Diane Spain (8 years old), Linda Feiling (11 years old) and Joan Diamond (3 years old); and the runners up were Leslie Chambers (11 years old), Kathy Mendosa (6 years old) and Lynn Maier (5 years old).
Bill Soberanes shared his views of the competition in his October 8th Petaluma Argus Courier column under the title “I Went Through the Hoops.” Here is a partial transcription of that column:
“I thought judging the whisker contest for the Centennial was a tough job, but it was a breeze compared to deciding on the hula hoop winners Saturday in the contest at McNear Park.
When I arrived on the scene, Bertha Buckett of the Recreation Department was swamped with entries. Dalton Dray, who was suppose to be a judge practiced with a hula hoop so he’d know what it was all about. Dalt threw his back doing it, and couldn’t perform.
When they called on the pre-school kiddies to compete, I looked at the contenders, then up at the parents glaring down at me, finally selected three and escaped with my life.
The other eight divisions were judged by a group of ladies who had each other’s help in making the big decisions. Then came the grand finale when Judge Webb, Frank Toner and I had to the pick the winner. King Solomon never had a harder task. Thanks to the help of my colleagues, we came up with what I thought was a fair choice of hula hoopsters. I know the kids, who didn’t win, will forgive me, but will their parents?”Petaluma Argus Courier, October 8, 1958, page 24
What do you think – is a hula hoop contest something we want to promote in Petaluma or Sonoma County for that matter? It would be a fun way to assure we keep six feet apart while enjoying our parks!
In the meantime, check out Alec Scott’s July 2018 article – “The Iconic Hula Hoop Keeps on Rolling: How the loopy 60-year-old toy maintains its popularity” in the Smithsonian Magazine