Friday, January 7, 2011

Irony... bamboo style (bamboo and pole vaulting)

I'm always drawn to bamboo history, after all history was one of my majors in college.  It was a subject that I thoroughly enjoyed and still do today.  But most often, I never have a personal tie to bamboo history, but tonight's post is different.

This brings me to a story about the world record pole vaulter Cornelius Warmerdam who used a bamboo pole throughout his pole vaulting career.  After setting many records, he was destined for the Olympics, in 1940 and 1944, but World War II led to those Olympics being cancelled.  

Warmerdam's pole vaulting career started modestly by pole vaulting in his backyard using the limb of a peach tree and landing in a pit of piled up dirt.  Warmerdam went on to make several pole vaulting records with his bamboo pole and was inducted into several halls of fame for his pole vaulting records.  He later became a track and field coach for Fresno State University and the stadium at the university was later named after Warmerdam.

Cornelius, known as "Dutch" to his friends, spent a good portion of this youth growing up in Hanford, California (where I was born and lived for my first 18 years) and graduated from Hanford High School, my alma mater.  I also went to Hanford High School with Catherine Warmerdam, which I suspect was a relative (not definite, but likely).  Catherine was a co-editor with me for Hanford High's Meteor student newspaper.  

The summer before I went off to college, my future wife and I worked for Catherine's family who owned a fruit packing shed (apples and stone fruit), making boxes and learning to drive a forklift (a scary thought).  That job taught me about hard work and gave me appreciation for how hard immigrants work for little pay to keep food on our plates.  Work that is unappreciated by most, but for a 18 year old, it was a life lesson I will never forget.

Warmerdam, coming from a modest background, broke records, all with a bamboo pole.  Can't help to appreciate this piece of history!


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