GREAT GYM'S OF YESTERYEAR
By Osmo "John" Kiiha
Reprinted with permission of The Iron Master
The granddaddy of all today's commercial gym's was the famous Sigmund Klein's Gym, located at 48th street and seventh avenue in the heart of New York City's theater district. This completely equipped gymnasium was unlike any other in New York, or for that matter, anywhere in the world. It was the link between the older European school and that of today.
Klein's Gym was one of the smallest commercial gym's ever. The exercise room measured no more than 30 x 40 feet. The floor was covered in a blue broadloom - and woe to anyone whoever let a drop of honest sweat fall upon it! Klein's barbells dated back to the turn of the century, and were in anchor slots extending around a handsome carved wooden wainscoating. The barbells were of the shot loading kind, while the dumbbells were non-adjustable and made of solid iron.
In particular, there was the "notorious" Rolandow dumbbell. This heavy (209 lb.) and awkward dumbbell left many a strongman mumbling to themselves when they failed to move it from the floor. John Grimek was the first to lift it overhead in the bent press style (Feb. 16, 1936), and many other famous iron game personalities managed to succeed with it over the years. Klein himself was the lightest man to ever bent press the dumbbell (147 BWT); finally conquering the weight on April 10, 1947.
In addition to his many interesting globe style barbells, Klein was in the posession of a tremendous collection of over 200 beer steins. Siegmund began collection these around 1930 and the steins were proudly displayed all about his gym. The walls of the gym were also adorned with numerous photographs and paintings of the great strongmen from the earliest beginnings of the sport.
Though Klein's Studio of Physical Culture was devoted chiefly to the building up of health and strength for the average man, there was special equipment built for those desiring special work for professional purposes. One such piece of equipment was the "Roman Column", the only device of it's kind in New York.
The "column" consisted of a four inch thick vertical iron pipe anchored to the floor and ceiling. Hanging from the upper section of the pipe were two heavy chains with steel loops or rings. This unusual apparatus was used primarily for advanced work on the abdominal muscles.
A large assortment of kettle-bells, ring weights and block weights were also available.
It is sad that this gym no longer exists. It was filled with bodybuilding artifacts that should have been seen by all that are into our sport. Siegmund closed the gym in early 1973 after 45 years of continuous operation in the same location (717 - 7th Ave., N.Y.C., NY).
Sig Klein passed away May 27, 1987 and will be deeply remembered as a legend. His contributions to the Iron Game seemed to have been without beginning or end, and are far too numerous to mention within the scope of this small article. His legend will survive him forever.