Cheerleading Boot Camp: A WWII Vet Toughens Up His Recruits

Cheerleader training under Bill Horan of the American Cheerleaders Association, Alabama, 1965. "Reach for the ripcord!" Horan bawls at his students.
Lynn Pelham—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Cheerleader training under Bill Horan of the American Cheerleaders Association, Alabama, 1965. "Reach for the ripcord!" Horan bawls at his students.
Culture
'60s

In September 1965, LIFE magazine profiled a man named Bill Horan, a World War II vet who spent his days yelling at young women. That’s not all he did, though. He also instilled the sort of character traits one might expect from a former paratrooper — tenacity, discipline, resilience — through cheerleading clinics he ran for three decades as a kind of pep-squad drill sergeant.

[Read Bill Horan's 2005 obituary in the Orlando Sentinel.]

“Like jacks-in-the-box the girls fly into the air as the hard-eyed man shakes his fist,” LIFE wrote of a typical scene at one of Horan’s clinics.

“Cheerleaders!” he barks. “At this school we separate the jellyfish from the real troopers. You — the girl who dropped a fork at lunch — you do 10 minutes extra exercise. And you on the end — are you chewing gum?”

“No, sir.”

“You’re not?”

“No, sir. I just swallowed it.”

For 17 years [Moran] has been a sort of circuit-riding evangelist in the mystique and practice of cheerleading, which he himself mastered as a member of the pep squad at the University of Miami. Assisted by his wife, he conducts cheerleading clinics at campuses for up to 200 students at a time.

Horan conducts his school like a Marine boot camp. The girls pay an average of $45 a week for the privilege of running a mile before breakfast, standing inspection and learning to Sir and Ma’am while they are taught school yells. Horan forbids smoking, gum and soft drinks and holds back mail call until the end of the day so the girls won’t be distracted by letters from boy friends.

“We keep the poor kids off balance,” he says. “They don’t know whether to kiss me or give me a hand grenade and run.”

One last note: That lede in the LIFE article — “Like jacks-in-the-box the girls fly into the air as the hard-eyed man shakes his fist” — sounds like the opening line of a long-lost Wallace Stevens poem. Something with a title like Punching Judy in the Rag and Bone Shop, or Cerberus Slumbers at Edwin Hubble’s Feet. At any rate, it’s especially wonderful when read aloud. Go ahead. Try it.

00996024.JPG

Lynn Pelham—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Related Topics: , ,
Powered by WordPress.com VIP
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,368 other followers