Henry Schiget was an energetic mover and shaker in the Turner world of gymnastics. His program insights rivaled those of the universities of America that had discovered the world of gymnastics. In the Turner world, gymnastics is the hub of physical activity, and numerous future champions got their start through participation in the Turner gym programs. It was Henry Schiget’s vision that all Turner organizations in every city have the wherewithall to encourage sound minds through sound bodies using gymnastics as a vehicle.
StartingOut: Turner Schiget’s membership in the American Turners began at the Charleroi, PA Turners at the age of 4 years, in the kindergarten class continuing through all classes to the Actives. In the early twenties Henry Schiget was a member for two years in the Class Leaders Course at the South Side Pittsburgh Turn Verein under Dr. Herman Groth. Taught at the Charleroi Turners for one year after completing this course and then enrolled at the Normal College of the A.G.U., in 1924, following which he taught at Monessen, Homestead, Schiller Turnverein at St. Louis, the North Side Y.M.CA. in St. Louis and the next eighteen years were spent at the Clinton Turnverein in Iowa. In 1950 he took over the physical education program at the Milwaukee Turners. Turner Schiget’s teaching experience covers a period of 28 years. Administrator: Upon his appointment as Field Director of the American Turners on December 1, 1953, it was announced that Henry Schiget would assist existing societies to develop a full program of education, as outlined in the Principles of the American Turners. His efforts will be devoted primarily in those societies, where such programs of interest to the community are not in effect. Upon Schiget’s subsequent plans to leave Milwaukee, the city’s Mayor, Frank P. Zeidler, took the time to communicate the following to the Milwaukee Turners: “Since Mr. Schiget is going to work for the American Turners, I wish to reflect to you the great esteem in which he is held in this community and my own appreciation of the prestige that he brought to the Milwaukee Turners’. Owing to his energetic work and his imagination, Mr. Schiget has put forth some of the best displays of Turning and gymnastic expositions ever seen in the more than one hundred years of Turner history in Milwaukee. I feel sure that you have a man of great energy who will add much to the national movement. I congratulate you on adding him to the national staff, even though we in Milwaukee suffer a serious blow with his loss. Upon assuming the position of Field Director of the National Turners Schiget stated that, “I am sincere in stating that my objective is to stimulate enthusiasm, promote ideas, and create the desire among Turners to make their Society the respected leader of Physical Education, the accepted club for cultural and social activities and the leading organization in their respective communities.” His motto was “HATS OFF TO TOMORROW AND COATS OFF FOR TODAY.” Coaching: One of Mr. Schiget’s most famous protégé’s was the future Hall of Fame inductee Olympian Fred Roethlisberger. According to Roethlisberger, “Henry was my coach from when I was 4 yrs old until I was 15. Henry was a very kind and sincere coach. His main strength was creating exhibitions with extravagant numbers. We had our exhibitions at the Pabst Theatre, which had 3 balconies.” General: Schiget’s greatest success was achieved while at Clinton and Milwaukee. While at Clinton he was instrumental in building the society from 60 members to nearly 1,000 members. From 42 gymnasium class students to over 900. During WWII he presented shows in Clinton for the U.S.O., realizing over $3,000 to get this organization started. He also presented shows for the Red Cross and the local U.S.O. Canteen. He conducted Physical Therapy exercises for service men at Schieh Hospital and published a manual for the Clinton, Iowa Playground Association. In 1949 the National American Turner Gymnastic Championships were held in Clinton, Iowa under his direction. At Milwaukee, where he taught at the Milwaukee Turners, his classes and exhibitions brought the society to the attention of the citizens of the city. During the society centennial in 1953, newspapers, radio and television proclaimed and fostered the reputation of the society and as a climax the civic auditorium was filled to overflowing at the centennial exhibition.
Sources: Primary research courtesy of Jerry Wright, author of Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005, and . Wright also contributed the Schiget photo. Introduction and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.