Lawrence Herkimer: “Once I have a cheerleader, she’s mine for life.”
  • Lawrence Herkimer: “Once I have a cheerleader, she’s mine for life.”
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Cheerleading University is a respected and, may I say, important subdepartment of Despite being burdened by the unworthy slur of being an industry mouthpiece, Cheerleading University presents as thorough a history of the pom-pom as anything to be had in the Harvard Divinity School library.

When pom-pom industry heavyweights gather ’round the pom-pom campfire, beloved stories are retold again and again. Pom-poms were created by Jim Hazlewood in the 1930s. It’s rare to get it right the first time, and so it was with Hazelwood. He made his pom-poms out of tissue paper and since cheerleading demands energetic bumps and grinds, not to mention copious sis-boom-bahs, the Hazelwood pom-pom was found to be, I’ll say it plainly, less than adequate.

It was left to Lawrence Herkimer to invent the modern pom-pom and, more to the point, to gain Patent No. 3,560,313. Larry was a cheerleader at North Dallas High School, a cheerleader at Southern Methodist University, thence transmogrified into a pom-pom industry titan. Mr. Herkimer put together the first cheerleader-supply company, founded the National Cheerleaders Association, published the first cheerleading magazine (Megaphone), and authored two definitive works on cheerleading, to wit: Coaching Cheerleading Successfully and The Complete Book of Cheerleading. It is not for nothing that Larry is known as the “King of Cheerleading” by some, “Mr. Cheerleader” by others, and “Father of Cheerleading” to family members and domesticated pets.

Herkimer told the American Cheerleader, “When I saw color TV for the first time at the New York World’s Fair, I decided that cheerleaders had to have something more colorful out on the field rather than that chrome stick [baton] the girls twirled. I got the idea of putting some crepe paper streamers on the end of that stick, and I taught a little dance routine to the song ‘Lollipop,’ which was pretty popular at that time. We started selling pom-pon kits with wire, sticks, and streamers, so kids could make them easily. Then we started teaching routines at all the camps. They grew so popular that we had to manufacture them, and eventually we made them out of the plastic you see today.”

Larry was written up in Sports Illustrated and in newspapers coast to coast. He appeared on popular television shows: (To Tell The Truth, Truth or Consequences, and What’s My Line?). Plus, he starred in a Cheer detergent commercial. Top dog, people.

By the way, Larry Herkimer is still with us. He’s 87 years old, living in a 6000-square-foot ocean-view condo near Miami Beach, tending to his second wife and planning to colonize Mars.

As reporters on the pom-pom beat, we’d gather at a dive bar and tell Herkimer stories. Larry was always good for a quote and a couple zingers. Here’s the Herkster describing his contributions to cheerleading, claiming he took the sport, “from the raccoon coat and pennant to greater heights.” And, “No matter how bad times are, are you going to tell your little girl she can’t have her sweater and skirt and pom-pons? Hell, you’ll sell the boat before you have to tell her that.” And, perhaps, more ominously, “Once I have a cheerleader, she’s mine for life.”

Good times.

It’s a long way from a seedy waterfront bar to the 2013 World Cheerleading Championships, which will be held in Orlando, Florida, beginning FRIDAY! Oh, perfect planetary alignment! Teams from six continents will be efforting their hearts out on the Walt Disney World Resort stage.

Talk about your competition! In California, in the month of January alone, sanctioned cheerleading competitions include: the U.S. Spiritleaders Socal Kickoff in Mission Viejo, the United Spirit Competition in Fontana, and in Elk Grove, Antioch, San Juan Capistrano, Lake Elsinore, Agoura Hills, Yorba Linda, Brea, and San Diego. Then we have the JAMfest Mega-JAM Series, the Hollywood Connection Competition, Xtreme Spirit Championships, Encore Performing Arts Competition, Next Level Dance Competition, CheerPros California All-Star Cheer Championship, Rainbow National Dance Competition, Starbound National Talent Competition, and the CheerPros California State Cheer & Dance Championships. One state. One month. Cheerleading is a merciless battleground.

We’ll get to the International Federation of Cheerleading, U.S. All Star Federation, Americheer, National Cheerleaders Association, USA Cheer, International Cheer Union, Universal Cheerleading Association, World Cheerleading Association, and other esteemed governing bodies looking to collect a piece of the pie at a later date. Right now, get yourself over to and purchase your Cheerleading World Champions live video stream today.

And turn off that snicker-grin, Philistine. Five presidents: George Bush the senior, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, and Franklin Roosevelt handled those pom-poms. One prays for a video to surface.

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eastlaker April 26, 2013 @ 2:17 p.m.

In all truth, if you want to see W in full cheerleading form, rent the film "Harvard Beats Yale 29 - 29". W was a Yale cheerleader, and there is a vintage cheerleading mess-up that it sure looks like he caused. Definitely worth seeing for the great football story, the former students and players who were interviewed, and for that classic W moment.

Yes, it explains a great deal.


Dave Rice April 27, 2013 @ 7:26 p.m.

Ah, cheer competitions...and cheer parents. My daughter wanted to be a cheerleader once (Mom wanted her to be a cheerleader), but after a year of practices, buying uniforms, accessories, more accessories, fancy hair bows, competition entries, more hair bows, hotels, more hair bows, makeup for 8 and 9 year-olds, and more hair bows, I think we're on a more enlightened path. This year the kid's been BMX racing with me, and wants to join the junior squad on Mom's roller derby team...


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