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"SANDS OF TIME"

THE HISTORY OF BEACH VOLLEYBALL

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Volume #1: 1895-1969
Volume #2: 1970-1989
Volume #3: 1990-2004

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"SANDS OF TIME" is a complete history of Men's and Women’s beach volleyball, including its roots that began with the indoor game.


The following is a selection taken from the book: "THE SANDS OF TIME"

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA
August 10th-11th,1957

The 1957 State Beach Open was the sight of the "Big" tournament of the summer. Gene Selznick and Bernie Holtzman, were the most successful team, in the short history of beach volleyball tournaments. Selznick and Holtzman felt that this was the perfect time to stage a tournament that everybody on and off the beach would regard as the best tournament ever staged. They decided that the 1957 Menís State Beach Open was the perfect event for this endeavor. Holtzman and Selznick had a promoter friend named Jack Backer. The asked Backer, who had a definite eye for possible volleyball queens, to come-up with an idea for a "volleyball extravaganza." That Sunday, Backer discovered Greta Thyssen, star of "Pyjama Tops", lolling on the beach and was able to convince her to return as queen for the State Beach Tournament. He told her that if she came down to the beach, and gave an interview, there would be a crowd of fans on the beach. They also asked if she would give a little kiss to the winners. Beach Volleyball was becoming more than just a sport, it was turning into a real show.

Movie Star Greta Thyssen holding the game ball.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame
Greta Thyssen is about to be introduced to the crowd.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame

Interested in the idea of free publicity and a beach full of good-looking men, Thyssen agreed to show-up. Selznick and Holtzman passed the word, all over the beach, that the event was going to take place. They acquired a microphone, got the USC football team to prepare the courts between games. Holtzman prepared an announcement board with "Dr. Leonard Stallcup" photo's and "Bernie Holtzman" anecdotes of the players.


Greta Thyssen strikes a pose, to the delight of the beach crowd.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame
Stallcup added publicity to this tournament by arranging spot announcements on the radio and also alerted five newspapers into coverage of this "Big" event. His camera, with blazing accuracy, captured every fleeting moment of action, lending a very professional air to the festivities.

In 1957, the beach life, volleyball and surfing, were just laid back endeavors for the beach crowd. There had not really been any exposure to the rest of the world. The Southern California beach volleyball throng had been playing on the beach for more than 30 years, day in and day out, and they were kings of their domain. In 1957 they were ready for an audience and the creation of a "volleyball extravaganza."

Schedules of the games were posted, so that everybody would know who was playing when and where. On the day of the tournament, the courts were soaked down with water, to assist the players in jumping.

With the help of Hollywood movie star, and "Queen of the Beach," Greta Thyssen, "The hottest thing in town," beach volleyball was ready to benefit from the excellent publicity and tremendous espouser that she created. Along with the announcer and all of the publicity, there were special prizes for the players.

Greta Thyssen ready to hand-out the trophies.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame
Greta Thyssen presents fifth place trophies to: (left to right) Hobbs Marlowe, Art Grossman, Greta, Beryl Schwartz and Alfred "Altie" Cohen.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame

Because of the large crowd egging the players on, the games were crisper and more exciting. Out of the twenty-six team entry, of course the tournament was won by Selznick and Holtzman. In the championship match, they defeated the team of Mike OíHara and Don McMahon by a fantasy score of 38-19-36 (Thyssenís measurements).


Greta Thyssen presents trophies to the runners-up Don McMahon (left and Mike OíHara (right).
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame
During the awards ceremony, Greta Thyssen gave Gene Selznick a victory kiss, Selznick officially became the first "King of the Beach." When all is said and done, it was the kiss that got the game of beach volleyball moving to where it is today. This was big stuff, as the winners of volleyball tournaments in this era, were used to a pat on the back, a case of Pepsi, or a "recycled" trophy. When the noise and kissing were over the "Big Four" had once again taken top honors.

There were a total of 26 teams that participated from as far south as Laguna Beach and Santa Barbara from the north. Ron Lang and Lee Grosscup finished in third place while John Kalin and Kenny LaDuke in the fourth spot. A well earned fifth went to the teams of Altie Cohen and Beryl Schwartz (5'8" and 6'7" tall respectively) along with Art Grossman and Hobbs Marlowe. John Brame and Dick Williams received a special consolation award. All of the top finishers were from the Los Angeles and South-Bay beaches.

There was one dilemma that these early beach volleyball promoters discovered during this inaugural beach volleyball "promotion." The lengths of the games were extremely long because, except for only a couple of players in these early days of beach volleyball, they did not spike or block the ball and the games would go on for hours before anything would happen.

They learned that it was not just a matter of getting spectators to a tournament, they had to keep them interested. Even though the advanced publicity developed a large crowd, Holtzman and Selznick realized that they were losing interest. They utilized the loudspeaker system, to help keep the audience entertained. They would go into the crowd and enticing them to comment on the volleyball "action," all the time reminding the crowd of Thyssenís impending arrival.

Greta Thyssen with the winners, Bernie Holtzman (right) and Gene Selznick (left).
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame
Bernie Holtzman receives a "Kiss" that is said to have gotten the game of beach volleyball moving to where it is today.
Photo courtesy of Holyoke Volleyball Hall of Fame

When Thyssen arrived, the crowd went wild with "catcalls, cheering, and promises of true love! Greta responded by puckering her lips at the crowd and admitting that she thought that the men of beach volleyball were "incredibly sexy." Greta stated that she was definitely going to play mixed-doubles next year, which brought out the prospect of a very interesting coming season! Beach volleyball had come a long way in the thirty plus years prior to Greta Thyssen's kiss!

After the tournament, Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Director Michael Cronin said: "This was the largest volleyball tournament ever held under the auspices of the Department."


Take a look inside Volume #1:

Sneak Previews to Volume #2:


THE SANDS OF TIME" and the "Winners" series, as well as additional beach volleyball publications are available from:

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