2nd October, 2014
Sandow Plusand its sister website, Maxalding, were developed in the year 2000, I suppose they were sites for the future about a world long gone. The conception of the websites came in August 1999 when my eldest daughter, Catherine asked me what I would like for a birthday present. As in the past I'd been a Maxalding pupil, I asked for a Maxalding course. Within weeks she had not only found me the course but also found me someone who would become not just a colleague but a very good friend, Roger Fillary.
Roger was working in IT in London, and in his spare time was a volunteer researcher and archivist for the Music Hall Society. Music hall was the equivalent of the US vaudeville, and he quickly ealised that the two linked together. Both founders of the Maxalding course were music hall performers. As we started the search for Maxalding material we realised that out there there was an appetite for a site covering the whole of physical culture. But little did we know how big a job we had taken on. The Maxalding site was the first site launched and we were very surprised how many hits we were getting, and how many people wanted to give us or loan us material; one of the early contributors was my very good friend David Gentle, with adverts, articles and a picture of his Maxalding Medal. Yes our Editor in Chief was once a Maxalding Medalist. It wasn’t very long before we had every exercise sheet used in the Maxalding course and loads of memories from early Maxaldists. Stories, letters and articles written by people like Ron Tyrrell were quickly uploaded. A site was born.
As well as Maxalding material lots of other stuff was dropping through our letter boxes, from people who we didn’t know trusting us with their precious books, magazines and courses, which we scanned and put on to our new site. I can’t remember the working title but it became Sandow Plus. And plus it was. My own personal collection was very large and I seemed to be spending more and more time scanning, 7 days a week and late nights, whoever it was out there that said “Scanning Sucks” believe me they were right.
Our baby like all babies just grew and grew; material was coming from the four corners of the earth. Just to remember a few. We had contributions from Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada and of course the US and Britain. The site was getting huge and I believed then, and I definitely believe now, it was the best Physical Culture site on the internet, and now it’s even better.
Because we lived at opposite ends of the country Roger and I didn’t meet until 2001 when Roger managed to get an invite along with myself and David Chapman to see Sandow’s cast in the Natural History Museum in London. Unfortunately David’s plane was cancelled through fog so he missed a fantastic experience. Roger and I continued to grow as friends with my wife Christine and I joining him on holiday on the Isle of Wight, just one of several visits. I remember Roger joining us in our hotel one evening and the conversation was how we could take the website onward and upward, and about material we had yet to source.
Seen left - Roger Fillary
Shortly after that evening sadly Roger died suddenly on the Isle of Wight, where he’d hoped to spend his retirement, leaving a very large gap in the lives of my wife and myself. After Roger died I quickly realised I hadn’t got his skills, I had the research skills developed over the years but not his IT skills to run the site, nor Roger’s passwords, which had died with him. The hosting company, when I approached them just quoted “The Data Protection Act” and took the websites down. A brick wall? Not actually, after approaching unsuccessfully several people I thought maybe would like to help, I spoke to my daughter’s partner, an IT expert, who recovered the websites and tucked them away on his server to give me time to find help.
David Gentle, who had always been a supporter of the sites, was the one I approached first and he suggested Diane Robert who was running his own sites. Eureka! Diane was wonderful, gently dealing with an idiot (me) who didn’t know the first thing about IT, leading me by the hand until at last the site was connected to David’s site and live. Thank you a million times Diane.
But hopefully this isn’t the end. We want the site to grow, please support us to make the site even better. I know there’s material out there in attics, basements and just tucked away. Books, rare magazines, letters, courses and even memories can be put on our blog or face book page. Tell us about your experience, your families or friends’ experience of physical culture. Let this website be the first and last resort that the researchers of the future visit.
Contributing Editor & Research Historian
The History of Physical Culture
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