[Mr. Monarc]

Top Spinning

International Top Spinners Association
Watts' Tops

I am a top spinner almost by birth. My father is also a top spinner. As a kid I watched Dad's performances and thought of the spinning top as "his toy".

Recently, I decided that I also want the spinning top to be "my toy". I decided to start trying to actually spin the top and see where I go from there....

Although I occasionally attempt juggling bean bags, my specialty is the spinning top, a close relative of the diabolo. When I say "spinning top," most people say, "What is that?" The top spinning community is much smaller in the United States now than it once was. Companies like Duncan Toy Company, Royal Top Company and Cheerio sold spinning tops until the 1960's.

As I understand it, Donald F. Duncan introduced the United States to the Yo-Yo when he first saw one of Pedro Flores Yo-Yo's in 1927. Later he bought the Flores Yo-Yo company and the Yo-Yo trademark.

Jim Schreiber was a chemical engineer who knew spinning tops. A Wisconsin minister enthusiastic about Jim's top spinning skills introduced him to several Duncan executives. Jim made their eyes pop with a top spinning demonstration. Later Duncan decided to manufacture and promote spinning tops along with their Yo-Yo line. They visited Jim for help in lining up and training demonstrators. Jim tested the Duncan spinning top prototypes and made suggestions for improvements to Duncan.

As a boy, Jim learned to spin tops. Once he skipped school and lunch to continue top spinning; throwing and catching the top over 800 times without stopping. A graduate of Wheaton College and student at Moody Bible Institute, Jim met a group of children on the streets of Chicago trying to spin tops on the sidewalk. Offering to help one boy, Jim used his boyhood skills to show how tops can be spun. Jim learned that using spinning top object lessons help people pay attention to the truths of God's word.

In 1928 Jim met W. S. Cummins, superintendent of Oak Hills Fellowship in Bemidji, Minnesota. Cummins asked Jim to come to the North Woods and minister for one year. Jim accepted Cummins request and became assistant superintendent after that year.

For forty-four years Jim and Jemima Schreiber worked in Bemidji. Jim used spinning tops to tell burly lumberjacks and their families stories of God and His love. Students who came to Oak Hills Bible Camps and Oak Hills Christian College, also learned to love and appreciate Jim's stories. The spinning top is a wonderful object to capture and hold people's attention.

I bought my first spinning top from Jim in 1969 or 1970 at Oak Hills Bible Camp. I was privileged to learn top spinning from my Dad who learned to spin from Jim while a student at Oak Hills. Spinning tops are still fascinating. There are many tricks that can be done with the spinning top requiring various levels of expertise. I hope to be writing more about spinning tops in the future. Contact me if you are interested.

As I said, I was fortunate to have my Dad for a top spinning instructor. Unfortunately I was not a very good student. As a child, I considered the spinning top "Dad's toy." It never occurred to me that I could spin tops for myself. (I sometimes wonder if this is the same kind of reaction that kids in Christian families have toward the claims of Jesus Christ. It's good for Dad and Mom. My life is good just tagging along. There is no reason for a real commitment. Besides, I look just like a Christian.) Sure, I learned the simple stuff: spinning on the floor, my hand and the string. I left the really cool tricks for Dad and the "experts."

When I got to Oak Hills Christian College, I hoped to find an advocate who could understand and participate in spinning tops. I failed.

Heidi Winters (now Vogel) who had the same opportunity I did as a child was also at Oak Hills. Don Winters, Heidi's Father was a Duncan spinning top trainer. Along with Fred Mills, Dwight Paulson and a few others, Don learned to spin tops from Jim Schreiber and went to work for Duncan Toy Company. Don designed the original Duncan spinning top competitions and created the Duncan top spinning instruction book.

I make a point of spinning tops with Don a couple times each year. The insight and instruction provided by them are invaluable.

Currently I am working to develop my skills so I can effectively share spinning tops with others like Jim Schreiber did. I have not put together a big program yet, but I have performed in a few parades and small birthday parties.

If you have any suggestions about helpful places that should probably be listed here, please E-mail btwatts@gmail.com with your suggestions.

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