History, Water, Zebras and Shoes

Transformers Meeting of Monday, 8th February provided a full programme with great information and variety.

Our Toastmaster of the Evening, our club President Ruth Taylor, regaled us with the history of Toastmasters. The prepared speeches ranged from water and health, creating success from small ideas, the history and good work of Meals on Wheels to the history of shoes. Quite a spread!

Everyone associates Toastmasters with Ralph C. Smedley! Smedley was an educationalist and worked as a teacher even while studying. After graduating he started working at the local YMCA in Bloomingdale, Illinois. He discovered that there was a need for training in speech and formed a club where the boys took turns in presiding and speaking. The speeches were evaluated and so the young men learned leadership skills and speaking. The club only lasted a year after Smedley moved to the YMCA at Rock Island, Illinois as General Secretary in 1910. The same thing happened with the speakers clubs he formed in YMCAs at his next two appointments. In 1924 he formed a Toastmasters Club in the YMCA in Santa Ana, California and a year later he assisted the first non-YMCA group to start a club in Anaheim, California. These are still clubs number 1 and 2 of Toastmasters International. As our Toastmaster for the Evening pointed out the survival of Toastmasters Clubs is dependant on people – the members of each club. The aims of Toastmasters has not changed since inception: to teach people to speak (with confidence) and to teach leadership skills, through the practice of doing both. At Transformers we add to that the aim of having fun in the process.

Keith Bowen, Distinguished Toastmaster, member of Cabinet and Toastmaster since 1995 reminded us that in previous years the practice had been to follow the Loyal Toast with a Toast to Toastmasters International, after which the Toast of the Evening was offered. He elected to offer a Toast to TMI as Toast of the Evening, reminding us of the bond that exists between all Toastmasters and the friendliness that we have come to expect whenever we meet or have dealings with another Toastmaster.

Rod Taylor was asked to respond to the Toast and provided an excellent example of a response. He enthused about the Toast and carefully explained the finer points of offering an appropriate Toast.

Word of the evening by grammarian and lexicologist, Glenice Ebedes, was “cultivate” and received nine insertions into the discourse of the evening.

John-Peter Gernaat presented the first of the prepared speeches of the evening. In his project 7 speech of the Competent Communicator manual his requirement was to demonstrate that he had researched his topic. In his speech entitled: “Your body of Water” he highlighted some of the anomalous properties that enables water to sustain life, such as the ability to rise in the trunks of trees against gravity and tens of atmospheres of pressure. Research has shown that water molecules relate to each other to form structures and these structures act as memory cells recording the influence of everything with which water comes into contact. When cryogenically frozen water droplets form crystals when the water is pure, wholesome or a positive word or sentiment has been spoken to water. If a hateful word is spoken or water is ill-treated, becomes polluted for example, no definable crystal forms. Our bodies consist of about 60% water and therefore the health of this water and probably our overall health is influenced by our thoughts and words and the words and intentions of others.

Ryan Ebedes, completing the second project from the Entertaining Speaker advanced manual, entitled his speech: “Unveiling your Zebra”. He showed us a lovely, but non-descript photo of two wildebeest and a zebra and then went to provide an entertaining tale as told by a mother elephant to her calf as to why this zebra hung out with the wildebeest. The gist of the tale is that the zebra’s mother was killed by predators and that the young thing ran until it found the wildebeest herd where it was then fostered. Suddenly the non-descript photo gained a life and the viewer formed an emotional attachment. Authors have written successful books about a simple idea: a seagull that wanted to improve its flying skills became “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull” for pilot Richard Bach and a boy who thought he was a wizard became the Harry Potter series for J K Rowling. Ryan challenged each of us to unveil our simple idea that might become a mighty success and for his superb speech won the trophy for best speaker of the evening.

Cheryl-Lynn Langley completed a project from the Persuasive Speaker advanced manual that she entitled: “Will you?” Providing a history of the origins of Meals on Wheels in the United Kingdom after World War II to help people left destitute by the war and the good work done locally by selfless volunteers, she asked whether we would all subscribe to a monthly debit order of a mere R25 per month to feed one person for the month. This was clearly a well rehearsed presentation and speech and the plea left us in no doubt that this was a cause worth everyone’s support.

The final prepared speech of the evening was presented by a visiting Toastmaster from Accenture Toastmasters, Angela Murphy, in completion of project 5 of the Competent Communicator manual. Her speech entitled “Shoes, glorious shoes” demonstrated her passion for shoes and provided titbits of the history of shoes from various countries. Geta sandalsJapanese wooden geta sandals make a sound as the wearer walks. Couples always buy their shoes together to ensure that the sound of the two pairs of shoes is not disharmonious when the couple walk together. Pointed toes for men’s shoes in France once represented standing in society - the longer the toe the higher one’s standing, prompting the Church to raise an official complaint because worshipers could no long kneel comfortable due to the length of the points of their shoes.

Table Topics, chaired by Angela, provided great fun as each of four speakers was given a historic news headline relating to shoes to transform into a tale. We heard from Mary Byrne how the Pointy Shoe Gang was caught by accidentally leaving an ostentatiously pointy shoe at a crime scene. Glenice Ebedes extolled the features of penguin shoes that create happy feet. Jerry Goodman reassured concerned women that high heeled shoes were not about to be discontinued and was awarded best impromptu speaker for the evening. Finally, Keith Bowen explained that a new Nike Tennis Shoe would be the only apparel to be worn at a Greek-style Olympic contest.

The evaluations of the prepared speeches and a general evaluation of the evening were of a very high standard and very informative to the speakers and audience. Glenice was awarded best evaluator of the evening.

Club member news is that Glenice has resigned from formal employment to pursue a passion in landscape design. Club President, Ruth, has again been requested to lecture at the University of Johannesburg to journalism students of the role of a sub-editor.

Club members will be off to Hatch to collect George, the Traveling Gavel.

Important News: On 22nd February Transformers holds its Club Contest Evening with three contests on the programme: English Prepared (entrants must have completed the 6th project of the Competent Communicator manual), Impromptu and Evaluation. The last two contests are open to anyone. Guests are very welcome to attend this evening and although the programme for the evening is not the usual it will illustrate the level of public speaking that can be achieve through Toastmasters.