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A Nostalgic Look Back at the Original Bullworker

Cheryl is a baby boomer who enjoys writing about senior health and aging well.

A Nostalgic Look at the Original Charles Atlas Bullworker

A Nostalgic Look at the Original Charles Atlas Bullworker

The Charles Atlas Bullworker

I was reading the article The Rags-to-Riches Story of Charles Atlas by Rupert Taylor when a fond memory came back to me. When I was 14 and my youngest brother was 12, we were both pencil-thin—truly 95-pound weaklings. We were both teased and both wanted to look more fit, but it was far worse for me being a girl.

We had a lot of ad-filled magazines in our home. One day, I walked to the post office, and when I looked through the glass of PO box number 74 and I saw a square card, I became very excited. That card indicated that there was a package that was too big to fit in the PO box.

I turned the combination, opened the little door, and took the piece of paper out. I wondered if someone had sent me a present. I presented the card to Ms. Rosalie, the assistant postmaster, who took it and went to the back of the building.

The Original Bullworker, an Exercise Gadget From the 1970s

When she returned, Ms. Rosalie handed me a long thin box that had my youngest brother's name on it. I was so disappointed that the package was not for me and angry that I had to carry it all the way home.

When he opened the package, I saw that it was a piece of exercise equipment called a Bullworker. It was metal and had cords on each side that you could pull to add tension. The enclosed paperwork indicated that this item would build muscle.

That's when I realized that my brother really felt bad about being 5'3" and under 100 pounds. I understood, as I was the same height and just as thin. Our middle brother was taller and more muscular and a lot of girls thought they were in love with him. He was also good in sports and always on the first string (first team of choice) for softball, basketball, and football. My youngest brother rode the bench and did not have a lot of girls who wanted to "go with" him. I could feel his insecurity and I hoped and prayed that the Bullworker would indeed work.

Did the Bullworker really work?

We both used it over the summer without any extreme results. I had hoped it would strengthen my pectoral muscles and increase my 32 A breasts. All we got from the hard work was muscular arms but overall, we both looked pretty much the same.

The 97 pound weakling in the Charles Atlas Bullworker ads we found in many old magazines.

The 97 pound weakling in the Charles Atlas Bullworker ads we found in many old magazines.

Nostalgic Memories of Our Bullworker Exercise Machine

The Bullworker came in June. Sometime in late August, a problem arose. An older white gentleman showed up at our house one day looking for my brother and my grandmother had to intervene. It seems that the Bullworker had been sent because my brother checked the box saying he was over 18 and that he still owed $35 for it. My grandma told the man that she did not order it and certainly did not have $35 to pay for the contraption. She chastised the company for sending a product through the mail without first getting their money.

The representative from the company left our home, but the Bullworker remained. I now wonder why my grandma did not give it back or why the man never asked for it. My brother got the whipping of his life that day and grandma often spoke of the trouble the "Bullwinkle" caused her. I guess the representative decided to chalk it up as a loss but it was his company's property and he had every right to take it back.

My brother and I continued to use the Bullworker and still, all we got from it was muscular arms. By age 19, brother had grown to 6'0" and remains slim to this day. I finally gained weight and made it to 110lbs. just after graduating high school and I was 5'5" and a half-inch tall.


Fond Memories

In 1979 my family moved to the city and the Bullwinkle/Bullworker came along. I'm not sure when my brother discarded it and I had not thought of it in decades until I read the story about Charles Atlas. I can recall the Popular Mechanic's magazine lying around the old house when we were teens and the ads of the 95lb weakling getting sand kicked in his face. There was always a nutritional supplement, vitamin or exercise apparatus that was supposed to transform the skinny guy into a man of steel. There were also ads for lifts in shoes to give the appearance of height. Two county teens in the 1970s were fascinated by all that was promised by commercialism but children today are savvier and taught not to fall for false advertisement. I am so happy to have recalled the wide-eyed wonder and great expectations that my brother and I had back then in the good old days. The Bullworkers are still around so I guess they do benefit those who dedicate their time to them.

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