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November 2011

Swinging Abby Part 12: The Aftermath

Dahnt-dah-dah -DAH!!
It was over.
I was done.
Now it was up to Guinness.

But in the meantime, other things transpired, not the least of which was sleep, something I think I did for a good fourteen hours if memory serves. The next day, my sophomore year of school began, and the during the opening day assembly the principal called me up onto the stage for public acknowledgement. There was no hiding. Everywhere I went, people recognized me, and its effect on school life was…well, that's a whole nother story.
Of course, newspaper articles were written about my completion of the marathon. As mentioned before, no reporters were there for the end of my endeavor because I stubbornly refused to give a precise quitting time. In retrospect, I would do that differently now. Not for the bravado of having cameras clicking as I removed my derrière from The Contraption for the last time, but to at least have legitimate photos of the momentous occasion. (Note - below I transscribed the article because the scan was too hard to read.)

The "trophy jump".

The Evening Times, September 4th, 1979.
By Gary Vangorder

                "She can't talk right now, she's asleep."
                And Abby Geiger, the 15-year-old tower of strength who stayed on a swing for 14 days, deserves all the sleep she can get.
                "She almost fell asleep in the car on the way home," said 11-year-old sister Melynda. "But she was pretty happy when she got off the swing, she was running around and even went down the slide at the park."
                Abby's attempt to gain entry to the Guinness Book of World Records began two weeks ago in the Athens Borough Park. Taking five minute rest breaks every two hours and sleeping for only four hours each night, the Sayre High School sophomore logged over 230 hours on the swing.
                Abby swung past the previous record of 182 hours (set in 1977 by two Californians) Friday afternoon, but decided to stay on the swing through the Labor Day weekend to ensure the legitimacy of her feat.
                But there is some uncertainty as to whether the Guinness people in London will recognize the effort worthy of a niche in their world famous publication.
                "We are so flooded with notification of new records that it is impossible for our staff, much as we'd like to, to go out and check on some of these things ourselves," said Guinness Correspondence Editor Colin Smith in a telephone interview today. "We must depend on written resumes, other outside information, or legitimate log books for verification."
                "Of course, much depends on the quality and the difficulty of the task, but in general we require a good deal of verification before recognizing a feat," Smith said.
                Smith added that when the Geigers contact his office (as they have indicated they will) research will be done as to the validity of their claim and the circumstances surrounding the Californian record.
                "It's quite a simple process really," Smith said. "We need sufficient information that can be verified concerning the feat. Newspaper accounts and photos help also."
                There has been no shortage of coverage since Abby began her record breaking attempt, and her sister says that the extensive coverage may prove helpful. "We're going to send them the signatures (over 2,830) too," she said.
                Throughout the entire ordeal Abby remained confident and, amazingly, cheerful. She was aided by the constant companionship of her parents, the installation of a telephone near the swing, the establishment of a tarpaulin over her head, and a trailer to rest in.
                "It's been fun," Abby said earlier in the week. "And I won't hate swinging after I'm through. People have been really nice. Really helpful."
                "If the record qualifies, it will still be a bit late for the 1980 American edition of the book (the 18th U.S. edition will be available next month)" Smith said. "Some of the calls we get don't turn out, but most are indeed legitimate. I trust this one is too, but proper verification will attest to that," he added.
                Will Melynda Geiger carry on with a feat similar to her sister's?
                "Oh, maybe. But I won't know until I try. That's what Abby said too."

The article is great, but the photo is devoid of reality, having been taken nearly an hour after I had finished (notice the crowd has dissipated). However, there's one thing I like about it: it's the only photo I have of MY view of the park (the slide!), because it was taken with me jumping off the wrong side of the swing in order to have the fading sunlight illuminate us. We were all, to be honest, less than thrilled with the schmaltzy make-believe, but I guess when you're a celebrity, no matter how major or minor, sometimes you just have to oblige and smile for the fans...and the folks who sell newspapers. So I did. (And there's other articles, but they all pretty much say the same thing, so I won't bore you with repetition.)
Now the congratulations began rolling in! Within a week I received a letter from Congressman Joseph M. McDade. Wow, that's something one doesn't get in the mail every day.

Letter from Congressman McDade.

I also received one from Athens Mayor Laurence E. Canavan.

Letter from Mayor Canavan.

The Athens Chamber of Commerce also presented me with a plaque, necessitating a visit the park for a photo op.

Athens Chamber of Commerce presentation.
Look everyone, no braids!

Nice! But...check out that photo again. Something's awry. This was taken where it all happened, and there should be two swings behind us. Mine and the one that hung to my right, which was often wrapped around the pole. Hmmmm. Swing to the right is there, but behind me....where is my swing? My Contraption? My swaying tuchas-throne for two weeks??...

Mystery of the missing swing.
Uh-oh, somebody call the Hardy boys!

Did the police ever file a report? Was the swing ever found? And just what was the response from Guinness to all of this? And did you really think part 11 was the end of the story?? Surprise!

Swinging Abby Part 11: Swinging High and Smiling Happily

After nearly two weeks on the swing, living in the park was almost becoming normal. With the worst of the problems behind me, I was actually starting to get a second wind. I felt like I could swing forever. By now, the entire Valley (Sayre & Athens PA and Waverly NY, as well as the greater surrounding area and more) knew about the endeavor and a good-sized portion of the residents had stopped by to see the spectacle for themselves. Conversations overheard everywhere, from the local pharmacy to the pubs, had my name in them. Indeed, I found out people were actually placing bets on whether I'd finish, and not cheap ones either!

Talk of the Town.
The community support was an unexpected, humbling and amazing thing.

But it had to end sometime.
No one knew exactly when I was going to stop. Even I didn't. I only knew that once I'd passed the then-current record of 182 hours, there was no point in stopping at 183. Or 193. Or even 203. The picture of The Sign says it all. I stayed on the swing so long, I ran out of thermometer.

The Sign overfloweth.
Should've left a little more room at the top there, Dad. 

And how do you celebrate passing a current world record in anything? With cake, of course!

Abby cake.
I don't remember who made this, but my piece was of my face.

It was getting to the point where pushing it to the furthest extreme was becoming half the fun. Maybe I could even delay going to school! Honestly, I don't think the teachers would've minded as much as my parents.

Abby the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going and going and going...
She just keeps going, and going, and going...

But it had to end sometime.
The last day was a Monday. Upon greeting the swing at 6:00am, I still had not divulged nor even decided exactly when I would hop off for the last time. It was like a game now. Keep going…keep going…sometime soon…not just yet…very soon…
9/3/79 6:55 AM - The last day. Abby says she's getting off late this afternoon. We (all) are looking forward to going home.
With Mom packing things up and Dad going home to shower and prepare for the day, the first thing I decided was that unless a downpour was expected, the tarp had to go. Fortunately, the clouds cooperated and the Athens Fire Department came over and dismantled my little tent-home. It was pretty disorienting at first to have so much open space again, and the evidence of how long we had been there was visible on the ground, now grass-free in the semi-oval area surrounding my side of the swing set.

Grinning Abby
They took my house, but I don't care!

Armed with plenty of bubblegum, I all but flew through the air once again as visitors came and went. Relatives and Regulars made appearances, as did Randoms: Shelly Strange, Rolfe Hunt, Jean Wells, Dick Selleck, Robert McCarthy, Linda Fisk, Peg Bockstoce, Ricky Mosher, Nancy Riley and Bryan Husick, just to name a few from each page of the logbook. Reporters were there as well throughout the day, but since I couldn't give them a time when I would stop, there are no "She's done!" photos. (Ok, one…but we'll review that later.)
I had some lunch and continued on. cream.
My last free McDonald's food. Thank you Micky Dee's!

 I really didn't want to stop. I didn't! It was like starting all over again; the sky and freedom, the excitement and anticipation. I was reminded I'd said "sometime this afternoon", but suppertime neared and still I kept going. "When, Abby? When?"
"Pretty soon. No, I don't want a break. Next time I get off, it's for good. No…not yet! Pretty soon…"
7:00pm neared and, with people getting antsy, I finally announced that I would quit before it got dark. Not at seven though. No, not at eight either. Somewhere in between, I don't want an obvious or even number. That's boring. "Yes, I'll let you know. Let's get a group shot in the meantime!"

Swinging family.
Once more, in unison!  L to R: Dad Bob, Sister Melynda, Mom Carolyn and me.

At 7:30 PM my dad signed the logbook for the last time - a rare occasion where I can see his cursive autograph. Tick…tock…tick…tock… The swing slowed. Tick…tock…tick…tock… Lower…a little lower… Tick…tock…
"Ok everyone! Watch!..."
I jumped off the swing. The small crowd burst into applause. I went to the logbook and signed it myself for the first time at exactly 7:33pm, finishing with a grand total of 238 hours and 20 minutes. Then I ran around the park. I went down the slide. I played on the little animals. I did cartwheels. I hugged my parents and ran around some more. I hopped aboard one of the other swings and swung facing in the opposite direction just for the hell of it. I moved to the next swing, then the next one, then back onto my own contraption, much to the amusement of the crowd. It was over. I was done. I didn't have to do it anymore. But I also would never do it again. And I wasn't quite sure how to feel about that…
The weather is beginning to look a little better at the moment. I hope it clears- Abby wants the tarp off so she can end this marathon the way she started; swinging high and smiling happily.

We made it!