How it All Began ….
The history of Tall Clubs International (TCI) began as a wish of a taller-than-average young lady who found her knees knocking the underside of her school desk. This young lady was Kae Sumner, and friends remember her lamenting the lack of leg room in the cafeteria and even on buses. They recall her uttering “There ought to be a club for tall people.”
By early 1938, Kae had had enough. An accomplished artist, she was painting dwarfs for the Disney Studio. On impulse she approached E.V.Durling, an L.A.Times columnist, with an idea for an article about the problems of being tall. She was in luck. Next stop was Editor-in-Chief Robert White, who was very receptive and suggested she proceed with the article. This much encouragement was all Kae needed. A two-page article with Kae’s own illustrations appeared in the Times Sunday Magazine on March 20, 1938, under the name of Kae Krysler. As an afterthought, Kae invited taller than average folks to contact her, and suggested they might get together to discuss the very problems facing their percentage of society. (Click here to read or download Kaye’s original article.)
The results were rewarding and on May 1, 1938, Kae opened her home to eight tall respondents to the Times article. By evening’s end, the California Tip Toppers Club (CTTC) was founded and the nine became the now famous charter members of the first tall club known to exist. Development of tall furnishings became a major goal. Members wrote letters, telephoned, and visited businesses to encourage them to lower the cost of custom-made items. Success greeted them occasionally, as in the ad which trumpeted, “Here it is Tip Toppers, you asked for it; the King Size Mattress!”
Publicity was no stranger to this new organization. As the club grew, its existence became known throughout the United States, and in 1939, the Greater Kansas City Skyliners was founded. Life magazine published Life Goes to a Tip Toppers Party in the June 24, 1940 issue. Letters came from all over the US. The idea caught on, and soon tall clubs were springing up coast-to-coast. Exposure paid off again when Robert Ripley invited Kae to appear on the Nov. 8, 1940 broadcast of Believe It or Not. He challenged her to produce a New York Tip Toppers club. At the end of just three days, much to Mr. Ripley’s surprise and Kae’s delight, the audience on the night of the broadcast included two rows of tip toppers.
Earlier, when World War II rumors reached the US, Kae had been planning a European trip. Her trip abroad was preceded by visits to the already established sister tall clubs. Media publicity from those visits encouraged taller-than-average, mostly single, folks to form their own local clubs. These clubs were socially oriented, but many made an effort to educate manufacturers and the public in general as to the special needs of the tall person.
In May 1939, Kae had begun her European tour–just in time for the State Department to restrict travel and cancel passports for US citizens. Upon her arrival in Egypt she was advised to return to the US immediately.
With the war underway, male members were absent from the tall clubs. At first they enlisted; when the US entered the war, they were drafted. Most clubs became inactive, such as the first Golden Gate Tip Toppers and the first Florida club, the Miami Tip Toppers. The CTTC did not become inactive. Some clubs continued under the leadership of the females. Following W.W.II the clubs really got off the ground; in 1945 there were 60 clubs in the US and Canada.
Between July 17 and 20, 1947, the first convention of tall clubs was hosted by the CTTC, in Hollywood, California. The first queen (Miss Tip Topper of 1947) was also selected from individual club queens in attendance. The following fifteen clubs were represented:
California Tip Toppers Club
Greater Kansas City Skyliners
Pittsburgh Tip Toppers
New York Stratoliners
Paramount Tall Club of Chicago
Tall Girl’s Club of Chicago
Tower Club of Philadelphia
New Jersey Tip Topper Club
Texas Tip Toppers of Dallas
Golden Gate Tip Toppers
Skyscrapers Club of Cleveland
Vancouver Tip Toppers Club
St. Louis Tip Toppers
Houston Higher Ups
The groundwork was established for the American Affiliation of Tall Clubs (AATC). The Kansas City Skyliners was selected to draft the charter and bylaws.
With the experience of public media publicity behind it, the affiliation decided to publish its own newsletter. In late 1949, CTTC published the first issue of Tall Topix. It grew from a quarterly newsletter to a semi-annual booklet. Today it is published annually, as a summary of the immediate past convention.
TCI business: In addition to “Tall Awareness” in the public sector, includes establishing incentives for clubs such as a Convention Travel Trophy (first presented in 1950), the Best Paper Award (1962), and the Increased Membership Award(1970), given for the greatest annual percentage growth in membership. Though individual clubs have traditionally contributed time and funds to charitable organizations, it was not until 1984 that a Special Merit Award was established and presented to a club. In addition, the 1987 delegates to convention unanimously adopted the National Marfan Foundation as the official charity. The Publicity Award is given to the club which clearly has made the most substantial contribution during the previous year. The Attendance Award recognizes the club with the largest number of its members present at a convention. In 1970, a Merit Award category was created to recognize ten (now twelve) individuals as outstanding members of TCI. The “Man of the Year” — Frank’s King Size Clothes Award (1974) and “Woman of the Year” — Kae Sumner Einfeldt Award (1979) recognize one male and one female who have made the most significant contribution to TCI and their own club. In 1986, TCI established the Kae Sumner Einfeldt Scholarship Award, which is presented to a tall college-bound high school student. Nominees are recommended by TCI member clubs.
As the affiliation continued to grow and gain national recognition, it reached the point where it required a new name. In 1966, the convention delegates unanimously accepted the name “Tall Clubs International and Miss Tall Universe”. Incorporation was completed in 1967 and a new logo was chosen. In 1974, the name was amended to read “Tall Clubs International and Miss Tall International, Incorporated.” Miss Tall International has been the registered trademark of Tall Clubs International and Miss Tall International, Inc. since January 3, 1978.
To date (1989), more than 200 tall clubs have been in operation in the US and Canada, though not all at one time. TCI consists of 54 member clubs. There are tall clubs in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland which have not affiliated with TCI because their minimum height requirements differ slightly.
These clubs are nevertheless based on the same principle as TCI, and because members share many of the same views, we grow closer together in spirit. Convention exchange visits, east and west, have provided the meeting ground for nurturing strong friendships among club members of these continents.
TCI bylaws require that members of applying clubs meet the minimum height requirements of 6’2″ for men and 5’10” for women, measured in stocking feet. The minimum age is 21. Individual clubs set their own rules as to marital status, etc. Winners of local pageants such as Miss Tall Philadelphia and Miss Tall Chicago contests are eligible to participate in the Miss Tall International® contest at the annual convention.
Each club usually holds several social functions each month. Clubs participate in charitable projects as well as being involved in their respective community activities. Membership includes all professions, religions and ethnic backgrounds.
Prepared by direction of TCI Executive Club, 1982-1983.
Revised and updated by compiler November 1989. Minor corrections made March 1993.
Approved by Kae Sumner Einfeldt in May 1983/Nov. 1989.
Doris M. Chickering, Co-Historian