AmericaStoryDoug’s Gym; The Last of Its Kind by Norm Diamond

On my first trip to Doug’s Gym in downtown Dallas, I climbed a sagging wooden staircase to find a rundown old gym with peeling paint, sagging tin ceiling, and ancient equipment.

On my first trip to Doug’s Gym in downtown Dallas, I climbed a sagging wooden staircase to find a rundown old gym with peeling paint, sagging tin ceiling, and ancient equipment.

It was dilapidated to the point of beauty. I had avoided gyms for most of my life, but I joined this one for its themes of memory, loss, and mortality, which have preoccupied me in my photography.

Doug Eidd,(as in “hide”), eighty-seven years old at the time, owned and managed the gym since it opened in 1962. He worked ten-hour days, six days a week, running the gym and training members who sought out his considerable expertise. In his heyday he worked with professional boxers and bodybuilders, but in recent years, people of all backgrounds and body shapes joined the gym for its unpretentious atmosphere. 

Doug was a character. He smoked cigars all day, but no one seemed to mind the perpetual smoky haze. For lunch he ate high protein, low calorie food. His favorite was herring filets, which he ate from the tin with a jackknife. 

Facing increased rent and declining health, Doug reluctantly closed the gym on short notice in the spring of 2018. It came as a shock to all of us, but we knew it was inevitable. I returned every day for several weeks as the gym was dismantled and its pieces hauled away. Doug also came to tie up loose ends and help pack up. On the very last day Doug, who had spent most of his life in this gym, turned out the old fluorescent lights and turned over the key to the landlord. I always knew Doug’s Gym was a time capsule waiting to be buried. There is a happy ending of sorts. Doug moved all the equipment to his spacious backyard an hour away from Dallas. Now 90-years-old, he works out daily. Several long-time gym members often visit and exercise with him. [Official Website]

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