Janice Love

Janice Littell Love was a member of the original Unicycle Wranglers (see Note 2), a professional unicycle group from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Unicycle Wranglers were managed and trained by Loyd Smith, the inventor of the Loyd Unicycle (click here for more information on Loyd Smith). Janice was an accomplished unicyclist able to ride on a tight wire, foot walk forward and backward, jump rope, ride with one foot, and perform many other unicycle tricks and stunts. Ted Jorgensen (now deceased) was a member of the original Unicycle Wranglers. Ted Jorgensen (now deceased) was the biological father of Jeff Bezos.

The Unicycle Wranglers had many acts including a square dance, a unicycle trapeze act, modern swing dance, jump rope, head-to-head stand, and many others. In the mid 1960s, the Unicycle Wranglers left the cowboy boots behind for more traditional circus attire and they changed the name of the group to the Uniques (see Note 1). The Uniques performed throughout the southwest and western United States at variety shows, state fairs, and at many other venues including the Los Angeles Press Club and the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles where the Academy Awards were held. The Uniques also performed with the Rudy Bros. Circus. The Uniques could do all of their acts on ice (thumb tacks were pushed through the tire for traction). In the late 1960s, the Uniques once again changed their name, this time to the Universals. The Universals continued to perform throughout the early 1970s.

Janice joined the Albuquerque Unicycle Club (the Albuquerque Unicycle Club was incorporated in 1953) in 1962 and she was active until about 1970. History says that the Albuquerque Unicycle Club was the first in the world to play unicycle hockey. Janice says that she does not personally remember that and that by the time she joined the club, they had replaced the hockey sticks with polo mallets. She says the game remained the same. Every Tuesday night, the Albuquerque Unicycle Club would gather at the Heights Community Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico to ply polo, practice tricks/stunts, and race. There was a four foot cinderblock wall that surrounded the Heights Community Center and the riders would compete to see who could ride the farthest on the wall without falling off. Once a year the Albuquerque Unicycle Club had formal competitions. There was a race for the fastest, a technical and trick competition for the most versatile, and a creative competition in which unicyclists spent weeks preparing their costumes and their “show”. The unicyclists were awarded with beautiful tall hardwood and metal trophies. The first place awards had the rider’s name and year engraved on the trophy and the rider got to keep the trophy for a year. If a rider won a first place trophy 3 years in a row, they got to keep it forever. These trophies were very special because each one had all of the previous winners names on it. They were a piece of history. Janice retired both the Most Creative and the Versatile trophies. These trophies were given out at the club’s annual banquet. The club also rode in many parades and often won awards for their performances.

Janice on the tightwire

During this same time period, there was another unicycle club called the Little Wheels (see Note 2). This was a group of kids that did free shows for children’s hospitals and senior centers in Albuquerque, New Mexico and other locations throughout New Mexico. The founder and leader of the Little Wheels was Ken Littell from 1963 to 1993.

Click here for more pictures of Janice with these various unicycle clubs. Descriptions are with the pictures when viewed in Flickr.

Did you know??? US patents for single-wheeled ‘velocipedes’ were published in 1869 by Frederick Myers and in 1881 by Battista Scuri.

Note 1 – The Uniques (established in 1962), was Smith’s top performing group, pulled from about 150 youngsters who had been riding in Albuquerque over an eight-year period. Membership in the Uniques was limited to seven riders and one alternate at any given time, with Smith as director. They traveled, with their costumes and equipment, in a custom-built 12-passenger limousine.

Note 2 – The more talented of the younger riders were organized into a second group trained by Kenneth Littell, who later lived in Phoenix, Arizona. These youngsters, called Little Wheels, provided a feeder system for a third group, the Wranglers, who were excellent riders in need of something more challenging to do.

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