Joggling boards, an early 19th century favorite of Southern children and couples in love, are being upgraded by a group of Mississippi State University students for a new generation of fans.
The benches are 16-foot lengths of board suspended between two sturdy supports with curved bottoms. The supports' rocking motion combines with the bounce of a lengthy board's natural give to produce an effect called "joggling."
Joggling boards originated in the Low Country region of South Carolina in the early 1800s. The whimsical outdoor furniture piece soon became a part of local legend. It was said no South Carolina home with a joggling board would ever have an unmarried daughter.
When Hugh Thomasson of Philadelphia first considered adding joggling boards last year to the list of products his Neshoba County lumber company manufactures, he was confronted with safety and cost concerns.
Seeking help, he brought those concerns to assistant professor Jilei Zhang's furniture production class in MSU's College of Forest Resources. Working in teams of two, Zhang's students set out to improve the 200-year-old board's design. In addition to a good grade, the students had the incentive of cash awards Thomasson was providing for the first- and second-place winners.
"This was a wonderful project for the furniture production class," said Zhang. "The students applied what they had learned about movement and stress to suggest design changes."
The changes included a wooden cover for the rockers and a removable back rail that makes the board safer for use by children, Zhang added.
"By combining their new concepts, we have a stronger and safer board," Thomasson said. "Joggling boards incorporating the students' recommendations now are being tested."
Zhang said the design of Deisy Hernandez of Starkville and Chad Zickos of Pontotoc took first-place honors and a $100 award. Hernandez, a native of Venezuela, graduated in December with a bachelor's degree in business administration, while Zickos is a senior business administration major in the furniture management program, a cooperative effort of forest resources and the College of Business and Industry.
Second-place winners of a $50 award are Vanessa M. Bazzel of Vicksburg and Demetrice D. Evans, also of Starkville. Bazzel also is a senior business administration major in the furniture management program, while Evans is a junior forest products major.
For more information on joggling board designs, contact the Old Charleston Joggling Board Co.