Childhood Memories Friday: PE

When I was in fourth grade, a most momentous even occurred: physical education, known as PE, was begun at my elementary school. No longer would we soft, flabby kids be allowed to simply study, do art and sing – we would now be active as well.

And so, twice a week we went to P.E. It would be a gross underestimate to say that I hated it. I always tended towards the clumsy, inspiring phrases like “graceful as an ox” from my family. Additionally, as a child who enjoyed playing piano and reading, I had had precious little no instruction in how to hold a baseball bat, how to play kickball, etc. etc. To be expected to suddenly know these things was really terrifying to me, a kids used to knowing things and doing well at them.

These were also the days when eams were still chosen. I remember the irony of going from first chosen for the spelling bee to last chosen (maybe 20 minutes later) for the P.E. team. In fact, I often wasn’t just the last chosen – I was last plus “Oh no! We have to get her?” (bullying hadn’t been invented as an offense in the ’70s).

Ah, the memories: one year, the elementary P.E. teacher wrote my name on the “twinkie list” for being slow at an obstacle course. One other kid made the list too, but that kid was on it because he was the class clown and tried to do it slowly. I was truly trying my best!

I also remember standing in my usual assignment, outfield, during a soccer game and praying the ball wouldn’t come anywhere near me. I remember repeating the words to the hymn Count Your Blessings and considering how much worse a lot of other people in the world surely had it.

Thankfully, in high school our P.E. grade didn’t count towards final GPA – thank goodness. One thing we were scored on was rope climbing. I remember looking at the rope swinging from the impossibly high gym ceiling and just laughing at the ludicrous possibility of me ever climbing that (I got a D for “effort”).

Jr. High and high school P.E. weren’t made any better by the ridiculous uniforms we had to wear. They were one piece stretchy knit  and didn’t even look good on the mostly skinny teenage bodies. They zipped up the front and had navy blue shorts for the legs and narrow horizontal navy and white stripes for the top. They were sleeveless, and in junior high I remember us being required to try ours on and parade in front of the teacher on the stage so she could make sure the armholes weren’t too revealing. We also had to embroider our name on the front legs of the shorts. Classy!

Beginning in junior high or high school, I kept a scrap of paper in my room with the number of P.E. classes remaining all written down. Each day, I would cross off a number. I believe that small act gave me more satisfaction than any calculus problem I ever solved.

So: have at it in the comments. Did you like gym, endure it without a lot of thought, or was it the bane of your existence as well?

10 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: PE

  1. Your gym outfits sound completely horrific!! We had some strange polyester knit short (think short shorts) and a t-shirt thankfully but you know, when you’re not one of the skinny girls, short shorts are not pretty.
    I wasn’t a fan of gym. While I probably played a lot more sports than you did, I was never on a team and therefore did not “rate” in my school. It was a tolerable experience but always my lowest grade.
    The funniest thing is I married the guy who probably aced gym class, always got picked first, and is a natural athlete. God does have a sense of humor. 🙂 At least my kids are better in gym class than I was.

  2. Oh, I always hated gym class! By the time I got into high school, I not only hated it, I LOATHED it! I detested the class, the could not STAND the teacher – “Coach” was SUCH a jerk who was only even nice to the “jocks.”

    One day, we were “warming up” by running around the baseball field, and I, as per usual, was bringing up the rear – and the Coach, so everyone could hear him, shouted TO ME from across the field, “if you hustle a little bit, you might lose some of those thighs.”

    I was absolutely mortified.

  3. When I was in PE – in high school. . . they had school swimsuits that stayed there and were laundered there. The best part? They were color coded BY SIZE. . . I have told many friends this and gotten looks of shock and awe. . . luckily I was a “red” as were many other girls. . .now that could probably bring a law suit!

  4. I still have nightmares of PE class…*shudder* I found many creative ways to get out of class and still be able to graduate. It helped that my mom was good friends with the gym teacher.

  5. I was right there with you–just my gym suit was kelly green and white! And we had to STAND UP and say we couldn’t shower when “Aunt Flo” was visiting. I was one of the first two girls in my class to “arrive” at womanhood. It was made worse by the new co-ed gym classes–although thankfully, at this time, that simply meant we had gym at the same time in the same gym with the boys. We did all our activities with only girls. And talk about modst! Let’s remember those MATTRESS SIZED pads we had back then–to be worn under that CLINGY KNIT gym suit! I can’t believe I had ANY self-esteem left by 8th grade! Now, add to that a body that could not be made to do a cartwheel, round-off or any type “flip” and you have a hopeless case! Happily, I was fine with basketball, baseball, kickball and field hockey. Square Dancing was the schools revenge on all of us–it WAS coed. Then there was something called “deck tennis”–played with a hard rubber ring–just plain bizzare. I couldn’t run without puking till I was over 40 so the track/field weeks were a nightmare!!!

    Fun post!!!

  6. One more thing: I knew a “chubby” girl [remember when girls close were marked “cubby” before that was Un-pc?] Her mom “solved the play clothes problem” by buying her those horrid GYM SUITS in each color!! [My generation had the zipper front ones–not the strech-out-the-neck-till-it-reveals-all kind] She spent Spring, Summer and Fall “protecting” her “good” school clothes being forced to play publicly in red, navy, gold, green and even PURPLE horizontal stripes. I believe her thoughtful Mom also provided the all-important color-coordinated tube socks, too!

    Question: Did you have the “school color” Converse sneakers, too?? We had them in green with gold laces OR you had the “original” addidas with green stripes. Anything else and you were hopeless!!!

  7. To the other commenters–my “puke when running” got me a doctor’s excuse from the high school P.E. requirement!!!! My Mom finally “got it” and talked to the doctor! No more “no shower” days and I was spared the true horror of REAL co-ed swimming in the days of speedos and swimming jock straps to “restrain” the overly excited boys!

  8. I hated gym too, but mine was a Sunday school picnic compared to some of the things described here! I was in such a tiny school that there weren’t enough people to make up a team! One of God’s blessings, I’m now seeing. So we spent our time taking walks or shooting basketballs at the goals. I never had any hand/eye coordination (still don’t) so you can imagine I was real good at shooting baskets. Add to that the fact that I was undeniably the heaviest girl in our class. Oh, it was fun!

  9. I remember the days of being the last picked, especially in 6th grade. Two boys fought over having me on their team in front of the teacher who did not care if they were hurting my feelings. In fact he cared more for their feelings. That made me so mad that when I was in outfield I did not do a thing. If the ball came my way I just let it roll off. Everyone got mad at me, but I had a small smile on my face. Revenge was just too sweet.

    When I got to jr. high and high school of course it was uniform time. I went to two different jr. highs and two different high schools. I remember one uniform I had to wear a white snap up blouse with polyester red shorts. I remember enduring the fad of having the correct plastic shopping bag to bring your gym clothes to school in. If you brought a Gap shopping bag (which had a drawstring closure in those days) you were super cool. I was not too bad at flag football, nor track, but not so good at gymnastics. In high school I took modern dance, however when it came time to do the Presidential Physical Fitness test well, ugh. One thing I did well at was the push ups. A group of the tough girls wanted to know what I ate that I could do push ups like I did.

  10. I totally agree with you that P.E. was also the “bane of my existence” for as long as I had to take it during 7th and 8th grade and at least two years of High School. I absolutely HATED having to undress and dress in front of my peers in a very cold, drafty room upstairs next to the gym! We had to take showers, of course, which were even WORSE, and mind you, I was even a skinny little thing in those days. However, I was tall and gangly and not very well coordinated either. Like Susan, I was much more in my “comfort zone” when winning the Spelling Bees, Math races, or most other academic stuff. I was also much more of a pianist, flute player, and reader than I ever was a gymnast. I didn’t mind bowling and volley ball as much as the other activities, though.

    One thing that I was very good at for some unknown reason was the rope climbing thing in high school. I was one of only 2 or 3 girls who could make it all of the way to the top with relative ease, which gained me some temporary respect. Guess what? We did NOT have to wear gym uniforms, probably because most girls at Roanoke were pretty poor in those days. All we had to do was wear some cheap ugly shorts of our own from home and a very non-descript T-shirt that was even uglier. No one gave a hoot about designer bags back then. Another gym activity that I was decent at was running races because I was taller and longer-legged than most of my fellow classmates. I could also play kickball OK, but I never did learn the art of bringing a ball and bat together…ever! I am more of a sedentary type who prefers crouquet and badminton (which were neither one ever a part of gym class). And I do like to swim, but our school didn’t have a pool.

    At our small high school the Home Ec teacher had to also teach gym. Most of the time the teacher hated gym about as much as we did! Therefore, on nice spring days like today
    we could talk her into going on hikes instead of having regular gym class. It was more like summer camp where we would chant little ditties as we trudged along. Thank goodness that gym grades didn’t count toward our GPA at our school either, because I would never have been valedictorian if they had. To add insult to injury I had to take gym class for the first year of college, too. UGH!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.