Looking Back

No phys ed or female sports back in the day


A classmate recently told me that she didn’t remember any sports for girls during our high school years at Mount St. Joseph Academy in the early 1960s. I didn’t recall any either so I checked the yearbooks online to see if we were correct. 

The ski team was the only sports related activity showing a picture of female students. If you weren’t a skier then you were on your own to get some exercise.

However, the teachers in elementary school apparently knew that young people needed to get exercise during the day in order to facilitate the learning process. I guess that is what recess is all about.

My elementary school days back in the 50s were spent at Christ the King School. There were no gym classes and there was not an “official” playground. In fact, the school grounds consisted of a blacktop surface. There wasn’t a blade of grass to be found. Most of us got to school early enough in the morning to have a little play time with our friends. The girls congregated on the south side of the school which sloped down to the city sidewalk. The boys hung out on the back side which was flat. 

Jumping rope was popular with the girls. Double Dutch was particularly appealing because you couldn’t do that at home on your own. It was done by jumping between two ropes twirling in opposite directions. More than one person could be jumping at the same time as the rope was quite long. The fact that you were jumping on a sloped surface was a challenge. Looking back I realize it was a great form of exercise that allowed us to practice our coordination.

At recess we got our exercise by playing volleyball. I remember one time that did not go well for a friend of mine. A group of us tried to get the ball and she was pushed.  Her foot went into a hole and a broken ankle resulted. I probably played a part in that mishap but it was “group” guilt and not “individual” guilt which made me feel a little better! She wore a plaster cast that was signed by all of her classmates and teachers. Sometimes exercise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

One of our more interesting forms of exercise was when Sister Margaret Henry brought my whole class across Route 7 to Main Street Park. She played kick ball with us and the veil of her habit was flying as she ran. She was the closest we had to a phys ed teacher as she took all eight grades over to the park. She just liked to move around and have fun!

In high school being a cheerleader or majorette gave a girl an opportunity for physical activity. Since a very limited number of girls could participate the rest of us had to get our exercise with friends. In the winter we could do that at three ice skating rinks in Rutland, all of which were very popular. The Rutland Country Club had a rope tow and many of us learned to ski there. In the summer local tennis courts were busy from morning until night. And of course, there was the city pool on North Main Street. It served as both a place for lessons as well as recreational swimming.

Most of us walked to and from school and rode our bikes to the pool. Even though physical fitness wasn’t talked about much back then we managed to get plenty of exercise without Phys Ed classes and gym workouts. Walking was sometimes the only way to get from one place to another. Most families had only one car and our fathers took it to work. So kids were on their own to get to their destination.

The “outdoors” was our gym and there is nothing wrong with that!

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