Rick Houser:
It was done for our health

When Moscow School was consolidated into New Richmond and Felicity I began the eighth grade attending school at Felicity. I found so much was different at this school. Instead of one classroom all day we moved each subject to a different one for example. There were other things to go along with that but there was one other thing that took place that I to this day still don’t quite understand.

Rick Houser

That my friends were a mandatory class we all had to take and this was mandated by The Department of Health Education and Welfare. The program was Physical Education! This was decided to make certain we got exercise and help us to stay fit for our better good. Really? Did the people in Washington D.C. ever participate in a P.E. class and play DODGEBALL with upper classmen? If they did then they knew darn well there was no betterment for our health attached to this event.

Three days a week I went to the Gym and changed into a pair of trunks a t shirt and a pair of gym shoes so I could be dressed appropriately for what could be called a public humiliation. Some days we got to play some basketball or even kickball. On good weather days we were taken to the football field and once in a while play flag football. (This I really liked and even caught a pass and ran for a touch down! Only downside was I ran into the goal post as I was looking back.)

But I feel that nine times out of ten we were told to play dodgeball.

The Physical Education Instructor would select who would be on which side and then place a chair in the middle of the stage and grade test papers from another class he taught. To operate how things went he wore a whistle on a string that hung around his neck. If something needed addressed or corrected all he needed to do was blow that whistle to which we would all halt what we were doing as that was the sound of law and order. Also by just grabbing the whistle and giving it a blow helped the instructor from having to leave that chair or drop any of the paperwork he was working on.

This was as I recall how the school year went. Go to the gym, change clothes, and take a beating! If you were an upper classman this was a time that probably was a little more fun but if you were in junior high and maybe even a freshman this class was anything but a program to improve your health. As for me by the time I had reached the eighth grade I had reached my full growth and being a farm boy was in pretty good shape. I also was a pitcher who could throw pretty hard and almost straight. This got me selected early in the choosing up side part and several of the upper classmen would pass throwing at me as they didn’t want me to retaliate.

What I did do was try hard at aiming at the guys who took advantage of this game and aim to leave big red marks on defenseless under classmen. I’m doubtful I made much of a difference but at least I felt I tried to. I just never have understood how this helped us out. I would much rather have played kickball more. At least we all got a chance to play and run and not be drilled with a ball that for some reason lacked being fully inflated. I would hear the Instructor explain that it would hurt less this way. I to this day have my doubts on that explanation. If that was so why then didn’t the Instructor get out of his chair and walk out on the gym floor and allow himself to take a shot with the softer ball? I guess he had too many papers to grade.

The class was approximately forty-five minutes long and even though we walked from the other side of the school it was safe to say that several would be limping back to class. Some days we looked like the troops returning from a hard fought battle. At this time the only consolation was that we didn’t have this class two days in a row.

Now I don’t know for sure how this class was carried out in all the other schools around the school district but I am going to guess that their classes were similar to ours. I know I have talked to my wife and some of the girls who took P.E. at Felicity and it sounds very familiar to how the boys class went. So I guess for it being in the 60’s our school was practicing equality to the genders. For some reason I doubt there is a participant who feels this advanced the movement and if so not nearly enough.

When you put a group of children ranging as much as five years in age there will always be some roughing up and getting roughed up. I know as I moved up in grades and reached the upper end of this event I tried to recall how it was and how much I hated getting welts and bruises only for the purpose of helping me to become healthier. (Please let me stay sickly and don’t hit me?) So I hope I was better at not being too rough on the younger and smaller guys as you never know where or when you might run into them and that would be one less thing to get even about.

Someone told me dodgeball has been outlawed from the Physical Education games to play. I don’t know how the time will be passed. The Instructors did as they were permitted so they really did no wrong. Whoever made our schedule and placed the upper five grades of school onto one gym floor was a person who either didn’t understand or care what might happen. But it is safe to say that when you are with old classmates or just older folks who had to take gym class there is one event that we all share in common and that is DODGEBALL! Maybe this was the game that made us the men and women we are today. Brave and agile enough to dodge out of the way of a ball.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.