One of the things that I hated in junior high and high school was the physical education classes. These were usually under the supervision of young teachers who were far more concerned with their coaching duties than they were with teaching students how to be physically fit or to take an interest in healthy physical activities. If these yahoos (the teachers) were not busy poring over their playbooks and ignoring the bullies pounding the defenseless, they were sitting in the bleachers reading the newspaper or a magazine while a brutal game of dodge ball played itself out on the gym floor. Injuries were the rule, not the exception.
I never forgot the trauma of dodge ball, and as a principal years later I ended the practice at three different schools.
Physical education was different in college because there it was about learning. At Southwest Missouri State College in the 1960's, four one-credit PE classes were required for graduation. I loved each of mine and learned a great deal from those experiences. The first PE class that I took was some sort of general class that had a basic focus on weight-lifting. The instructor was a wonderful fellow named Jim Mentis who was also the college's head football coach. It was there that I learned that even a non-jock, like me, could lift weights. My best was the one that required me putting the bar on my shoulders, with lots of weights attached, and proceeding to do squats. I don't remember the amount of weight that I was able to squat, but it was significant and I could literally do it almost endlessly. Some of the gorillas (Bears, actually) from the football team who were taking the class for an easy "A" were impressed with my squatting ability.
My next college physical education class was tennis. I took it in the spring, and we had to walk several blocks to a small park for the class. I learned the fundamentals and by the end of the semester could play a respectable game of tennis. I wish now that I had maintained that skill, but for many years my life led me places where tennis courts were scarce.
The third PE class that I took was folk and square dancing. I loved square dancing, and I could allemande left or right (and promenade, do sa do, and swing my partner) with the best of them. I actually got good at it. I also learned to do the polka in that class and enjoyed that as well.
But it was bowling in my senior year of college where I really shined! I had bowled some in high school and was poor to barely mediocre - and knew it. Our college had a new program that year called "pass-fail" where a student could choose to pass or fail a class rather than receive a specific grade. I figured with my poor bowling history, that it would be a smart move for me and my grade point average to take bowling on a pass-fail basis and not sweat the sure-to-be low grade that would pull down my already suffering g.p.a.
My old friend, Coach Mentis, was the bowling instructor, and, as with lifting weights, he taught me how to actually bowl. Halfway through the course I knew where to stand, how to approach the line, how to release the ball, and which arrow to release it over. By the end of the class I was rolling an average of 180 per game, and was easily the most improved bowler in the class. I would have had the "A" with no sweat, but had to settle for the lousy "pass."
I bowled on an Army league on Okinawa a couple of years later, but the abundance of beer involved in that activity began to reduce my bowling skills considerably. My clearest memory of bowling on that league (perhaps my only clear memory) was that one night I successfully made a six-seven-ten split, much to the amazement of myself and most of the people in the bowling alley. I was supposed to have gotten a special patch for that achievement, but that never happened. Forty years later I still want my damned patch!
Nearly twenty years after that when my youngest son, Tim, was in elementary school, we lived two blocks from a bowling alley in Neosho, Missouri. Tim and I got into the habit of bowling every weekend. My 180 average had slipped to about 100 by then, but he and I had a lot of fun at it anyway. We got so dedicated to the game that we bought our own bowling balls.
We left Neosho in 1992 and I have bowled one or two times since - until last night.
Valerie Seitz, a close friend and co-worker whom I knew from my time in the Valley of Hell (Phoenix), set up a bowling party at Kadena Lanes last night as a finale to my week-long birthday blowout. We were joined there by several people from work. (I am going to list them here just so I will always remember who turned out to watch me embarrass myself!): Daniel Murphy, Nefredia Covington, Ron and Carolyn Gibb, Airman Jackson, SSgt Keith Buehler and his beautiful bride Sarah, Nicole Murphy and her two-month-old daughter Saphyra, and Stephanie Reitman and her children Lauren and Tyler - and I hope I haven't forgotten anyone!) And we had such a great time!
Being the guest of honor, I felt that it was incumbent upon me to roll the worst game - so everyone else could experience some success. I was told that I had to at least bowl my age, and I couldn't even muster that. My first game was a miserable 48, but I was able to surpass that in the second game, just barely, because I got lucky with a spare in the ninth frame and wound up with a walloping fifty-one! That was a total of 99 pins in 20 frames!
Coach Mentis would have been appalled!