This is the second in what I hope becomes an entertaining series of adolescent recollections. You see a lot of stuff when you’re young–some good, some bad, some happy, some sad. Some involve gym class humiliation.
The Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge, designed to get kids up off the couch and to the highest realms of (alternately) glory or embarrassment, was a popular gymnasium fixture in the elementary school days of my youth. A minor part of President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s sweeping Great Society programming, and measuring performance in a variety of activities such as the 50-yard dash, pushups, and other displays of speed, strength, and agility, the Presidential Fitness Challenge was to the young “husky” boy an unadulterated manifestation of evil incarnate.
Most humiliating of all, at least for 8 year old me, was the “Flexed Arm Hang.” The idea was simple! Grab the chin-up bar, pull yourself up, and hang, for as long as humanly possible, with your chinny-chin-chin all the way up above the bar. Little Eddie so-and-so, who never struck me as the athletic type but did on second look have an unusually muscular upper chest, held it for 59 seconds just prior to my turn, setting the flexed arm hang “bar” high. I still set mine low, thinking if I could hoist my considerable mass up that high for a solid ten seconds I could claim if nothing else at least moral victory. I sidled up and hoped for the best. Continue reading