Gym class
Posted Friday, April 9, 2010 04:44 PM

I always considered myself a pretty good athlete. That is, until I got to Amherst High School. Through 8th grade I attended the Buffalo public schools, where I played handball in the concrete schoolyard (American and Chinese!), keep-away even during the winter, and participated in inter-school track meets—practicing softball throws with my dad in Delaware Park. My two elementary schools had “modest” gyms—with medicine balls and leather-padded, rung-sporting walls. At 10+ years of summer camp, I excelled in tennis and did many other sports, and was always chosen among the first when picking teams (still a nightmarish memory for lesser athletes).

I entered Amherst in 9th grade, full of hope and promise. Where I had been a big shot in 8th grade (still remains the height of my social life, but that’s another story), I was now a mere "no one" is this new landscape. Never had the junior high bonding experience. Then came gym class. This fancy school had actual athletic fields! Suddenly, I had to don shin guards to play field hockey outside in the frosty mornings. Shlepping up and down a long way on wet grass. Field hockey, what was that? Feh, hated it!

It got even worse in senior high because there was a swimming pool. Mind you, I was a great swimmer. I even had junior and senior lifesaving certificates. However, nothing could have been more traumatic than having to go swimming 2nd period and try to maintain my “straight” hair… Yes, the hairdo that took hours to achieve and would be ruined merely by a humid or rainy day! And to make matters even worse, we had to wear those horrible green cotton bathing suits that smelled like bleach and got so heavy when wet that getting out of the pool was a Herculean challenge. Just like a Seinfeld episode. (By the way, did the boys really swim naked???) Luckily for me, this story has a happy ending. I got my uncle, Dr. Bob Ehrenreich, to write me an excuse, so I never had to go to swimming again during the rest of my high school days.

In gym class we had to line up alphabetically, so I was usually between Sue Degener and Gail Engasser, both formidable—and totally intimidating to me—athletes and cheerleaders. I had neither their athletic prowess nor the ability to be perky on demand (still can’t). And Miss Krehbiel (more like Mr.), the gym teacher, was a trip. I don’t think s/he ever had any expression other than drill sargent—and clearly I was not one of her favorites. Couldn't play field hockey or do handsprings. Thus, my report cards in gym through high school “sported” several C's, and I was devastated. What was this impossible syllabus? What could I have been doing so badly? Jumping jacks? Pommel horses? Thankfully, UB must not have cared (although I got my revenge there with A's in tennis and bowling)! To this day, I still maintain the position that I am a good athlete. Now, if I could just remember what I had for lunch...

At our upcoming reunion, we will be asking people to bring or send memorabilia for a display. So, in honor of Miss Krehbiel and gym class, I will be showcasing my "snappy" navy blue, one-piece gym suit—which for some unknown, otherworldly reason, has been in my closet ever since.