When I was a ninth grader in Seattle, Washington in 1951, the criterion for getting an “A” in physical education was to take 40 showers after class during the semester. I’m not kidding!
Thirty showers meant you got a “B”, 20 were worth a “C” and so on. Clever kids that we were, we soon discovered that in reality, you didn’t have to take a shower at all to get credit for one. The teacher did nothing more than check to make sure that the towel you turned in was wet. It wasn’t too tough to dampen down a towel and turn it in.
I don’t remember what kind of physical activities we engaged in during gym period, but I know for sure that there was not a single step of running in the curriculum. We would no doubt have balked at that. We were girls, after all, and girls weren’t supposed to sweat back then.
When I moved to Philadelphia in 1952, things were a little different in the sports arena. The high school I attended had girls’ tennis and swim teams. Girls also played lacrosse, a funny game I’d never heard of in which you cradled a little ball in a basket on the end of a stick and you actually had to run with it. As a junior, I tried out and made the fourth team, the lowest of the low. I soon quit in disgust. Apparently there had been too many fake showers and not enough sweat in my past.
The college I attended a couple of years later was spread out across a small Ohio town—dorms up on a hill and classrooms a mile away close to downtown. Every day we walked that mile in the morning, then back to the dorm for lunch and repeated the process in the afternoon. None of us would have been caught dead on a bike. Just not cool.
I didn’t start running until I was in my thirties, but once I started, I found I couldn’t stop. And to this day I don’t feel as if I’ve earned a shower unless it follows some kind of workout that produces some sweat.