Friday, April 3, 2009

Rungi Schmelli 1

Do junior high boys even have P.E. class anymore? I wonder. It’s too bad if they don’t especially with the number of kids I see going down the street every day on their way to school who are obviously overweight and out of shape.

Growing up in Tampa, Florida in the late 50’s and early 60’s we definitely had Jr Hi PE. Everyday. Outside. Unless it was raining or too cold (a relative term in Tampa).

Seventh grade hit in August, 1963. I had PE that year in the afternoon (fortunately I had a class between lunch and PE so the “beanie weenies” had a chance to settle down and start working their way through my system).

The first day of PE was an orientation for those of us in the 7th grade featuring our instructor Coach Solomon (rumored to have been a Marine DI) and Head Coach Escobar—a large, round, bald-headed, nut-brown Cuban. Coach Escobar did most of the talking and he had a unique way of talking. For one thing he bit off many of his words and never pronounced the “s” at the end of a word.

Here’s the opening of his standard, first day of school lecture: “Girl,” he’d say, “You got to dress out every day. You got to wear your sock, your jock and your tenna choo. You get 2 point every day you dress out. If you don’ wear your sock, you lose one point. If you don’ wear your jock, you lose one point. If you don’ wear your tenna choo, you lose one point.”

And someone would invariably ask, “But coach isn’t that losing 3 points?” Coach Escobar would respond, “You get 2 point for dressing, but no sock, no jock, no tenna choo—you can lose 3 point. Now go run 2 lap.” And the kid had to go out to the quarter mile track, in his regular clothes (because we hadn’t dressed out that day) and run 2 laps returning sweat soaked and better educated than he had been 10 minutes earlier.

We all had to wear the same black gym shorts and the same white t-shirts both emblazoned with Madison Junior High on them. Everyone looked the same. Well not really because our ages in the Junior High class ranged from 12 to 15 because it combined 7th through 9th graders together. But more on that later.

I got 2 pairs of shorts and 2 t-shirts and they lasted me all 3 years—by the time I was done with 9th grade, the shorts were grey and the t-shirts where holey. They were pretty baggy on me at 12 but by the time I was 14 in 9th grade both were getting pretty snug.

Then Coach Escobar went into the rest of his lecture. “OK girl, you got to chower after class. Everyone got to chower. If you don’t chower, you lose 1 point. And, when you chower, you got to get in there and wash out your rungi schmelli. You don’t want to go to class and get around those cute girl all you girl like without washing out your rungi schmelli.”

Now none of us dared to ask what a rungi schmelli was—it was a term we’d hear often over the course of the next 3 years—because we all had a pretty good idea what he was referring to. And by the way, Coach Escobar always referred to us as “girls” (except he pronounced it girl).

What a fantastic introduction into the world of Junior High. Into the world of men. To being talked to as men. We 7th graders looked at one another, somewhat self-consciously. This was fascinating new stuff and most of us couldn’t wait to actually “dress out” the next day. But that’s another story.

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