Sports and Other Oddities

Girls were just beginning to be encouraged to play sports in the late 1960s. I had half athletic genes from my Dad, but my mother broke her collar bone trying to execute a forward roll during high school gym class. It was gym class, not P.E., and the teacher was the gym teacher, of course. Today, most athletic teachers hate the term “gym.” I just hate the whole subject. Everything we did was prescribed for us, and thank goodness the sexes were separated in high school.

In the fall, we played softball. I couldn’t figure out if I was a leftie or a rightie, because no one had taught me how to hold the bat until the gym teacher yelled at me to use my dominant hand. (“No, Sonya, the other side of the base!”) The first time my bat connected with the ball, I threw the bat and got tossed out of the game. I didn’t do it on purpose. I was just so surprised I hit something! Being in the outfield was worse. We didn’t have gloves to catch the balls flying everywhere, and I backed away from the falling balls instead of trying to catch them. It must have been hilarious to watch me as I cowered down when a softball started to descend near me.

It’s funny now, but I still stay away from flying softballs and other objects. Even in a room, if someone yells, “Here! Catch!” I hold my hands out uselessly. Sometimes I get lucky enough to catch it with my body. It’s not that I think catching things is a required skill in life. I just remember the hoots of laughter (even the gym teacher) when I couldn’t manage the ball.

Guess who was picked last for gym teams.

I think if I had made up my mind to catch the ball, I could have done it, but my head said, “You idiot! What are you trying to do? Be a baseball player?” It was impossible.


There was something I was good at in gym class: square dancing. I swung my partner and do-si-do’d all over the gym floor. I loved it; as far as I was concerned, we could have done that all year. My secret desire to take dancing lessons had come true! Unfortunately, square dancing lasted only a few short weeks, and then the boys went back to their side of the gym, and the girls to theirs. It would be mid-winter by then, and I knew what was coming next: gymnastics.

In the next gym class, the floor would be outfitted with a balance beam, trampoline, uneven bars, and something the teachers called a “horse.” I had watched the Olympics, so I knew how athletes were supposed to use this equipment. We were beginners, but there were always a few girls in my class every year who were good at everything. Everything. And they knew it.

“Please, Miss Loren, please! Can I show how to do a cartwheel and split?”

“Well, Jenny, you may, but remember girls, not everyone can do this!”

And with that caveat, Jenny would do cartwheels and handsprings and double forward rolls and end in a split that earned her the applause and attention she sought. I cowered in the corner and prayed for my period to start and last for several weeks so I could get out of gymnastics. It never worked.


I’m Not Seeing Anyone Today

Two words. The Dentist. And one more word–Pain. Except there will be more. I’m starting to feel my lips!

Don’t blame the dentist. It’s my fault, putting things off for as long as possible, and then, well I promise to get this done and stop    eating      M&M s…….. maybe.

I do want to recount something, and anyone out there who went to the dentist in the 1960s, please back me up! My dentist is no longer living on this earth. (No, I didn’t kill him. I thought he was going to kill me!) I went every six months, rain or shine, and I swear, I sat like a stiff doll in the chair until he came into the room and washed his hands with Lifebuoy soap. No gloves. He would barely acknowledge my presence in the chair until he turned the on the light. I believe that light could have lit up a ballpark all by itself.

“Hmmmmmm. Hmmmmmm.” He picked and scratched with those dental tools. I don’t remember getting an x-ray. He’d lean in closer.

“Sonya, open wider!” he barked. Honestly I tried, but I was an elementary school kid.

“You have a small mouth. But I can’t see the back! Wider!”

By now my jaw was tightened in fear. When he called for Nurse Roth, I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

I had a cavity. Yes, me! A Crest kid! A cavity. I pictured the grand canyon of teeth and in my mouth was a blackness on the rocky wall that had to be drilled out as slowly as possible.

Oh! You didn’t know they didn’t have fast, speedy drills like they do today. Also, there was no soft cotton roll with a numbing medicine on it. The doctor went straight in with the needle which always brought tears. I tried not to cry but they kept squeezing out involuntarily.

Even so, that shot didn’t numb all the pain. I swear to it. When he reached for the drill, (a smaller, jackhammer version of the one they use on concrete), I flinched. One time, I was so miserable, I did start crying.

“Stop being a baby, Sonya!”

I gulped and he resumed the torture, in between orders to spit in the little white sink. I know most of you young-uns don’t remember those sinks, but I was supposed to rinse and spit out any gunk from my mouth. Problem was I dribbled because I couldn’t feel one side of my mouth!

When he shut off the jackhammer, I was always relieved, but then he went to grinding some substance to fill my tooth with. It was metal-looking, but by that time, I. Did. Not. Care! It was over, and I could stumble out to Nurse Roth who rescheduled me  for next time and brought out the prized sparkly ring box. I chose carefully, hoping next time wouldn’t come.

Dentistry. 1960s. Moments to Remember.