Long ago, (1957-1958), in a high school named Battin, there existed a tradition of getting the young ladies dressed up in a comical outfit and making them do physical ‘Education’. The strange garb consisted of a short- sleeved, sausage-shaped, balloon bottomed, blue cotton “Gym Suit”. Some had a skirt of sorts but all showed the entire length of leg. This was the only time that the ‘Ladies’ of Battin were grateful that it was an all girls school. We’d all had the same gear in 9th grade but, after all, this was HIGH school! C’mon! We are not kids!

The worst part of it all was in the beginning of the school year and in the end of it. That meant that the weather was warm. Warm weather meant that we would be expected to go out side to the weed ridden, litter spewed lot opposite the school’s front door. WHERE ANYONE IN THE WORLD COULD SEE US IN DAYLIGHT!

Got a visual on this? A large crowd of young teen-age girls, half in puberty half mostly out of it, all wearing ill-fitting blue sausage casings. If the day was chilly, those bare legs would start to match the blue of the suit.

The Gym Teacher was Miss Gates. She was so old that my Mom had had her for gym. She wasn’t as spry as she’d been in my mother’s day and she would have some of us carry the bats, balls and catcher’s mitt and other unidentifiable items involved with softball. She did have healthy lungs and she also had a whistle. That whistle could penetrate cast iron.

None of us was all that enthused with the idea of playing ball. There was too many of us to have what would have passed for two teams. The girls who could catch and pitch without ruining their hair were assigned to the positions. The rest of us stood in a line alphabetically and took turns at bat.

You dreaded actually hitting it. You would be expected to run to base if you did. That could mess up your hair for the rest of the day. Better if you swung and missed 3 times and then you’d just go to the back of the line.

My last name started with a “V” so I was at the back of the line anyway…. And I stayed there. Each person to come back to the line I put in front of me. I stayed there for most of the year. Then came the day when Miss Gates saw me stepping back….OOOPPPPSSS!

I was whistled at and shown to the front of the line. I was not athletic at all. I would only run if I was going somewhere important, like to meet my friends. I was terrific with a hairbrush but hand me a bat…?

I was hoping to do the three misses and to the back of the line. I sincerely doubted I could even come close to hitting anything except my own foot. The pitcher was giggling at me. She was kind enough to throw the ball quickly so I could get it over with.

I hit the damn thing!

It was definitely out of bounds. It went over South Broad Street and through a window on the third floor of Saint Mary’s School. A nun popped up in the window within a second. Miss Gates had the whistle blowing like no one had ever heard before. We all headed for the front door of the school like crazed lemmings.

I didn’t know anything about insurance or such things in those days. I only know that Miss Gates turned a blind eye when I slid into the last spot on the line for softball, for the rest of my time at Battin.

© By Swampetta (SWAMPETTA@aol.com)



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