Friday, October 16, 2009

Shrinkage? We INVENTED shrinkage!

Every now and then I'll wind up in a conversation with someone regarding the horrors of junior high school gym class. This chat will invariably lead to me saying,

"... and the worst part is, the boys all had to swim naked,"

to which the recipient of that comment will stare blankly at me in disbelief as if I had just told them I was really a convicted murderer but am pretty sure I'm through with that phase of my life now.

I find the response to my gym class confession both amusing and disturbing. Amusing, because of the way it stops people dead in their tracks, which causes me to imagine how their minds are trying to process the image of thirty 12 year old boys running around naked in the public school's pool center. And disturbing, because to date, I've never met anyone else (besides the kids who went to that school) who has ever said, "oh yeah, me too," which forces me to question the practice of that particular Phy-Ed policy in the first place.

The oddest thing about swimming nude at our junior high school was that we never questioned it, as if it was a right of passage included in the advancement from grade school. You're a man now. This is how the MEN swim! Men don't wear swimming suits.

My guess is, the whole decision to swim nude was nothing more than a cost-saving measure. No suits to buy, no laundry to do, no unauthorized swim wear screwing up the PH balance of the water. In retrospect I suppose they could have allowed us to bring our own suits, but again... no one seemed to question this arrangement at the time.

The only thing we really seem to care about was how damn cold it was. Not only was the pool water kept at a mere 70 degrees (freezing by recreational pool standards) but the entire pool facility itself was cold as well. Add to that the fact that the bench where we had to sit (on our naked butts) and listen to our coach lecture (for several minutes) was made of ceramic tile, and you have yourself a shivering herd of blue-lipped tweens.

Another area of, how shall I say... "interest" at this time was the issue of physical development. In our school district, junior high ran from 7th - 9th grade, or ages 12-15. Being as how this is also the age span at which young boys may or may not experience puberty, you don't have to stretch your imagination very far to realize that some boys looked different than others. In 7th grade it wasn't that big of a deal... we basically all looked like we were growing a small mushroom on barren ground. But by 9th grade, some of the more muscular jocks were already growing beards and sideburns... and had the shrubbery to match. This was especially evident with the aptly-named Peter, who after being held back, expelled and truant countless times, was 18 years old by the time he was finally able to leave 9th grade. Let's just say we never had to wonder who we wanted to grow up to be like.

So that's my story. Just one of many skinny, naked, freezing boys, dutifully doing their time every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m., hoping some smart-ass didn't put tape over the latch on the door that opened to the hallway so someone could fling it open while we were in mid-march to the poolside, causing everyone to dive into the freezing water before every girl within 100 feet could run up and sneak a peak. No big deal. Literally.

But what I really want to know is... was my school the only one who had naked swimming for the boys? (the girls got to wear suits btw) Was this standard policy in the mid 70s or was our coach a little "different" than the rest?

I'd kinda like to know. Anyone?

41 comments:

PatKG said...

We didn't have a pool, but I'm pretty sure your gym teacher was a perv-- or maybe he was Eastern European? Sounds like something they would do in Soviet Russia. Or was he a jackpine savage?

VE said...

No, all of our school swim teams are naked under their swim suits...

Jaffer said...

We had no pool in our school - though we wished we had !
We weren't even allowed to be completely topless ! If we had to change costumes/sporting gear.

Sandy said...

This was common practice in the Rochester public schools during the 70s as well. Funny enough, I know this because I used to teach at the high school and the kids STILL talk about how weird that was.

Jocelyn said...

Wait. a. minute. Did you grow up in this lovely North Shore city where I now live? If so, which school did you attend? WTF, Bucky? WTF?

The hilarious part of this post, for me, is how nonchalant you are about the whole thing. That's gotta be a guy thing, right? I'm still scarred from having to shower with my classmates after gym class (IN WHICH WE WORE CLOTHES).

carlae said...

I wish I had a camera aimed at me to capture the befuddled look on my face as I read this...the no swim suit rule, that's more than a little wierd.

Idaho Dad said...

This is just about the weirdest thing I've read in a long time. Seriously. I can't even imagine a reason for swimming naked, other than the coach had a thing for unclothed little boys. I'm guessing you had an audience for those swim classes, one which included the principal, school board members, chief of police, and any other number of dirty old men in the community.

If I were you, I'd Google that coach and ask him what the hell naked swimming was all about back then. Maybe you'll find him locked up in the state prison.

Idaho Dad said...

Well, I Googled the subject and it turns out this was a common thing at community and school pools up through the 1960's.

http://bbs.clutchfans.net/showthread.php?t=150181

You learn something new every day, huh?

Kathy said...

I'm appalled. And speechless. I have to go look a the link Idaho Dad left. Again, no speech.

JD at I Do Things said...

stares blankly in disbelief

This was a hilarious post ("growing a small mushroom on barren ground?" That's pure Dickens, my friend!

continues staring blankly in disbelief

I've never, ever in my life heard of anything like this and I go to NUDE RESORTS, for crying out loud. I have some news for your school administrators: Men DO and SHOULD wear swimming suits. I speak from bitter experience.

Mom Thumb said...

Okay, I thought you were kidding and then I realized you weren't and now I'm just freaked out. If I were aware of something like this today, I would be going postal on someone's bare ass.

CatLadyLarew said...

The guys swam naked at our high school... made for interesting fire drills. We women were luckier... we only had to be naked in the showers afterward. How sexist was that?

Maureen said...

Holy crap... never, ever heard of this before. Why? Why? Why?

[Shakes head, trying to get the image of a parade of tween boys marching poolside out of her mind.]

Thank the gods our school never had a pool.

Moonshadow said...

Why do I find all the freaked out responses to be a little weird? In Wichita KS we didn't have a pool in Jr High, but in High School the boys swam naked, or so I was told. This was in the 70s also and I'm sure it was because the school didn't want to supply swim trunks. I recall the swim suits that were supplied for us girls as not even fitting properly dry let alone wet. Skinny dipping seemed to be a common event with boys in the summer time, so why should a swimming pool be any different than a swimming hole?

Grace said...

Andrew Jackson High School, Cambria Heights, Queens, NY - the boys swam naked, the girls were issued ill-fitting suits. We all got ratty, thread bare towels. Thankfully only 2 semesters of swimming were mandatory.

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

See, stuff like this helps explain why you couldn't pay me enough money to make me go back and relive my school years. And I never even went to a school with a pool.

Jeff said...

patkg - Too funny. I had never heard of Jackpine Savage so I Google it and here is what the Urban Dictionary had to say about it:

"A person decending from northern Minnesota's iron range that does all things to satisfy their instantaneous desire. They can be found wearing winter boots year round and carrying multiple guns."

I tell ya, you learn something new every day!

ve - How scandalous!

jaffer - Ahh... definitely a cultural difference there. And I imagine that's not the only one.

sandy - There you go. It'll be interesting to see how many more people confirm this too. Thanks!

jocelyn - I don't believe it's a middle school anymore but it's the same building as what is now called Lincoln Park Elementary. It used to be Lincoln Jr. High.

Well, only the guys who were secure with their guyhood speak nonchalantly about it now... if you know what I mean. *ahem*

carlae - Go ahead and set one up and then record it. I'll wait here.

idaho dad - Thanks for looking that up. I had no idea there were actual forums and everything dedicated to this. I just thought it was weird... not life-scarring!

kathy - Good job. This is the first speechless comment I've ever received.

jd - It cracks me up that you go to those places. I can't imagine that being a relaxing and enjoyable experience... and I'm comfortable with my body! But kudos to you and your hubby for letting it all hang out. :-)

mom thumb - Ouch! That would hurt.

catladylarew - I suppose if everybody showered naked together it wasn't that much of a stretch to have the boys swim naked together. I was just surprised to find out that it's really rare.

maureen - I wished our school didn't have a pool either, but mostly because it was freezing cold and I was never a very good swimmer.

moonshadow - I suppose because skinny dipping was a choice, and swimming naked at school was mandatory. I can why that was an issue for people.

grace - There you go... another one for the record books. Thanks for the comment!

theresa b - Pool or not... you couldn't pay me to go back to jr high either. Yuk!

Anonymous said...

The ymca was naked for guys, too--back in the day! Seemed like all of duluth mn was "naked for guys"--hhmmmm--what's that about?? AND, it is where we (well, some of us!) have multiple guns......
Maybe it comes from all the naked sauna's in this end of the country! That was (and probably still is) "all naked, all the time!" Come to Minnesota and be naked! Yikes! I have met so FEW people who should be naked--that's my experience!
sis

jerrychicken said...

What I want to know is at what point did the Head take the swimming coach to one side and tell him "Jack, from now on I want all the boys to wear swimming costumes", the question "Why" would surely have followed, then a long pause and a fumble for the right words, "Well Jack, you see, erm, I just think its wrong, and its been wrong for so long too"

Dave said...

Hi, this is Junk Drawer Kathy's husband, Dave. I too swam nude through high school years 67-70. That's where I first learned that all men are not created equal. Some have big feet. We also would take communal showers. This was in Allentown Pa., so it doesn't sound like just a mid-west thing.

Jeff said...

sis - They could have used a sauna in that place, that's for sure! As it was, after our pool lesson, we used to turn all the showers onto hot and then create a giant steam bath while we curled up into little kid-cicles up against the wall trying to get warm - until coach would come through and scream at us to get out and get dressed! I'll never forget that.

jerrychicken - You're right... at some point they did stop that practice. Can you imagine someone trying to implement naked swimming today?

dave - Hey, thanks for stopping by! I'm thrilled that other people are sharing their experiences too. This is all too funny.

Janna said...

"growing a small mushroom on barren ground..."

This made me laugh out loud. :)

Freaky.
I'm a little creeped out by the whole "mandatory nude swimming" thing, both because of the extreme embarrassment it would have caused AND because of the resulting unsanitary ickiness.

I don't even want to imagine all the germs that were doing the hokey-pokey on a ceramic tile bench that had bare naked teen boy butts squashed onto it.

Though, I bet if you looked at it under a microscope, it would look a lot like Mardi Gras.

Heather said...

Wow. This post explains so much about you.

Elizabeth said...

OMG! I would have dropped out of school if this was a policy in our school. And if I was a guy. And if our school had a pool.

absepa said...

Good Lord. And I thought I was being tortured when I had to line up with all the other girls in our bras, while the school nurse checked our backs to see if we had scoliosis. That was just mortifying for me.

Michelle said...

I keep waiting for the "gotcha" but there isn't one coming, is there? Wow. I think that summarizes how my school handled swimming. In the early 90s ;)

rick said...

The worst thing about Lincoln pool, was that all day long each class sat on that ceramic bench and no one ever cleaned it, at least not until the end of the day. That and the fact that every single kid, as soon as he got in the freezing water, took a leak.

Drowsey Monkey said...

I think "different" is what they used to call it, lol.

I've never gone to a school where there was a pool. I've only seen schools with pools when I watched american TV. I wonder if any Canadian schools have pools? Now my mind is wandering, mostly because I'm trying not to think of your weird gym teacher.

JD at I Do Things said...

OMG!

I had to come running back here because I heard Junk Drawer DAVE commented! Wow! You should feel lucky, Jeff. I don't think Dave EVER comments. Not even on Kathy's blog!

Kathy said...

I'm laughing at all the Dave stuff (my sister emailed me this weekend to say "Did you see Dave commented?). It's like there has been a Lock Ness sighting or something. I agree with JD. You should feel extremely lucky to have seen Dave make an appearance here. It won't happen again for a decade, if you're even blogging that long.

JD at I Do Things said...

I feel like I should take a screen cap -- just in case he pulls his comment after all this unwanted publicity.

Jeff said...

janna - What? Are you trying to imply that 7th grade boys don't practice good personal hygiene? Oh, you are truly out of touch my friend.

heather - Yeah, I'd say. In fact this policy made such an impact on me that I'm STILL uncomfortable swimming nude in a public pool to this day. That's messed up.

elizabeth - No ifs, ands or butts about it.

absepa - I know exactly how you felt. Lining up in our bras was humiliating for me too.

michelle - Oh you kids and your modern "no swimming nude" schools. It's a wonder you learned anything at all.

rick - Yeah but at that age, who really worried about germs? Well, besides you... nevermind.

drowsey - You'd think Canada would have started indoor pools. I can't imagine you have a very long outdoor pool "season."

jd/kathy - I know, this is all very exciting for me. If only Dave realized what an impact he's had on us. Wait... that would probably come off as pathetic, wouldn't it.

Sornie said...

By the time I had to do gym class swimming in middle school our school was advanced. We had co-ed gym classes in Austin, MN so guys swimming naked would have been really awkward. But probably not too bad if the girls did it too. If you knoww aht I mean.

Roger said...

We had no pool, so we didn't have to worry about it.

However, I hear stories from some of my older co-workers that describe swim class, exactly like you did. They grew up and went to school in Chicago, so maybe it's a midwestern thing.

Jeff said...

sornie - The only co-ed naked swimming I remember was at the lake... at night.

roger - Yes, legend tells of these dark times in history, in this land known as Middle West.

Jerry said...

Here's the original post:

http://www.itsjerrytime.com/?p=113

Hanging Out In SC said...

I can confirm Moonshadow's comment. I was at wedding reception the other day with a group of friends and one of my buddies was discussing a Master's swimming program he had just started. He asked if I would be interested in joining them. I replied as long as I didn't have to swim naked like I did in high school. The rest of the table laughed and assumed I was joking, which I don't blame them for since I do tend to stretch the truth occasionally. I always get the same response when I have related this story over the years, so I decided to do a web search and found this post. In the late 60's we swam naked in gym class at Wichita North High School. I was a freshman in 1968 / 1969 and graduated in 1971. Not sure when this practice was discontinued. My sisters also attended North in the 60's but they were provided with swim suits in gym class. As they related they were badly worn from years of use, poorly fitted, and had faded from our school color of red to a sickly looking pink. I guess swimming naked was better than a bunch of teen boys in pink swim suits!

Anonymous said...

I went to Highland Park Jr High in St. Paul (1969-71) and all the boys had to swim naked. It felt weird at the time, and most of us were not comfortable, but we never questioned it because the adults told us to do it. Now, as an adult, I realize how creepy it was.

SQUIDO W CASH said...

Boys swimming nude in the 1960's in the city of Pittsburgh was common. In the winter we would go to several junior high schools where they had night swimming on tuesdays and thursdays. The local YMCA and other sports centers also has free swimming. IN THE NUDE. We never thought anything about it. The nice thing was not having to carry a swim suit back and forth to the different pools. There was never any inappropriate behavior or anything like that. We just accepted it as normal. The same was true in Pittsburgh Public High School in mid to late 60's. One time I remember wearing a bright red stripe across my legs and ass from a disapline session the previous period compliments of the Vice Principal, Mr Johnson at South Hills High School.
Squidocash

jonny said...

My oldest brother swam nude in h.s starting in the year 1964 in suburban Chicago. By his Junior year it was discontinued.The reason for the no swim suit policy was simple.Boys did not
need to be modest like girls were expected to be.And was a way to keep costs down with supplying suits for the guys.I asked my brother about it once, and he said it was no big deal.He said that the water was always cold and that was the great equalizer in dick size.And as for the comments about the teachers being pervs,it was school boards that made these policies.I entered the same h.s. in 1968 and we wore these wholly lose fitting wool suits with drawstrings that always seem to fall off on my skinny frame(we always joked that they were rejects from East Germany).After our swim lesson we took off our suits in the pool area and put them in a bin.We grabbed a towel in the bin next to it,and walked around the pool drying ourselves off and placing it in another bin.Did that for 4 years.I look back and question now why we didn't take showers after our class.

jonny said...

My oldest brother swam nude in h.s starting in the year 1964 in suburban Chicago. By his Junior year it was discontinued.The reason for the no swim suit policy was simple.Boys did not
need to be modest like girls were expected to be.And was a way to keep costs down with supplying suits for the guys.I asked my brother about it once, and he said it was no big deal.He said that the water was always cold and that was the great equalizer in dick size.And as for the comments about the teachers being pervs,it was school boards that made these policies.I entered the same h.s. in 1968 and we wore these wholly lose fitting wool suits with drawstrings that always seem to fall off on my skinny frame(we always joked that they were rejects from East Germany).After our swim lesson we took off our suits in the pool area and put them in a bin.We grabbed a towel in the bin next to it,and walked around the pool drying ourselves off and placing it in another bin.Did that for 4 years.I look back and question now why we didn't take showers after our class.