What’s a Pommel Horse ?

I was about to see for myself, upCliparts close and personal, in 9th grade gym class.

Coming out of Catholic school, where physical education meant “Red Rover” in the paved schoolyard, I was in for a shock.

Uneven parallel bars, rings, balance beam, vault, rope climb, pommel horse.

What sort of fresh hell was this for a 13 year old in a stiff cotton gym suit ?

It was bad enough to discover that I had to quickly learn team sports; field hockey, softball, basketball, volley ball, soccer.

But then, the indoor gym equipment surfaced.

In the 1960’s, we were expected to participate in all events.

cartoon monkey climbs on a rope / sportsFloor tumbling was okay, the springboard helped with vaults, I did have a sense of balance, the parallel bars were fun, and maybe my favorite.

But when I looked at the rope hanging from the 50 ft. ceiling, with a 2 inch rubber mat underneath, I knew I was in trouble.

The rope, and the suspended rings were the most challenging for a 70 lb. kid with no upper body strength.

I might have gotten 6 ft. off the ground, I try not to remember the details. I don’t remember anyone mocking me for the effort.

Maybe it was a kinder, more gentle time.

I was more preoccupied with the humiliation of a community shower. And trying to remember the combination for my locker. And how there were no hair dryers for use after swim class. And how I would survive to get to high school.

It all comes back as I watch the Rio Olympics with respect and awe.



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70 Responses to Gym

  1. You took me back! The community shower and all of those sports! not a sports person so climbing the rope and gymnastics was not fun! It did make me well rounded!

  2. Great post Van. Pulled me back to similar experiences.

  3. I believe those days were certainly kinder.

  4. Your memories made me judder at my own memories of HS gym classes.

    • We shared the horror, I think. Now, I don’t believe P.E. is part of the standard school agenda. My kids took an elective class using personal training equipment, something they could actually use in life.

      • My oldest is in Middle School still so I’m not sure how that works here now, how voluntary PE becomes. When I was in HS in Scotland, however, PE was compulsory until age 16. I loathed contact sports and was no good at them so I despised PE. As I was studying two additional subjects in my own time, I begged to be allowed to spend PE time in the library instead but to no avail. I often brought a note to get out of participating so I could spectate from the sidelines and read my books. Given I was bullied throughout my school years, PE class was my utter nemesis.

      • That bullying is a sad reality for so many, so much worse today, or so I hear. I wasn’t teased much over PE, and I had a reputation in academics, tutoring, etc. That might have saved me. Those PE teachers could be cruel as well, favoring the “jocks” who got their validation there. Thanks for sharing, Laura. 💘

      • I think what makes bullying different these days is that technology has provided new opportunities for perhaps more subtle methods of bullying, ones that slip under the otherwise vigilant noses of parents and teachers. In my day it was all verbal and physical and pretty overt. Now the approaches are more covert. One of my sons was bullied quite badly (verbal and exclusion) when we moved here and though the school nipped it in the bud quickly it has dented his self-confidence and social confidence.

      • I understand.💔 I wish I didn’t. It happened to my son as well when we were new here. He found his way, but it took some time.

  5. Remember the flexed arm hang? Egads! ❤
    Diana xo

  6. Everything about those old gym classes felt like survivalist trials, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I wonder if they’re still like that. Aren’t the Olympics wonderful, though? I’m so glad some of us have the guts and talent to see it through. 🙂

    • It was a challenge, but at least I could fall back on academics, D.With $$ cutbacks, most P.E. programs were cut, mostly voluntary now. I love the Olympics, so inspiring. Makes me want to exert more ! ☺

  7. Val Boyko says:

    Memory lane for so many of us! Thanks for the gritting of my teeth and the release into a smile😊

  8. Erika Kind says:

    I never made it up the rope only one single time! Not one!!! So glad that I am not the only one… lol!

  9. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, what a horrible gym memory! In the 50s, the schools I attended did not have such indoor equipment! Thank God! I’d never have survived! I remember good fun like basketball & field hockey! And cheerleading! 💛 Elizabeth

  10. George says:

    Ahhhh…catholic school gym days. We can write books about those experiences. Different time. It’s best to concentrate on Rio..:)

  11. joey says:

    Oh my goodness. Somewhere there is a picture of me hanging upside down from a balance beam, terrified to let go, although obviously my bottom is nearly hanging to the floor, I couldn’t reason that at the time. *facepalm* The rope and I didn’t get on well, either. I loved the pommel horse and I excelled at vault and floor.
    None of them were better than Red Rover!

  12. Nurse Kelly says:

    What a relatable, entertaining story! I’m kind of relieved those days are over… felt the same way as you did at those tender ages. I “experienced” those pieces of equipment in gym as well and have a real appreciation for the skill the Olympic gymnasts have. Brings back memories for me too! xo

  13. LaVagabonde says:

    Pommel horse…the name says it all. I knew better than to even attempt that one. We had sort of gym class in Catholic school, and some team sports. I tried basketball, but of course could not keep up with the big girls, who were actually less vicious than during school. Gymnastics – it’s always been a struggle just to touch my toes, and I also have zero upper body strength. But, it was in 7th grade when, by accident, I discovered a talent for distance running. I was really good in 9th/10th grade in the 2 mile run and 5km cross country. Then I hurt my knee. As for the Olympics, I explain to my totally unathletic husband the techniques used by distance competitors.

    Even though I’m a lot less enthused about watching this time around – fed up with the corruption in the organization – I do think it opens people’s eyes to different sports. What I REALLY enjoy about watching it while living overseas is that I get to see so many other countries and obscure sports. When you watch in the US, it’s only USAUSA and only the winners. I can understand that people want to see the home team, but it does not expand your world like watching it overseas does. So far, I’ve seen Vietnam win the pistol gold, Uzbekistan win bronze in judo, Thailand win gold in weightlifting, Argentina win gold in judo, North Korea win silver in weightlifting, and of course the Czech Republic in whatever they are qualified in and even if they don’t make the final round. There seems to be so much more emotion on the faces of people from “less important” countries.

    • Well said on the Olympics, Julie. Many of my favorite moments come from those more obscure events and the “human” stories behind the athletes, which do get featured on some of NBC’s affiliates, but never during prime time, it seems. You were a runner ?? That is all about individual discipline and achievement, and no doubt…the endorphins. ☺ Thanks for sharing. 💖

  14. What horrible memories they were. What have you done? Life has been following along smoothly until now. Those were just miserable times. It started right from the locker room. Out in the field was no fun either! None of it was. Well, I’ll forgive you this time. Just because it was a cool story.

  15. I remember the pommel horse, the spring board, the mats, and especially the rope. I was so proud when I got to the top of that rope! I remember when I was 20, fresh out of the US Navy, I got a job with the phone company, as a line repairman (person). When it got to the point where I had to go to Chicago for pole climbing school, I couldn’t get to the top of a 6-foot pole, the fear was that strong. I wonder where that came from. I had to change jobs to that of a telephone operator.

  16. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Van!! Oh wow, how I was right there with you as you described your experiences. I never blossomed until 16 so you can well imagine my embarrassment in the changing room and shower. I was always athletic so I had no probs there and besides I went to a Catholic highschool so what I didn’t have it as rough as you. I wanted to go to a public school because they had real sports. Seriously. My mother would have none of it though. I managed to survive. LOL ❤

    • I was a late bloomer, Amy, many changes not until 18. I understood why girls needed that once monthly private shower, so I kept a calendar and faked mine, until it arrived. It was the most “regular” I ever was, and it wasn’t real. But I got my privacy, once a month. The things we did ! ☺

      • AmyRose🌹 says:

        Nowadays, it is not uncommon that girls get their monthly at 8 years of age. Is that not crazy??? It’s all the hormones in milk and food that is doing this. When I was growing up never did an 8 year old get a period. Oh times have changed! And yes the things we did. OK. I’ll tell. I used to stuff my bra with toilet paper to make me look like I had a chest. OMG!!! I am laughing so hard right now. Honestly, the things I used to do!!!! Tee hee …….. 😉

      • I’m laughing right there with you, Amy. Check this one out. ☺

  17. Laura says:

    Love it! P.E. was a special kind of hell, but at least it was an equal opportunity hell because everyone stinks at something! 🙂

  18. amommasview says:

    Pommel horse… Love that name… but I hated the thing! I could never do it! And I sure did not like it.

  19. Great to know about your experiences. I’m watching Rio Olympics as well…it gives me an awe always to look at the athletes… 🙂

  20. I loved climbing that rope–always craved the President’s Physical Fitness patches to put on my gym uniform (or whatever the award was called). How novel: decades ago, presidents embraced science and physical fitness.

  21. It does all come back! I took gymnastics and almsot went competitive. I do remember the horse and I have the callus on my hands to prove it! lol

  22. I am so enjoying watching the Gymnastics on the Olympics and like you was a teen in the 60’s Our All girls school was not so well equipped we had no indoor gym or indoor courts.. We had to make do with Hockey, Basket Ball and Tennis outside in all weathers.. We did have a large field where we would have sports and track events.. Oh and long Jump.. and Javelin .. No Rings,Beams or Bars.. They were for the Grammar School Children.. We were the Secondary School.. ( Well Named ) lol.. As everything even the buildings were falling apart.. They were prefabricated buildings that got nicked named the ‘Cow-sheds’ lol.. They were built after the 2nd World war.. As temporary… They are still standing today, used for storage now to the Grammar School..
    Thanks for igniting my memory box
    Hugs Sue

  23. Enjoyed your post Van.
    I had none of this growing up.
    I was a runner, multi gold medals won.
    And, my 12 year old won her first gold medal as the fastest girl in camp yesterday.
    It brought back memories.

  24. Memories – oh yes! 😄😄

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