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July 26, 2014 / thackersam

July 25 – Go You Chicken Fat

Chicken Fat (2)The only other Facebook group I’ve joined is my high school alma mater’s. That’s not true actually. Before joining the regional WNEW club, I hooked up with a rock ‘n roll group that was so large and kept bombarding me with incessant posts. I made the mistake of responding to a post only to have my cell ding continuously to let me know of the arrivals of email announcing that someone else has also responded. I know there is some way to manage this, but I just got myself out of that group.

My high school group is very tame. A post now and then. Just the way I like it. I had recently been musing over that commercial that features the song “Chicken Fat,” sung by the late actor Robert Preston, best known as The Music Man from stage and screen. That brought back memories. Gym class. Oy. Then someone from my high school asked if we remembered the song and having to exercise to it in elementary school. I wanted to respond, but I’ve learned my lesson. But the other responses told me things I did not know. We always thought it was just a stupid, annoying song, and it was. I didn’t know who Preston was at the time, which made it even more annoying, but I now learn that the song was commissioned in 1961 by then President John F. Kennedy for his President’s Council on Physical Fitness. It was written by Meredith Wilson, composer of the music for The Music Man. I actually didn’t hear the song until years later in junior high school long after Kennedy was assassinated. My elementary school gym teacher didn’t have us exercising to “Chicken Fat” and as I had no idea of its existence at the time, I have no idea why. I can speculate though. Mr. Engel, a big, muscular guy was the gym teacher at my elementary school for years. We had gym once a week, maybe twice, I’m not sure, but I recall it was by class and teacher, of which there were two for each grade. Meaning, gym was co-ed. And I think Mr. Engel was a bit too macho for the girlie “Chicken Fat.” I remember Mr. Engel’s name because I had him for gym throughout elementary school, but when I got to junior high, there were two or three gym teachers per class which were divvied up by grade and sex. We were already too cool for “Chicken Fat,” and neither Presidents Johnson nor Nixon seemed like the type to be concerned about such a thing, but the teacher had us exercising to it anyway. And that’s my “Chicken Fat” memory.

And that reminds me of failing gym in high school. How does one fail gym? You don’t go. And I didn’t go for no good reason, but I wound up having to take gym in summer school. It was great, believe it or not. The girls’ summer gym teacher was into tennis, and that’s what we did every day for eight weeks or so, weekends off, maybe Fridays too. And all the other girls were there because of no good reason, and if I wasn’t already friendly with them, we were nodding acquaintances. Accept for the girl I got paired up with that summer. I didn’t know who she was beforehand, and I don’t remember her name now. But we were so well matched physically and had a lot of very good games. I think we both improved our skills because of each other. After that, we had a nodding relationship. Maybe said hi now and then, but we always had that summer.

After morning tennis, I would meet Vicki’s sister during her lunch break from serving on the stage crew for the high school’s summer production of Oklahoma! We would meet each day, sit on the grass somewhere on school grounds and share a raspberry yogurt (they were bigger then, and had more fruit) and a can of coke. I’d go home and she’d go back to work. It was actually a good summer except for the horrible tan lines those stupid bloomer gym suits with their little cap sleeves left.

Remember the closing lines to the old, old TV series The Naked City – “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Well, there are eight million stories in my head. And this was just two or three.

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