Julie longs for good old days

  • Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Remember the good old days, when kids fell off the monkey bars and nobody got sued?

Maybe you missed it, but Weber Middle School in Port Washington, N.Y. is so concerned about kids’ safety they’ve banned the following from the playground:

• Footballs

• Baseballs

• Lacrosse balls

• Anything else that could potentially hurt someone on school grounds

And it gets better! In addition to ditching things that kids have been playing with since kids were invented, there are also new restrictions on… wait for it… “rough games of tag.” And cartwheels. Such highly dangerous activities must now be supervised by a coach.

CARTWHEELS MUST BE SUPERVISED BY A COACH. The mind reels.

Port Washington schools Superintendent Kathleen Maloney said the changes were made due to a “rash” of playground injuries. A rash? A rash is what I had in third grade after a hard-fought game of dodgeball. I sported a round red imprint on my belly for hours.

My teacher, Mr. Haskett, hollered, “When the ball is coming, MOVE!” So much for sympathy. And the idea of my parents suing the school is… incompatible with reality. Today that would be the lead on MSNBC: “Parents of red-belly student say, ‘We won’t sue!’”

Another story: In fourth grade I fell out of a huge oak tree that grew on the dirt playground at Thompson Elementary. It knocked me breathless. My beloved brother, T-Bob, strolled over and nudged me with his toe. I could tell he was already mentally moving his bed into my larger room. When I whooped in that first sweet gulp of air, he lost interest. The teacher, Mrs. Hale, hollered, “Is she okay?”

“Yes,” he sighed, and that was that.

Full disclosure: I and my three siblings were exceedingly clumsy kids: We fell off the jungle gym, got trampled in tug-o’-war, were hurled headfirst from the self-propelled merry-go-round, skinned our knees in softball and sustained split lips and swollen eyes from volleyball, basketball, kickball and soccer. My older brother, Bubba, also chipped a front tooth on his kazoo in music class.

But we all survived—heck, we thrived. Mother’s annual instructions to the school nurse were: “If you don’t see bone or spurting blood, give ‘em an aspirin and 30 minutes on a cot.”

The award for Ultimate School Injury goes to my sister Moonbeam, the head majorette. She was very popular at Jacksonville High School, especially when she put on her sequined costume, white go-go boots and rhinestone crown. When she smiled at the crowd and spun two batons, people went crazy.

The majorettes’ most talked-about routine was the flaming baton twirl at halftime. Cotton strips soaked in paraffin were wound tightly around the white rubber bulb on each end of the baton. To end the squad’s performance, someone’s dad would step up with a Zippo and light the paraffin. The girls twirled and hurled those flaming batons in arcs and circles, and the crowd went wild.

At the Cardinals’ homecoming game in 1967, one of the majorettes stumbled… and the flame from her baton touched Moonbeam’s hair. Lacquered in Aquanet hairspray, it went up like a Roman candle.

Moonbeam shrieked, and the assistant football coach leaped up and smothered the flames with his hands. Her hair was smoky and singed, but she was fine. (Except for the lump on her head from the coach’s heavy class ring.)

And let history reflect that… the flaming baton routine continued for several years afterwards.

Can you imagine that today? Seriously?



Julie Smith, who was too clumsy to be a majorette, can be reached at widdleswife@aol.com.

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