We all had to take it.

We all learned to take it.

First it was the outfit. I came home from school with a form. My mom filled in the sizes and sent me back to school with the form and a check for whatever it cost back then. In a couple of weeks, we all got a white T-shirt and gym shorts.

I had never owned a pair of gym shorts. They were black with an elastic waistband. On the left leg, white lettering read, “phys ed” under a white box. I assume that white box was for writing something in black magic marker. Most of us kept ours pristine.

Gym shorts were a big deal.

Our first exercises were sit-ups, toe-touches and pushups. Later we had games like dodgeball and kickball. In high school we played volleyball and had to climb a rope.

The weirdest PE activity of all was “swivel hips,” which was performed on the trampoline. I have seen this maneuver go wrong. A person can lose control doing “swivel hips.”

Our gym teacher spent the first class with the trampoline lining us up all around it and demonstrating how to push a wayward classmate back to the center of the stretchy mat.

This instruction was, of course, highly theoretical. When a classmate is coming at you overhead, instincts make you step back. We never lost anyone off the trampoline altogether, though some did go down between the springs and the frame.

The best classes were when the instructor got bored and let us play pickup basketball. Then the hour class was over before we knew it, and we needed a shower.

After passing all my phys ed classes in junior high and high school, I graduated from Rockland District High School.

After college I returned to Rockland and worked in a lobster shop where I lifted crates. It was good exercise every day. Then in the late 80s a new fitness craze emerged called Nautilus Fitness. An older gentleman named Arthur Jones invented exercise machines designed to work one muscle group at a time. In an hour or less you could work out on each machine and exercise each muscle group in your body.

I joined the local health club which had Nautilus Fitness machines and kept up with it pretty faithfully.

It was very intense, and loud grunting was allowed. The gym I go to now does not allow this. Loud grunting sets off a flashing red light and an air raid siren. It is called the “lunk alarm.”

My physical education continues to this day. I get off-track from time to time, but thankfully I do know how to get back on it.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Glenn’s shorts. Drawing by Glenn Billington