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Tales from the old-timer

Sports for Girls

I graduated from Peshtigo High school in 1974, finishing my high school career without participating in any team sports - because there were none offered for girls.

We did have regular physical education classes (segregated by sex,) and spent time shooting basketballs, playing badminton, and going outside to play softball when the weather permitted. At other times it was exercises like jumping jacks. We wore truly hideous uniforms - a dark blue one-piece garment with a gathered waist if you had a hand-me-down from an older sister, a newer, pale-blue, baggier and uglier version if you were an oldest child like me. I thought the dark blue uniforms were a lot less objectionable, and wished I had one of the older hand-me-downs.

We kept the uniforms crinkled up in our “lockers” which consisted of a little wire basket that could be secured. I took my uniform home one or two times a year to get it washed, like most of the other girls. As a result, it was always very rumpled up and quite stinky.

We girls used the “small gym,” which doubled as the school cafeteria, because the boys were always ceded the “big gym,” unless they didn’t need it for a day. Once in a while during PE class in the small gym someone would slip in some spilled lunch chili on the floor and fall.

I believe PHS started a women’s volleyball team that competed with other schools in either 1975 or 1976, too late for me. While I don’t know for sure, I’d assume this was the start of the response to Title IX, which required schools to offer female students sports (spending money to do so,) if they offered boys sports.

It is hard to believe now that for decades no one questioned that boys would benefit from the team skills, competition, physical conditioning and life lessons learned on competitive sports teams; but that girls didn’t need such an experience. I remember my PHS experience as very positive, but this is the one item that still rankles me. Once I graduated from college, I became very active in recreational leagues for softball, bowling, racquetball and volleyball and loved the exercise and competitive environment.

I hung my ball glove up for good, finally, when I turned 55. Not for lack of desire, but because coed teams for older people don’t exist where I live. However, I did get chided for sliding into third by a rec. league umpire at the age of 54, something I am quite proud of. (I skinned myself up pretty bad, but I was safe.)

Ideas about boys and girls were rigid in Marinette County in the early 70’s, and my request to take auto mechanics instead of home economics was rejected out of hand, because it would “interfere with scheduling.” I already knew how to cook but I figured that knowing a little bit about cars would come in handy.

Ladies, don’t take your ability to choose to be on a sports team in school lightly. Not everyone got such a chance not all that long ago.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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