Cape Central’s Dreaded Rope Climb

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I never played any team sports and, despite the fact that I’ve covered just about every big sporting event to come along, I’ve never had any interest in any them. Super Bowls, championship golf tournaments and college bowl games were just another day at the office. I’m a cyclist, but that’s pretty much a solitary sport, at least the way I do it.

PE was probably my least favorite class at Central High School. The rope climb, which was intimidating when I was a freshman, became one of my favorite challenges later on after I had spent a summer loading and unloading trucks for my dad’s construction company.  I could zip up the rope using only my upper body after that workout.

Still, every time when I got up to the top of the rope and just before I slapped the rafter holding the collar that secured the rope, I wondered how often that thing got checked.

“What’s a Jesus Nut?”

I had similar concerns when I was doing a story on the sheriff’s helicopter (that’s me dangling in the rescue sling during a practice). On the first day, I asked the standard question, “What happens if the engine quits? Do we gently auto-rotate down or do we drop like a rock.?”

“Let’s find out,” Andy, the pilot said, gaining some altitude over a rural area. He cut the engine and we gradually descended toward what looked like a smooth, green pasture. Just before we touched down he fired up the engine and did an abrupt pull-up.

It wasn’t a green pasture, it was a green, algae-covered pond. We agreed that we wouldn’t mention the experiment in my story. Andy’s dead now, so I guess the statute of limitations has expired.

After establishing that a helicopter WILL set you down relatively gently if you aren’t aiming at a farm pond, the pilot said the worst thing that could happen would be a failure of the Jesus Nut.

Seeing the expression on my face, he explained that the Jesus Nut is the thing on the very tip top of the shaft that holds the rotor on.  “If it fails, ‘JESUS!!!!’ is about all you’ll have time to say before things go REALLY bad.”

Now, I know what they should have called the thing that held the rope to the rafter.

Reversible orange and black gym uniforms

The girls had blue and / or green suits that ranged from “hideous” to almost not too bad, depending on what year you went to school.  The boys were luckier. They had basic shorts with a shirt that was orange on one side and black on the other so you could tell teams apart.

These guys look like they are formed into lines so they can duck under the divider, run across the gym, perform some act of pain and run back. I don’t see any smiles.

Coach Goodwin checks his list

Coach Robert Goodwin and I had an uneasy relationship. Well, it was uneasy from my perspective. I tried to stay as far below his radar as possible. Since I possessed no jock characteristics, he generally overlooked me.

I DID make a mistake one day. He had us running endless laps of the track. “It’s good for you. Every lap burns out the nicotine equal to a cigarette.”

I don’t know what kind of scientific study he was quoting, but I made the mistake of piping up, “I’ve got a problem, then, Coach. I don’t smoke. I’m building up a huge nicotine deficit that’s going to come back and haunt me some day.”

He was not amused. I’m not sure, but I think I’m still supposed to be running around that track.

Calisthenics: Are we having fun?

If the weather was bad or the coach’s mood was bad, it was push-up, chin-up, jumping jack, sit-up time.

When I got to SEMO, phys ed was a requirement. By the time I got all the academic classes scheduled, the only PE class open was something with a fancy name that was really nothing but calisthenics. The instructor told us on the first day that we would do a series of tests to establish our baseline and that our final grade would depend on how much better we were at the end of the semester.

My mamma didn’t raise a fool. When I took the baseline test, the coach was appalled at what lousy shape I was in. At the end of the semester, though, he was convinced that he was a great instructor because of my tremendous improvement.

The next semester, the only thing open was Beginning Wrestling. This did not sound good. The first day, two or three of us showed up; the coach said to come back for the next class to see if anyone else signed up. On the second day, he said the the group was too small, so he was going to fold us into the Advanced Wrestling class. I didn’t like the way that sounded.

I showed up for the first day of Advance Wrestling, took one look around the room and decided that I liked all of the body parts I was born with and dropped the class. That’s when I decided to transfer to Ohio University, where PE was not required.

6 Replies to “Cape Central’s Dreaded Rope Climb”

  1. Nice shots…I was a jock and still stayed away from Coach Godwin or “Goody” as we called him. Nice enough guy, but your were either a “goody” guy are you were not…I was not. Now coach hargens and Coach Myer were nice guys and great to be around, Coach Brinkhoff was a man’s man. He called us all MEN and we lined us in flash to do what ever he asked us to do!

    “It’s good for you. Every lap burns out the nicotine equal to a cigarette.”

    That is why I HAVE to smoke a cigar every now and then to make up for me personal nicotine deficit…

    thanks fo sharing…

    I heard that every day too!

  2. I never understood why my college required three one-credit phys ed courses either. All the “fun” ones like swimming and scuba filled up quickly, although I was happy to learn that target shooting on the campus ROTC range was considered a “sport” and had I fun with that one.

  3. I was not a jock either but enjoyed playing a lot of sports that I was not very good at! The rope climb was what I feared the most in gym class and am not sure I ever made it to the top! That is probably why I still have a fear of heights to this day! I thought about trying out for football but as a skinny kid of 130 pounds and one who bruised easily, I did not think about it for very long! Lot of memories about Central High and Coach Goodwin is one of them! men like him in todays education system would be a plus for sure!

  4. I grew up in Brooklyn in the ‘50’s/60’s and your pictures and experiences were exactly like mine. America was America across 48 (at the time ) states

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