A good deal of attention was spent on health and hygiene in the elementary school I attended (Holmes).
In fact, health was a topic listed on our report cards — a course in which we received a grade of excellent, very good, satisfactory or “needs improvement.” I never received an excellent because my teeth were never up to the standards set by the school.
A few times a year, a dentist would come to the school to check our teeth and contact our respective families if problems were discovered.
My family was contacted frequently by the school because I was prone to cavities. In fact, I could have been a poster boy for the American Dental Association, and I became more than a casual acquaintance to Dr. Robert Wirth, who had an office across the street from the Lake Theatre.
The school was also visited by a local optometrist. My sight was 20/20 until I was a freshman in high school when I became near-sighted, and I have worn glasses for the past 63 years.
During the winter of my fifth-grade year, a physician came to the school to give physical exams to all of the fifth-graders.
As you might imagine, it was a real thrill for the guys to stand in line in a barely-heated basement room in our socks and underwear waiting for the top-to-bottom physical. I think all of us passed.
The good health practices rules were posted in each classroom, and these are the rules as I remember them:
The first stated that we should drink a quart of milk each day and never drink coffee or tea. Well, I drank three glasses of milk per day and did not drink either coffee or tea, so I did fine on rule one.
The second rule said we should sleep eight hours per night and keep the windows open in our bedrooms. I failed this one because I have never slept more than six hours per night. I also slept with the windows closed during the winter months because I was told I would have to pay the heating bill if I opened the windows.
I ate fruit, cereal, and vegetables regularly, so I passed rule three.
I drank the recommended eight glasses of water each day, so I easily passed rule four.
As far as sweets were concerned, I failed miserably. I still have to fight off the urge to eat candy on a daily basis. So much for rule five.
I usually brushed after meals, but rule six said to always brush, so I failed this rule, too.
I always washed my hands before meals. So I passed rule seven.
Rule eight said to take a bath every other day. I did this without fail.
I should have received an A-plus for rule nine. It stated that one must play part of each day outside.
I played about two hours outside each day after school [weather permitting] and about four hours a day on weekends and probably six hours per day during the summer months.
As I look back on these rules, I believe that today’s health enthusiasts would endorse these rules wholeheartedly.
John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and a retired English professor (Elmhurst College). Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn’t gotten far in 77 years.