One summer afternoon between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, Eddie Lloyd and I pedaled our bikes to Thatcher Woods so that we could climb a tall tree, and if we discovered that some of the trees had vines a few feet off of the ground, we could swing like Tarzan.

On this certain day, Eddie and I brought a rope because we planned to climb the tallest tree we could find while we linked together with the rope.

We found the tall tree, and we climbed steadily, but when we got near the top with Eddie in the lead, I slipped, but Eddie grabbed the rope with one hand and held it while I quickly regained my footing.

Breathing hard from this singular brush with catastrophe, we gingerly climbed to the bottom of the tree and canceled further plans to do any more climbing or any swinging.

On a calm summer evening a few weeks after I had graduated from high school, Bob Ault and I went to Riverview Amusement Park in Chicago where we met up with George Warren standing by the Ferris wheel.

I asked George if he was going up, and he said that he was scared of heights and was not going on the Ferris wheel. However, Bob and I decided to take the ride.

Once we settled in our seats, the Ferris wheel started, and we thought that the ride would be a piece of cake.

When we reached the top, however, the Ferris wheel stopped because of a mechanical malfunction.

We were at the top for at least 30 minutes, and our hands were white from gripping the safety bar.

Finally, the wheel began to turn, and as we neared the bottom, we hollered that we wanted to get off, and when the wheel stopped, we climbed out to the jeers of the people waiting their turn to ride.

To this day, the word height makes my nerves tingle.

When I was in high school, four years of physical education was required as it still is today.

Twenty-four other guys in my senior class and I were assigned to the gymnastics coach as our physical education instructor.

This man was a fanatic concerning gymnastics, which was our first six weeks of gym class.

The first thing he told us was that gymnastics was the most important exercise to improve physical fitness and health, and we would learn four gymnastics systems so as to ensure our total fitness and health.

The first system was Danish and consisted of free and continuous group drills that had a definite sequence and were done in 30 minutes.

During this time, all class members assumed postures and positions that indicated fitness with a stress on flexibility, balance, and endurance (oh, yes).

The second system was Swedish, which emphasized good posture and fixed positions that were assumed on command from the teacher. We used benches and balance beams to develop what the teacher called our flabby muscles.

The German system used a variety of equipment such as parallel bars, ropes, and rings.

The American system was the last one, and it combined features of the other three systems but with slightly more stress on the Swedish gymnastics to correct posture and develop our flabby muscles. The American system, though, added tumbling, trampoline work, and fitness tests.

There were times when I thought I could not keep the pace, but I did, and although I didn’t think so during the classes, I came out in better shape than when I started the class.

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