Remembering the Past: Battin High School Memories

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by Diane Norek Harrison

ELIZABETH-Here are some more memories from reader Barbara Cook:

The Blue Gym Suit

“Long ago, (1957-1958), in a high school named Battin, there existed a tradition of getting the young ladies dressed up in a comical outfit and making them do ‘physical education.’ The strange garb consisted of a short-sleeve, sausage-shaped, balloon bottomed, blue cotton ‘gym suit.’ Some had a skirt of sorts but all showed the entire length of leg.

“This was the only time the ‘ladies’ of Battin were grateful that it was an all girls school. We’d all had the same gear in 9th grade but after all, this was high school! C’mon! We are not kids!

“The worse part of it all was in the beginning of the school year and in the end of it. That meant the weather was warm. Warm weather meant that we would be expected to outside to the weed-ridden, litter-spewed lot opposite the school’s front door. Where anyone in the world could see us in daylight!

“Got a visual on this? A large crowd of young teen-age girls all wearing ill-fitting blue sausage casings. If the day was chilly, those bare legs would start to match the blue of the suit.

“The gym teacher was Miss Gates. She was so old that my mom had had her for gym. She wasn’t as spry as she’d been in my mother’s day and would have some of us carry the bats, balls and catcher’s mitts and other unidentifiable items involved with softball. She did have healthy lungs and she also had a whistle. That whistle could penetrate cast iron.

“None of us was all that enthused with the idea of playing ball. There were too many of us to have what would have passed for two teams. The girls who could catch and pitch without ruining their hair were assigned to the positions. The rest of us stood in a line alphabetically and took turns at bat.

“You dreaded actually hitting it. You would be expected to run to base if you did. That could mess up your hair for the rest of the day. Better if you swung and missed three times and then you’d just go to the back of the line.

“I was whistled at and shown to the front of the line. I was not athletic at all. I would only run of I was going somewhere important, like to meet my friends. I was terrific with a hairbrush but hand me a bat? I was hoping to do three misses and to the back of the line. I sincerely doubted I could even come close to hitting anything except my own foot. The pitcher was giggling at me. She was kind enough to throw the ball quick so I could get it over with.

“I hit the darn thing!

“It was definitely out of bounds. It went over South Broad Street and through a window on the third floor of Saint Mary’s School. A nun popped up in the window within a second. Miss Gates had the whistle blowing like no one had ever heard. We all headed to the front door of the school like crazed lemmings.

“I didn’t know anything about insurance in those days. I only know Miss Gates turned a blind eye when I slid into the last spot on the line for softball, for the rest of my time at Battin.”

I still have more Elizabeth memories from William Frolich, which I will get to as soon as possible. If anyone sent me memories or past material from Elizabeth after Flag Day I may not get to it until 2009, as I don’t have many more columns to fill for 2008. I will accept past Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas memories or past holiday material from Elizabeth for my end of 2008 columns. Please send all past holiday information from all four towns to me as soon as possible.

If you have your own memories or past material for Clark, Elizabeth, Linden or Rahway you can email me at dianenorekharrison@juno.com or send “copies” of your material to me at CMD Media, P.O. Box 1061 Rahway, NJ 07065.


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