It is difficult for me to believe I was in the Adaptive Physical Education Program in 1976. My God, that is 23 years ago. The Program had just been started by instructor Laurie Lanham and the then-Coordinator of College of Marin's Disabled Students Programs and Services Ted Klopp. There were five people in it when I joined up.
By the end of the first semester it had grown to 20, and we were allowed to use a corner of the swimming pool, which we shared with a
regular P. E. class.
One of the students who preceded me in the Program was an attractive paraplegic woman, Meredith Schwirtz. She had a great sense of humor, and made the pool ring with laughter. That first semester, there was no special equipment to help us in and out of the pool, but there were people, among them a lot of Laurie's relatives, who were able to help. My specialty was a belly flop, followed by sinking to the bottom while someone struggled to get me upright with my head out of the water.
For weight training, we had an old Universal Gym. When a young Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Mill Valley to promote his film, "Pumping Iron," the class got to go see him and he explained that he loved lifting heavy weights because the tension-and-release was like having an orgasm, and he could have them all the time.
Of course, we had stall bars and hand weights. I loved the Universal Gym. In those days, I was more athletic and enjoyed going all out to get an endorphin high. I still enjoy giving my endorphins a workout, but then it was new and everything was more exciting because for seven years I had spent my days and nights at home with my mother, reading, with little real exercise.
The mid-Seventies were permeated an air of sensual freedom. Students went from "Hi" to French kissing in less time than it takes to lift a barbell. Public smooching steamed the glass by the pool, and more went on in the parking lot. I eagerly participated in some of these extracurricular activities.
For about a year, we had no yoga. Wheelchair aerobics were far off in the distance. The class being small had some advantages. If there was some event that we all wanted to attend, it was easy to round up the necessary transportation. I suppose today it would be impossible because of fear of litigation.
We felt that we were pioneers, searching for new paths to rehabilitatation. We had a spirit of comradeship that made the class almost like a social club. Before she began having back trouble, Laurie was extremely exuberant and full of original ideas.
Of course, we old-timers always think things were better in the good old days. But there are things to be said for the class as it is now. We now have a wider range of people, a larger staff, more equipment and our own pool time.
George Barker has had cerebral palsy since he was bitten at age 12 by an encephalitis-carrying mosquito. His memoirs, Moongate Dreams, are available at www.tiny-trickle.com.