Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Advancing in Health (1962)

Remember "Health" class?

In my day, it was called "Wellness", which is still a funny phrase for the catch-all course that combines physical fitness, biology, general science, and adolescent growth/hygeine into one general "for your everyday life" curriculum. Because our wellness teacher, Coach Hubbard, was totally awesome, we spent most of our class time on field trips to bowling alleys and tennis courts. But had we stayed in the classroom, I'm pretty sure the Glencoe Health textbook, already old then with an imprint date of 1996 or so, would have run a similarly schizophrenic textbook line between astronaut science, how to dress for your figure, the mechanics of a human eyeball, and what to do when a person is drowning. Linear progression. Totally.

Let's look at some selections, shall we?

Illustrations throughout the book are either of the very-literal science diagram variety, or very fanciful, sixties' sketches of hypothetical situations variety. I'd try to make a stab at which one I like better, but I'd get dizzy.

These rules for dressing (above, below) are distracting because they presuppose you're coming to junior high school in suit or at least sport jacket, or at least dress shirt. And for the gals, that you're dressed in dresses and skirts. Novelty! Oh, the blessed novelty. Even the badly outfitted kids in these photos still look a little sharp for the fact that they're not wearing clothes that are four times too large for their bodies.

Sadly, I had this growth spurt in fifth grade, and by 18, I was still towering over the gents. The picture on the left looks a lot like myself and my Bab today. For consolation, however, how cute are 13 year old Ellen's dress + strappy Mary Janes?

Creepy, creepy, creepy! Why are my bones older than my real age?! This is like the part of Wii Fit where they tell me that my lifestyle makes my actual age like 35. Who are you to judge, Wii Fit? And why are my bones rapidly aging ahead of me?

More information about your body being constantly in mid-growth during your adolescent and teenage years. I don't know how much more badly this information would have freaked me out at 16. Or maybe I wouldn't care. At any rate, it's weird to think of your body growing internally, where you can't really keep an accurate track of it.


Nice hair cut, Buzz. However, I do so envy your balanced breakfast. Look at that hand-sliced bread to the far left. And apples! And linked sausage!

I love the profusion of facial hair on both sides of the family lineage. "Sally, you could have inherited your great-great Grandad Shem's mutton chops and bald pate. Be glad you were born a girl."

To the left, a number of professions a young man in the sixties' could grow up to be. Including a flamenco guitarist, or Dr. Kildare. A business man! Or a professional athlete. Aaaand...that's pretty much it. You can just guess which profession I'd choose. To the right, I find myself continually taken aback by mid century and earlier tracts on how to GAIN weight (see WATE-on, which deserves a post of its own, really...). Childhood obesity being the epidemic it is today, it's hard to think of a world in which even basically well-fed kids could be slight.

Great attention is taken to posture, posture, posture. Lord, we are a generation of slouchers. When I see someone walk into work with the carriage of an Elle McPherson or a State Representative, I am continually amazed by the difference it makes in how I perceive them. "Now, THERE goes somebody!"

I've been working on my posture, but I think I haven't gotten to A yet, more like B. At least I'm not a C!

Aren't the color swatches behind each tableau just fantastic?

And then there's this shirt. And pants. Don't let's forget the pants.

Isn't it funny how forgettable the entire process of growing, losing, and then regrowing teeth becomes as you get older? How it never seemed weird to you at 6, but seems near impossible to imagine at 26? Here's a chart of when you get what. It's inconceivable that I was not more blown away by how weird it all was at the time, but maybe that's why it happens when you're young instead of in your twenties', when the loss of teeth would just be too much for my fragile psyche to withstand.

I hate to even think of what my horse-sized teeth, now Teddy Roosevelt straight, would look like without the benefit of modern orthodontics.

These are things that *I* want to know!

Where does the "ahhh" come from? Now you know.

At left, things that would stress out a young miss of 1962. At right, the kind of expressions you make when you are stressed out. The colors!

Each unit opens with a pen and ink plus neat watercolor illustration, and the next seems to always out-do the first in terms of "what IS this?". I'll give you the chapter titles, though, and YOU try and figure out what, exactly, the illustrator was going for in each scene.

"Advances in Nutrition":

"Increasing your Knowledge about Alcohol, Narcotics, and Tobacco":

"Progress in Understanding the Body":

"Progress in Mental Health":

The last one may be my favorite.

Another fascinating part of the health book tackles the subject of advances being made in Astronaut Science. Or at least that's what I called it in my head as I flipped through this section of drawings quite reminiscent of Planet of the Apes. By which I mean, doesn't the one sleep-capsule style ship remind you of the opening scenes in Planet of the Apes? Ask yourself, what is there NOT to like about a sidebar entitled "Problems in Space Nutrition"? Makes me hungry for some Astronaut Ice Cream RIGHT. NOW.

Do see the title of the book? "Feeding the Space Traveler".

Unfortunately, space stations never made it anywhere near being this awesome. And for that, I feel a sad twinge of nostalgia for the retrofuturism of this illustration.

More watercolor gorgeous-ness. Does anyone remember seeing a PBS show where these types of illustrations were made, as you watched, while the narrator read a corresponding story? I think, based on the description, it might have been 'Gather Round, but I can't find any more info. :(

I love the colors on these menu suggestions (below). Also, I would love to have some of these menus. Egg salad sandwich. Cherry pie. Stuffed celery sticks. I don't have enough of these in my life!

From a chapter on substance abuse, a teenager with entirely too much time on his hands, and an ancient, dino-breathalyzer. For seeing if Thomas Jefferson had too much to drink before manning his horse and buggy. Below that, what your innocent 1950's college dorm would look like after five or six stingers.

I want the following blown up to billboard size and pasted like wallpaper along one kitchen wall. Wouldn't it be great?

Who knew unhealthy cells were so lovely? The color choice in these illustrations is top notch, in spite of their dire subject matter.

Do YOU want to face the junior high safety committee? Could you pass their rigorous standards? See for yourself.

Pretty neat, right? For safety, that is.

These human anatomy illustrations would make good band flyers, especially the one of the nervous system. Also, why is the skeleton with the see-through eyes so much scarier than one with darkened sockets? What happened to the back of his skull?!

Frame-able picture of the first day of school in my dream world high school, 1962. Lemme get that dress, miss.

Guess which one is the CORRECT way to respond to criticism. Hint: I never do things the correct way in these matters.

And a few more miscellaneous goods:

There! Do you feel healthier? Do you remember any whack-job lessons YOUR high school wellness class tried to cram into their mismatched curriculum? Hope you enjoyed the illustrations. Ciao for now!


  1. These illustrations are amazing! I don't know what to address first but I HAVE learned that I should be wearing more tunics and Chesterfield coats. And I will throw away any turtlenecks. And my bones are old. And that I live a very unsafe and poorly postured life.

  2. These old vintage things are so cool!! :)

  3. Wow, what a compendium of teenage wisdom! It is very thorough and the illustrations are all classic. I really like the suggestions for safety in newer car models. Especially how everyone was 'packaged' in the car :-)

  4. The "Progress in Mental Health" illustration made me laugh out loud...oh wow, this book is hilarious! I also loved the "How to Fight Medical Quackery" tips.

  5. Oh my goodness, another amazing post... I would have liked food in the 60s, I think. So unpretentious. Potatoes. Luncheon-meat sandwiches. Rolls and butter. Nothing is broiled in a reduction or sprinkled with truffle oil. It's amazing the vast array of topics that were covered in 1960s wellness classes! If we had talked more about space diets and how to save someone from drowning, I think I would have paid a lot more attention.

  6. Seriously--who is WiiFit to judge? So I have crappy hand-eye coordination. So what! I'm great at other stuff. Too bad it wasn't stuff that made me popular in middle school...

    I love the "Variety is the Spice of Good Meals" illustration. People used to eat so many different things at just one meal and somehow they weren't all obese. I've been seriously considering trying to find some way to get my town to rebuild its old trolly line, because then I would never have to drive which would be awesome and then I could eat cherry pie and chocolate pudding every day and not get fat. Sounds like a plan to me.

    P.S. Thanks for reminding me to sit up straight!



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