How sweasel posts are born
So Uncle B says, “what’s the temperature?” stabbing at the coal fire with a long poker.
“Seventy six,” I say, consulting my therm-O-meter.
UB: hums a few bars of “Seventy-Six Trombones.”
Me: he sure was gay, that guy. The Music Man guy.
UB: was he?
Me: I don’t know.
UB: what’s his name? I can’t picture him.
Me: <heading to Wikipedia>
Me: Robert Preston. And — ZOMG! — he’s the Go You Chicken Fat guy!!!
Go You Chicken Fat. If you’re American and something between, oh, forty and sixty, you’ll know what that means. If you’re not…
In 1956, responding to a report that European children were fitter than American Children, President Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. Which is still going, as the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. God knows what they do.
Anyhow, the main deal was, they established a physical fitness test comprised of five activities. The current ones are: curl-ups or partial curl-ups, shuttle run, endurance run/walk, pull-ups or right angle push-ups, and V-sit or sit and reach. I don’t know how they compare to the test when I was a lass — I’m not even sure what some of those things are — but I remember the mile walk/run, push ups, sit ups and chinning on the bar.
I mean, I remember that a chin-up was part of the test. I don’t actually remember doing one. I do not believe I have successfully lifted my chin above anything by the strength of my arms ever, in my whole life.
My school made us take the damn thing every year. If you made above the 85 percentile on all five tasks compared to the other kids in the country, you were eligible for the President’s Physical Fitness Award. If you made above the 50 percentile on all five, you were eligible for The National Physical Fitness Award. And if you made it through the test at all, you were eligible for The Participant Physical Fitness Award.
I really think there should have been an additional “Shoot the Moon Award” for mongs like me, who failed all five components. Year after year. I was a tall, wormy, bookish, proto-Goth kid and I had smoked since I was, like, a fetus. You couldn’t make me run a mile if you roped me to a trailer hitch.
In 1961, Robert Preston and Meredith Willson (who wrote The Music Man) were asked to write and record a song to help children prepare for the test. The result was the intensely trippy Go You Chicken Fat, Go!. The most complete YouTube version I can find is here (notice what skinny little weeds all the 1960s kids in the pictures are).
The lyrics are like,
Once more on the rise.
Nuts to the flabby guys!
Go, you chicken fat, go away!
Go, you chicken fat, go!
It became a surprise novelty hit. They were still using it for Phys Ed a decade and more later, when I was in school.
My PE teacher in Middle School was a little four-foot nothing red-headed fireplug of a woman with (thank christ for my sake) a kindly heart. After she watched me huffing and grunting and pulling on the chinning bar for a while, she leaned in and whispered, “you’re going to be a lovely tall woman when you grow up.”
Sweet. Wrong, but sweet.
As far as I’m aware, Robert Preston was not gay.