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Columns

February 11, 2013

Local challenges taken in President's Fitness Program in 1963

I remember my first 20-mile walk. It was when I was at Oneonta Junior High School in the early 1970s. A few of us decided to take the challenge of a March of Dimes Walk-a-Thon, so my Dad drove us over to Norwich, for the walk from Norwich to Oxford and back.

I wasn’t a sedentary teen. Still, the result was many aches and a sunburn, but I was glad to say I completed the course. Some teens from 1963 might consider me a featherweight by comparison.

President John F. Kennedy felt that Americans were out of shape and devised his Physical Fitness Program. Kennedy challenged military personnel to a 50-mile hike in February 1963. Little did the president know, some with no military ties responded from our region.

The Oneonta Star of Feb. 12, 1963, reported, “An Oneonta Senior High School youngster, prompted by President Kennedy’s Physical Fitness Program and various news accounts of ‘hiking expeditions,’ will begin a hiking expedition of his own this weekend. Christopher Rounds, 18 … plans a 50-mile hike for Saturday.”

Rounds, currently a resident of Johnson City and retired faculty member of the Empire State College’s office in Binghamton, recently recalled the course of events for this hike.

The Star said that early on Rounds was on his own for the hike.

“I thought I can put an announcement over the public address system at the high school,” he said. “I’m sure that I can get some kids. But anyone is welcome — even adults.”

The walk was to take place Saturday, Feb. 23 — a long holiday weekend. The Star said Rounds had gotten 45 students to brave the elements.

The elements, as well as “the flu bug,” fought back with a vengeance. Going into that weekend, there was more than a 20 percent absentee rate at OHS because of the flu. By Friday, Feb. 22, a big snowstorm had hit the region. No doubt these factors put the hike on hold.

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