Probably one of my favorite Christmas presents this year was a book I knew and loved as a child, but thought I'd lost long ago; The Boy's Book of Strength, by C. Ward Crampton. It's been out of print for decades, but you can still get a well-used copy at Amazon, or perhaps by knowing me well and being very nice. How did I get it back? My step-dad was cleaning out his basement, of course.
Given that I've been grown for decades, one might be surprised that this book still resonates with me. Even stranger, given its 1936 publishing date, one might figure the science would be out of date. Remarkably, it holds up very well.
What's so good about this book is that Dr. Crampton, then the medical consulting doctor for Boy's Life, ably cuts through the jungle of misinformation available then and now about diet, exercise, competition, and more. The first thing the reader sees is that Dr. Crampton (an overgrown boy himself) knows what really motivates young people; the urgent need to make the starting eleven, five, or nine. (being a "southerner" from NY, he misses the need to make the starting six...sorry Chad) In doing so, he puts together a remarkable book with advice that holds together well today, and really ought to be used (with small reservations) in health classes even today.
No complex dissertations about the interactions and absorption of all nutrients; he simply noted that just as a car is made of iron and rubber, a boy needs the "iron and rubber" of protein and vitamins as well as the "gasoline" of fat and carbohydrates to be healthy and strong. He even noted why whole grain breads are superior to white bread in a way that young minds (and not so young) will understand; slower, better digestion. He ably notes that if you need caffeine and sugar to keep going, you might do better to slow down and get some good rest and food. (sorry about those cokes, Mark...he gets me for my coffee, too)
In the same way, Dr. Crampton cuts through misinformation about exercise, noting that routine calisthenics and a brisk walk can do more for athletic performance than any number of other measures. He does all this with a reverence for the past and the religious traditions of his readers that is remarkable for that time of eugenics and rationalism.
In short, the book is remarkable for the moderation with which it presents basic facts of life and health to young men, and it's at least partially responsible for the good health I've enjoyed so far. It's also a basis for the physical education my family is doing for home education. Two thumbs up!
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