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What Can I Say? I'm A Product of the 60'sA Memoir
By Anne Stuart Welch
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Anne Stuart Welch
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn the fall of 1960, I entered my first year of high school in a small town in North Carolina called Salisbury. If you are from the South, or know anything about the South, the most important day of the week is Friday. This is the day of The Football Game! On this night, everyone possesses school spirit. We could not wait until classes were over to get ready for the game. In the South, high school stadiums are revered as cathedrals. Memories are made there that will last forever, whether you are the student, the fan, or especially if you are the player. In the South, entire towns show their support on this night.
The dress at the time for the gals was Villager blouses with skirts or Villager dresses, madras blouse, monogrammed jackets and, of course, Weejuns. (You always had to have Weejuns of every different style and color.) Pappagallo shoes were worn for more dressy occasions. For the guys, dress was blue jeans or khakis, madras dress shirts or cotton shirts in the many colors and, of course, Weejuns—never with socks. The tennis shoes were Converse and in all styles and colors. (As my Dad was the authorized dealer for both Weejuns and Converse, my family was happy.) Remember the 60s was the beginning of both the preppie and yuppie generations.
How could I forget the hairdos? The Beehive—the more the tease the better. The Flip—of course we had to roll the bottom with beer cans. Ok, now the guys—mainly crew cuts, but some guy's hair was long enough to part.
In my hometown, after the football game, students went to the largest church for after-the-game-hotdogs and to shag. Of course, most girls had to be home by 11:00PM, the boys whenever they wanted. Isn't it something how time restraints are always placed on the females and not on the males? Some things never change, even now.
The above was repeated after every home game.
As we all know, high school was hell for many people and probably still is.
As usual, I am getting ahead of myself.
When I started first grade, my mother would walk me to school and there I would meet with my best friend, Wills. He and I had been great friends since we were born and had always played together, taken family vacations and referred to each other as cousins. We called each other's parents aunt (In the South, aunt is not pronounced ant.) and uncle. Naturally, when we started to first grade, we ate lunch together, sat beside each other in class and were loved by our teacher. After Christmas came, the worst possible thing that could have happened did. Wills' family had bought a house that was not in our current school district. I cried every day until he left. I will never forget our last meeting in school. We were in the lunchroom sharing our lunch as usual. We hugged, I cried and we said our good byes. Now, I saw Wills every weekend, but it just was not the same.
When I entered the second grade, I was assigned to the most horrible teacher that was ever created. She hated children, and most of all she hated five girls in her class. I was one of the five. No matter how many times our mother's complained, it did not seem to matter.
Evidently, some time from first to second grade, I had begun to gain weight. (A problem I still struggle with to this day.) My teacher made fun of me because I was overweight. She made fat jokes about me in class and weighed me separately so everyone could see. She would state, "Ok, let's see who the fattest is." (Remember, this was the South, and every child was taught to respect their elders, say, "Yes M'AM and No M'AM, Yes Sir and No Sir," and never talk back to their elders.) The teacher, and I use this term loosely, kept on and on. If I made a bad grade, she announced it to the class. But, she was really caught up on the weight issue. If there were any loud noises, she would always ask if I fell. I sprained my ankle once, and had to practically hop around the room. She told me that she would not be surprised if the floor gave in, and since the principal's office was beneath the classroom, I would probably go through the floor and land in his office. Since I spent most of my time there anyway, it would be easier than walking down the stairs to get there. She also told the class that I was retarded. The only reason I know what this meant was that I had a cousin who was retarded, and my parents had explained this term to me.
During this time, my mother was walking me to school every day. After I entered the school, I exited through the back door as was waiting for her when she arrived home. By this time, my parents were spending almost as much time in the principal's office as I.
I prayed for my third grade teacher to be good to me and not make fun of me. There was a shortage of teachers, and by the end of my second grade, the same teacher was asked to teach the same students for the third grade. She asked if everyone wanted to move up to the third grade and have her for a teacher again. The idiot even asked for a show of hands. There were five little girls who did not raise their hands. Can you imagine even asking this question? It did not matter anyway. The entire class was moved up with her. As rebuttal, I imagine, she insisted that I be tested in order to find an idea as to the degree of my retardation. I was not tested until after Christmas of my third grade. Before the results were sent to the school, she had told the rest of the faculty and some students that I was retarded and was waiting until the results came in so I could be moved to a special school.
The big day came, my results were in, and my IQ was reported in the 120 to 125 range. Testing someone in the third grade in the fifties certainly was not the most simple task and hard to determine exact results. It was suggested by the teacher, and backed by the principal, that I was too hyperactive (now ADHD) to handle. My parents were encouraged to send me to a private school. I was ready to leave that school and could not wait. Evidently, my parents felt that I was just too young to leave home—big mistake! They both regretted this decision until the day each died.
As young as I was, and especially after this experience, I must have subconsciously decided that I was never in my life going to take crap off any teacher again. I moved from the category of problem child to uncontrollable child.
This school year was about to end, and I could not wait for the summer to begin. There were about seven girls in the neighborhood with whom I played most days. We were always at each other's homes playing and riding bikes. We had slumber parties regularly and went swimming every day. Always on Sunday, Mother made ice cream. I got to see Wills, his family and everybody else who likes ice cream. Like, who doesn't?
When Wills would come to my house, we would spend our time playing softball, tag, hide and seed, boxing (My Dad had a boxing ring built for us. His main purpose was that I would use some of my energy, but not so destructively,) riding our bikes, and riding our wooden horses in our very own special place, Blue Valley. Wills' sister and my sister also played in Blue Valley, but they were so much older than we were, the four of us never played well with each other.
During the summers, Wills' family and mine always took family vacations together. Most summers we would go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, or the surrounding beaches of Crescent, Ocean Drive, Cherry Grove and Windy Hill. Every day at the beach, we would go to the pavilion, ride the roller coaster, eat cotton candy and hot dogs, and then go back to the beach to ride the waves. Sometimes we would eat seafood, go to the House of Wax, pick up shells on the beach and enjoy the warm salty air.
One time Wills went alone to the pavilion, but when he returned, he was really upset. An older boy, whose father owned the pavilion, had bullied him, hit him and knocked him down. Well, I immediately went into my fight mode, stomped to the pavilion, found the culprit and beat the crap out of him. The boy never bothered Wills again.
My job of protector for Wills lasted for many years. I could talk Wills into anything: starting fires, damaging the inside of newly built houses, and anything else I could think of to do. When we were confronted, Wills would always say, "I did it." Wills is still as much of a gentleman today as he was then.
As usual, everything had to come to an end, and my wonderful summer was also coming to an end. On most nights after I returned home from vacation, many of us would play No Bears Are Out Tonight, run after the mosquito truck, catch lightening bugs and watch TV. My dad bought the first TV in our neighborhood. Of course, I took the thing apart. When my mother called to tell him about it, he said, "She has to learn by doing." I also had to prove that I could take something apart and put it back together.
Some of the programs I watched, and were watched by most children in the early to mid 50s, were Howdy Doody, Winky Dink and You, Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers (with Dale and Trigger), Hopalong Cassidy, The Mickey Mouse Club, Superman, Captain Kangaroo, George Burns/Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, The Ed Sullivan Show, Amos & Andy, Medic, I Love Lucy, Donna Reed, The Life of Riley, Ernie Novics, Red Skelton, Popeye the Sailor Man (what a way to introduce spinach to children), Romper Room, Annie Oakley, My Little Margie, Captain Video, Liberace, The Little Rascals, etc. Evidently, the main interview style show was Mike Wallace and Edward R. Murrow. Our parents watched Lawrence Welk. Locally, we watched Fred Kirby and Arthur Smith. (The Arthur Smith Show and The Crackerjack. I hope I jogged your memories and made you say, "I had forgotten that," or maybe you even said, "She left out a couple."
Every Saturday morning I went to the Victory Theater to see the serials, the original cliffhangers. To name a few: The Phantom, Radar Men from the Moon, Flash Gordon, Captain Video, Captain America, Lost Planet, Patrol King vs. Sky King, Captain Marvel and others. I could not wait for the next Saturday to come. I do remember when the polio epidemic came and no one was supposed to go out; therefore, no movies for me until the ban was lifted.
Dad got passes to all of the movie theaters, so I only had to pay for a drink and candy (both 15 cents). My dad would arrange for a cab to pick me up at home and take me to the theater. I would walk the block to dad's store and stay until he took me home.
As I progressed through elementary school, I did what I had to do to get by. I never really excelled at anything but sports. I was always a co-captain and chose the girls first that were always picked last. (To this day, Ginger says that is why she started liking me.) I possessed the ability to make people laugh and was the school clown. To my surprise, I was like a magnet as far as attracting friends, and still am. I was a natural born leader, but did not know where I was going to lead myself, much less others. I still had problems with teachers, but I was never really completely disrespectful while making it clear that I was not going to be run over. I learned later that many students and faculty were actually afraid of me. I find this kind of frightening, but it worked for me.
When I began my first day of junior high (eighth grade), I could not believe it:
Wills was in my homeroom. Although we were older, we still had the same feeling of friendship. We had seen each other through the years, especially during the summers when his family and mine would get together. Now we were back in the same school and in the same grade again! He had become very popular in his elementary school and was quite the jock. With his help, I was elected class president. For the next year the school was ours.
The junior high was the first one in Salisbury, NC. All of the elementary schools within the city were funneled into this one school. Many of the friends I met remain my friends to this day, especially Molly.
Wills and I were getting older, and with our hormones changing, we realized that our relationship had become different. Although we would remain friends forever, there would never be the companionship and special bond as during our childhood.
The summer after this school year, my beach trip included Molly. We had a great time walking and singing on the beach at Ocean Drive. After summer vacation, my sister went away to college, my mother went to work (freedom at last), and I started high school.
I was still mad at my parents for not sending me to a private school. I decided I would take matters into my own hands, and I applied to every military school (I knew I needed the discipline) and prep school within a four state radius. I used my initials and not my full name on each application. Within a couple of months, headmasters and commandants from about fifteen schools traveled to my home town to speak with my father about enrolling me in their school. They were even talking scholarships!
My father must have handled it pretty well because he never really said much to me. He learned by now to expect the unexpected of me. He did have the responsibility of telling the representative of each school that he did not have a son but if they were willing to take on his daughter, that he would be willing to let her go, with or without scholarships. Evidently, they were not willing to do so.
Every Wednesday was golf day for dad and about twenty others. They would meet at our house, and then take about six cars to a particular golf course, usually located out of town. I had about fifteen cars to choose from. Naturally, I decided to joy ride.
I would back out of the driveway, (To this day, I drive better backwards than forwards) and pick up some friends. Usually this would include Ginger, Molly, Liz, Tony and Hank. We would "cruise" for about three hours. Nobody ever asked how I had so many different cars or when I got my license. They, like I, were interested only in getting out of the house and going somewhere. Luckily, nothing serious ever happened.
The next year I turned sixteen at least five months before most of my friends. I continued to be everyone's chauffeur, this time legally. Several of us went out most weekends to Dino's, the drive-in, to blasts, (a party where kids gets together at the house of another person and totally destroy the house) just to drive around or to go to regular parties.
On many Saturday or Sunday afternoons, Ginger and I went to concerts at the coliseum in Charlotte, NC. Popular groups like Peter, Paul and Mary, The Tams, Kingston Trio, The Beach Boys, Brooks Benton, Fats Domino and many others performed. These were fun times.
I went through the rest of high school not wanting to be there, but I did not know where I wanted to be: my mind always in a daze and with little motivation. I always seemed to have more guy friends than girl friends. I guess it was because I told off color jokes, played golf, hunted, smoked, played poker and drank.
Every city kid went to Dino's on Friday and Saturday nights. No county kids allowed, as they had their own hang out in the county called The Pit. Across the street from Dino's was Al's. After taking their dates home, the guys went there, stood around, smoked, drank beer and talked about what base they had gotten to with their dates, or if they had scored a home run. Guys have always exaggerated about their sexual exploits, no matter what their age. I guess not caring what it did to the reputation of the girl was never considered. Sometimes us city girls would be bad and go to The Pit. Guess what? The county boys looked like the city boys.
During high school, I dated seldom. My weight was still a problem, and boys don't often ask fat girls out on dates. I felt a little lonely during prom night, but I got over it. I had been asked to go to the prom, but he was the strangest boy at school, and I had rather stay home than go with him.
Excerpted from What Can I Say? I'm A Product of the 60's by Anne Stuart Welch Copyright © 2011 by Anne Stuart Welch. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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