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Friday, September 3, 2010

The Boomer High School Days

Oh, for the good old days -- the way it used to be. Age sneaks into our lives gradually and slowly transports us into a foreign, threatening landscape. What we used to know is no more and what remains barely relates to the way things were. Here is just a brief, nostalgic journey into the teen years of baby boomers.

1. We guys were always trying to find a girl who would go to our car and do what the youth of today do on the dance floor. With all the "butt" dances and the "pole" moves and the shifting "hands' positions" on the modern dance floor, girls seem quicker to serve it up than McDonalds' drive-through. We did have mini-skirts, mind you, but certain areas were public "no touch zones" that left males to window shop at the hop. And, tongues were kept in mouths not on others because of hygienic concerns, I think.

2. We were pretty dag gone scared of authority. Our principal would usually give us the "raised eyebrow warning" once before he interceded and quickly escorted us to the office. As I remember it, almost all accusations were grounds for punishment, and punishment usually left a student with a decision of taking "licks" with a heavy-duty wooden paddle or receiving an immediate suspension from school. Nearly everyone took their licks for fear of their parents being informed of their infractions which would lead to a certain punishment at home. "I'll take my licks; just don't tell my folks," echoed from the principal's office.

3. Students were encouraged to handle their own problems with other students. Sure, this created some fights and embarrassing moments; however, the understanding that no throngs of parents were going to come to school and create a blood feud usually held sway. Most disagreements were settled quickly and without violence. And, a certain standard of honesty was important to remain "cool" with others. Clics? Some existed but were not that influential. Rollicking and goofing around - of course. We lived in an age of nicknames. Most were indicative of a prominent physical feature. For example, I remember Bowl, Lightbulb, Bear, Tiny, Heavy, and Bouncing Betty. You got a nickname from others, embraced it sooner or later, and made the best of it.

4. The music was mostly light, love-based, innuendo-woven rock. Of course, love songs were popular as were sexual reference tunes, but the mood was usually playful and the lyrics were certainly not as blatantly vulgar as today. We thought "Louie, Louie" was a sex song; however, no one could understand the lyrics. It ends up it was more of a reggae sea shanty. "Sock It To Me" was an example of direct sexual reference but was also adapted to social situations. Even Rowan and Martin's hit television show Laugh-In, under strict censorship, featured skits and jokes sporting the phrase. If any weirdos did prefer songs about suicide, hatred, or carnage (and, I can't remember any), they would have been taken to the guidance office. Was this really shocking: "Wild Thing, you make everything groovy"? Also, dance songs were either fast or slow, period.

5. We were very often told what to do. Older people knew firmness and control. For example, classes were scheduled in prep and general categories and open to all who qualified and desired inclusion, yet grades were strictly accessed and standards held, so some people became legal dropouts at age sixteen. Our freshman class numbered probably 15-20 more than our graduating class. Then, high school graduation was a major accomplishment, and upon graduation, we were told to (1) work, (2) enter college, or (3) or enlist. Of course, with the Vietnam draft, many had little choice. Many decisions were made for us and we were expected to comply. Being out of the house was expected at 18 or 19 if working and 21 if commuting to college.

6. We learned to deal with people face-to-face, not online or on the phone. Boys were expected to initiate contacts with girls and the dreaded parents. Fear and attraction went hand in hand on the first date because that was the first parental meet and greet. Fathers scared the hell out of their daughters and their dates as a sacred rite of protective intimidation. Many of these guys had just come back from WWII and were nobody we wanted to anger. On non-date evenings, young men met at gas stations, pool halls, restaurants, lakes, pools, country roads and other local hangouts to discuss every day's activities. Everyone seemed to be in touch with all parts of his community. For the most part, getting up and going to school was much more entertaining than skipping.

7. Unfortunately, we guys categorized girls but most soon wisely learned that their school contained blowhards who "talked sex" and didn't "walk the sex talk." Most guys could and would curse like sailors but not around girls. And, very often a friend made a "steady" relationship with a stranger, and she was immediately respected by all the friend's associates. To steal a steady was very deep shit and usually resulted in a fistfight and deep condemnation. Guys constantly talked about who might be "bad girls" but repeatedly told friends that they desired a virgin. Good girls were not only desired but also admired. Older class ranks, especially girls, seldom dated people from lower class ranks. Then, four years difference in age was light years away. Besides, many girls married older guys soon after graduation.

8. The car was the primary dating tool of the male. They would do anything to make a clunker more girl friendly. Girls drove but didn't rely as much on a sexy, hot ride because boys were expected to provide all coed transportation. We couldn't imagine a girl who might pick up a guy. Washing, waxing, polishing, tuning, accessorizing -- all boys were expected to maintain a super-clean machine. And, let's not forget the all-important 8-track stereo (no custom installation - all done by the owner). What guy in his right mind would forget to include a "Bread's Greatest Hits" copy just because girls might be along for the ride. Steppenwolf, Hendrix, and CCR were handy for mainly male excursions and, of course, everyone had a copy of Cash's "Live At Folsom Prison." Just for good luck, everyone named his car -- I named mine Josephine to steal an indirect reference to Chuck Berry's "Maybelline."  And also, every car had some kind of special feature -- I remember cars with holes in the floorboard, cars that had to be started under the dashboard, cars without heaters, cars without reverse gear, and cars that drank oil as much as gas, but we loved them all and they were very clean machines. Big engines, rubber tracks, and cheap gas.

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