The '60s teen

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Hi neighbors. I did my annual stint as judge for the speech tournament again this year. That's always interesting. I admire the students who participate -- both our students who act as hosts and the students who are here to compete.

They all seem so much more competent and well, "cool" about the whole thing than I remember my high school peers being. Of course my high school days were pretty long ago so my memory might not represent a true picture.

Just to make certain my high school friends weren't as immature as I remembered them, I got out the yearbook and looked. That was a mistake. We DID look young! I wondered then if the differences weren't more skin deep than anything else. Even the "skin deep" ones were odd enough.

Like all teenagers we 60s students all pretty much looked alike.

The girls all wore their hair up or had it cut short or neck-length. Teased hair (I think they called it "back-combed" in England which of course was a major influence after the Beatles) was popular. Flips were the rage.

Girls who had long hair wanted it straight and flat with bangs. If your hair tended to curl you could iron it with your mother's steam iron (no steam used of course!) Steam irons were the big thing at the time too. People did do a lot of ironing. since everything was some type of cotton, wool or a blend of both.

Girl students had to wear dresses or skirts. And they had to meet certain standards. Your skirt had to come below your knees when I started high school. Then the mini skirt came out and to compete with that, girls were allowed to wear skirts with hemlines in the middle of their knees.

The real test given at the principal's office was the girl had to kneel on her knees and if the skirt hem didn't touch the floor she was sent home to make adjustments.

Blouses had to be long enough to tuck into a skirt. Midriffs were kept covered and like the actress on "I Dream of Jeanie" no belly buttons could be shown.

Boys could wear jeans by the mid-60s and didn't have to wear dress slacks, although many still did. Jeans were expected to look new, which meant they had to have a crease and be a dark blue. No black jeans back then and certainly none that had holes, torn hems or looked green or faded.

The guys wore their hair parted on one side and combed, short in the back although the "duck tail" was popular. No beards were allowed.

Collars were worn turned up in the back. Dress shoes were cheaper and thus more popular than sneakers. It was only towards the end of my high school days that canvass shoes became popular off of the gym floor. On the gym floor it was high tops.

The hippie scene of the east and west coasts didn't have that big an influence on a small school in Missouri. The music was good though and everyone loved the new English sound.

Girls looked forward to marriage more than careers and boys faced the draft after graduation --including a trip to Vietnam.

Like today's students, we felt we could pretty much change the world once we were turned out into the main stream. Attending college after graduation wasn't considered a real necessity to getting a good paying job.

Fast food jobs weren't available yet, but working after school in a café was an option. Boys hauled hay in the summer for gas and dating money. Dates usually included a trip to the drive-in and eating hamburgers or hot dogs there or at the local diner afterwards.

Competitions were fierce between schools for sports. Not as much for other things like speech, vocal music or band.

Our speech and music competitions would take us to Springfield, Joplin, or other area schools. Performances were graded on a scale of III, II or I as the highest.

Looking back, I don't think debate entries were as popular as they are now. Going to other towns for these competitions did offer experiences not available in my small town.

Maybe that's the main difference between today's teen and when I was a teenager. Through television, movies and the Internet, teens today can see and hear things we never even thought about. Don't know if that's good or bad in the long run.

Until the next time friends remember, whether you have kids in school or not, support the local school activities and get involved as a judge or sponsor. You'll have fun.