AN UNFORGIVABLE BREACH OF FIFTIES RULES

When my best friend, Robert, retired several years ago, his niece prepared a scrapbook for him. She asked me and some of his other friends to write a memory of Robert to be included in the book. Here is mine.

When people have known one another for more than 60 years, said people accumulate many memories. Some of us have zip for long-term memories; others have trouble with short-term memories. Some have no memory at all, but I’m not naming names.

Since Robert and I met in the 6th grade (he says the 7th grade) and we’ve spent much time with one another starting way back then, I thought I would plod through my recollections, knowing it would be difficult to select the best one for his scrapbook. As it turned out, it wasn’t hard at all. One memory so stands out from the rest, it was easy to choose.

The event I shall relate landed us in the soup, to say the least. Today it would be a minor misdemeanor, but in the 50s it was a felony punishable by death or at least being sentenced to a year of dish washing.

Here’s what happened:

Once upon a time around 1953-1954, Robert invited me to go with him on a hayride and cookout. He attended the Nazarene Church, which sponsored the event. I can’t remember who thought of it, but the idea appealed to both of us.

We would find some way to obtain a bottle of vodka, with which we would spike the chaperones’ Big Orange drinks when we arrived at our cookout destination. Nehi orange soda pop was stuck with the “Big Orange” appellation in those days because of a popular Andy Griffith monolog in which he referred to the drinks as Big Orange. At least that’s where I think it started.

One of our best friends was Joyce Schurman, who was the minister’s daughter. We ran the idea by Joyce, to test the waters, so to speak, to find out what she thought about it and how much trouble she thought we’d be in if we got caught. To our surprise and delight, Joyce thought it a splendid idea and asked if she could join us. So, there were now four of us, counting Joyce’s unsuspecting date, Charles, who would go along, but didn’t wish to take an active part. Never mind; more was better if it became necessary to spread the blame around.

Having no earthly way to find vodka, it seems to me we really thought we wouldn’t be able to secure it, making the caper impossible to actually fulfill, but fun to talk about. Little did we know just how easily it would fall into our hands and make our daring escapade doable.

My sister’s best friend was from a big drinking family. When my sister told her friend about our plan, she immediately took us to her mother, who obliged by filling a small bottle with vodka and sending us on our way.

That night when we gathered at the church, I had the bottle secreted in a blanket. Robert, Joyce and I referred to the blanketed vodka as “the baby.”

“Let me hold the baby.” “Would you take care of the baby for a while?” “Be sure to keep the baby covered up.” And so on.

Riding in the hay wagon, we giggled all the way to our cookout destination. When we arrived the chaperones (of which there were many, in an abundance of Nazarene caution) they began to set out fixings for a wiener roast, et al. To our giddy delight, we saw the Big Orange drinks opened and lined up on a table very near the edge of the dark woods.

It was the work of only a second to figure out how we were going to do the deed. We crouched behind the table, hidden by the trees and the darkness. One of us served as lookout while the other two grabbed a drink and poured some of it on the ground, replacing it with vodka. No one saw us, and after a while, we were able to give the drinks yet another shot of the booze. By the time the Big Oranges were to be drunk, we had completed our mission.

We stayed where we were in order to gauge the chaperones’ reaction. To our surprise and amusement, one of the drinkers said, “I think this orange drink is the best I’ve ever had.” The revelation caused us so much mirth, we had to clap our hands over our mouths for fear of being discovered.

We were very pleased with ourselves for pulling off the practical joke of the century. I think the hayride was on a Friday night, but I’m not sure about that. It was Sunday afternoon when Robert called me.

“The whole church knows about the baby,” he said feverishly.
“They’re going to make me apologize to the congregation.”

“How did they know it was you?” I asked, terrified. “How did they know it was booze?”

“I guess they tasted it. We put a lot in those Big Orange bottles. But I don’t know. Joyce said one of the girls told on us. She’s grounded for a week for her punishment. And listen to this. They know I had another girl accomplice. They also know she’s a Baptist, and they want me to tell them your name, so they can tell your church and your mother about it.”

“You didn’t tell them, did you?”

“I think it’s going to go worse for me if I don’t tell them,” he said. “If they know you go to the Baptist Church, they’ll find out it was you, so I might as well tell them.”

“No-o-o-o,” I stage-whispered into the phone. My mother was in the other room, and I tried to drag the phone into my room and close the door. The cord wouldn’t stretch that far.

“Please, please don’t tell them,” I begged. He desperately tried to convince me we would get off easier if he told them who I was, on the condition they wouldn’t tell my church and my mother. “Even if they do go for that, you will have to come to my church and apologize to the whole congregation.”

So, there it was. Damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. I pleaded with him. Some of Mother’s friends went to the Nazarene Church, and she would surely get wind of it. And after she heard about it, she would kill me.

There were many whispered conversations on the phone that Sunday. I was able to talk Robert out of telling them my name, and I didn’t want to even whisper about it further. That sucker had to be buried alive or dead. I don’t remember how it turned out, but I think he was forced to apologize. I escaped with my “good girl” reputation intact.

But the episode wasn’t over. I was not discovered, but I wound up confessing it to Mother anyway.

Mother had a mental list of “Boys Who May Not Be Dated.” At the top of the list was — I’ll call him –- Bob. Patricia, my sister, had been explicitly forbidden to go out with him for some reason now forgotten. But Patricia had subterfuge in her soul as well. Bob would send a friend to our house to pick up my sister. She would then be delivered to Bob, and when they came home, he would let her off at the corner, and she always said whomever he was had a deadline to get home, and he was running late.

I worried about her telling those lies, and I thought I had to let Mother know what was going on. I knew if I told on her, my sister would tell Mother about that damned “baby.” There was nothing for it but to tell Mother myself what I did, so I could then reveal my sister’s deception freely, and she would have no such power over me.

Mother, of course, had a conniption fit! She and her family were world-class criers. This time, I thought she was never going to stop crying. She wept buckets and paced the floor while I just stood there totally taciturn.

“No wonder Mrs. Young won’t speak to me,” she wailed. Mrs. Young, a Nazarene, was our next-door neighbor. “I’ll never be able to hold my head up again. I’m ruined. You’ve disgraced the whole family.”

When the tears slacked a little, I broke the news to her about my sister.

More tears. More anguish. More consternation. But what was this? She wasn’t upset about the Bob lies. She was still furious with me.

“You should be so ashamed of yourself to say those awful things about your sister. Don’t you tell your daddy that, and don’t confess your own sin to him. It would kill him. Oh, where did I go wrong?”

A deluge. More tears. More threats. More accusations. More everything.

On further reflection, perhaps I should have fessed up to the Nazarenes with Robert. It might have gone down better, and by then I would have come out smelling like a rose.

But it was not to be, thanks to my postponing my just desserts; it was my lying, no-account sister who was smelling like a rose. I was stinking to the high heaven, into which my mother said I would never see.

Sinners of my ilk were drop-shipped directly to the devil himself.

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TIMES HAVE CHANGED

Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a song that went something like this:

    Times have changed. All the good times that we had are gone now
     Passed this way. Only mem’ries will remain tomorrow

I can relate. If you are as old as I am you know that time zips by so fast it takes your breath away. If you’re not as old as I am, take my advice: don’t blink. You won’t recognize your world when you open your eyes again.

My grandsons and I tried to relate to each other for a while. Many times they would bring me a song on one of their ever-changing electronic devices: “Listen to this one. I think you’ll like it.” I listened, but alas, it just didn’t do it for me. I told them I kind of liked it, but they could tell I was just trying to be as cool as they hoped I would be. We were so close when they were little, but it too soon became evident we were drifting apart. As PP and M sang:

We thought our dreams would be enough for a while and all the plans that we made             Hey, we had loved, that was all that we had. Now even that don’t seem the same

But, thank goodness, I got over it. I finally stopped trying to see their sweet baby smiles when I behold their grown-up handsome faces. I still don’t like their music. I still marvel at the activities they take part in, the TV shows they watch, their must-have cell phones that text, take pictures, play music, communicate with satellites, their adoration of Dr. Who, the clothes they wear….ah, the clothes they wear! Nowhere are the changes so eye-popping evident than in the apparel they choose for the prom.

The high school in the Ohio town where I live had its prom this weekend. I couldn’t help but think of my own prom at good ol’ East Nashville High in 1954. Wait a minute. Can that really be 60 years ago? Of course “Times Have Changed.” In all that span of time the horse and buggy evolved into the internal combustion engine.

I scrounged around and found some pix of my prom days. Please excuse the quality. All I could do is scan the photos of the queen and her court from my annual. I couldn’t find my own prom picture, but a frantic call to my friend, Corinne, in Nashville, turned up a photo of a picture taken of her at her boyfriend’s 1956 prom. Close enough. Corinne can always be counted on. The woman is disgustingly organized.
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If you should be as old or maybe as southern as I am, you might recognize the bouffant skirts on our dresses.  In addition to making us look like we belonged on top of wedding cakes, they were hideously uncomfortable. We selected wide hoops to wear under or over (I forget which) multiple crinoline petticoats. These monstrosities scratched our legs, driving us to distraction. Even worse, if our mothers made us wear hose, they were hanging in shreds from our legs at the close of the evening.

Sitting down was impossible. If we were about to pass out from the vapors (we were southern ladies, after all) we had to remember to hike up our hoops in the back before we sat. Forgetting to do so forced the front of the hoop to leap up in front of us, sometimes high enough to expose the equally uncomfortable Merry Widow long-line bra and combination waist cincher. It was seriously boned and gouged us unmercifully wherever the bone tips ended.

It is little wonder the girls of today, and probably the girls of long-ago yesterdays got smart and elected to wear much more comfortable and elegant dresses than we wore. There is also a wonderful tendency to aspire to different looks, whereas we elected to wear only pastel tulle and netting in near-identical styles.

PROM_1956_250The boys at East High were also Twinkies. They wore white dinner jackets, tuxedo trousers and black bow ties.  I noticed in Corinne’s photo, her boyfriend had on a standard satin lapel tuxedo. My friend, Dave, sent me a note with pictures about our prom. It’s a more personal viewpoint. I had to scan it and I hope it’s readable. I placed it at the end of this blog.

The boys at our 2014 prom wore tuxedos and their accessories were carefully selected to match their dates’ dresses. It’s become the fashion for a few friends to gather at one of their homes to meet and take photos before leaving for the prom. Many families in our town pay for limousines to make the event even more special. I have included some photos of my grandson and his friends all dressed up in way more comfortable, but equally gorgeous prom outfits than my friends wore.

Daughter Mandy and her boyfriend, Steve, at their 1978 prom. Steve wore a “bamboo tux.” The lime green and blue tuxes of the early 70s were calming down by 1978. Both Mandy’s dress and his tux were inspired by Saturday Night Fever. It was disco time!

Below is grandson Evan and his girlfriend, Ariel, before their 2014 prom. Ariel is so beautiful. I guess we’ll have to wait a few years before this era is named.

 

The before and after prom activities have also changed. After our proms, we went out to dinner in the most expensive restaurant our dates could afford. Because it was a special night our curfews were set up to 1 am. No curfew the rest of the year was that late.

The 2014 activities were very different. After picture-taking, the groups went out to dinner at a nice restaurant, then on to the prom. They danced to a dee jay, whereas we had an orchestra back in the day.  After the prom the modern day celebrants went for a casual meal, then to one of the homes to change into their everyday clothes. Or maybe I have the order mixed – never mind. The rest of the night was spent bowling, or watching a movie or just hanging out until they split up: the girls into their slumber party (if that’s what it’s still called) and the boys into theirs.

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I hear a good time was had by all, but because it is so uncool to be very effusive, they said something like, “Yeah, it was okay.” Being an ordinary, usual, everyday grandmother, I had a great time because they were all home safely. So…

      Peace of mind, peace of mind, where’s the happiness we should be having?
      We can’t find all the answers in the good times we had 

Maybe it’s not such a sad song after all. Maybe the message is we shouldn’t seek the happiness in our long-gone good times, but in the good times our kids are having and our own good times now and in the future.

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