Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s



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Seeing the Miss Centre County pageant (a bottom-rung step to becoming Miss America) was an eye-opener to me. In the decade that followed I'd witness bra-burning and would read about Gloria Steinem (a Playboy bunny!), Betty Friedan ("The Feminine Mystique"), and Helen Gurley Brown ("Sex and the Single Girl").


Letters from Penn State - May 1963

5-20-1963
12:15 a.m.

A better letter will follow

I'm still alive and here, regardless of the lack of communication. I was going to type a regular letter tonight but then got waylaid figuring out Bonnie's music homework. So I thought, I'll put it off till tomorrow, but the putting off is getting pretty regular. This is just a shortie to promise that I will not go to bed tomorrow night without writing a real letter.

I got the shorts yesterday and they fit very well. The material is nice too. They're fine and I've worn them already, but if you make any more, make the side seams a teeny fraction deeper. Not much at all.

Ruth, Rita's cousin, was among the 12 not eliminated from the 20 applicants in the talent preliminaries and will be in the official Miss Centre County Pageant this week. I have to tell you in detail about the first step toward becoming Miss America, which I witnessed. And right now I have to go to bed or I'll sleep through working Breakfast. Till Tomorrow.

5-22-1963
Wed. aft.

Beauty-Contest contestants

At last! You've probably been wondering what happened to this letter. My usual disorganization found me flopping into bed at three a.m. on Monday (no, Tuesday), after cramming madly for an Ed Ser test and not getting a letter written. I'd been practicing nervously all day for my piano proficiency, which I took yesterday. Then yesterday I was practicing for my sax lesson this morning and listening to records for the Music 6 listening test on Friday. I have an hour now before the chorus banquet. The days are so full! But I realize my negligence in this department is inexcusable. I live for your letters, which are more frequent than mine.

What first? Piano is uppermost in my mind, because I just came from Speech 200 where one of the boys, Jeff West, had a black market songbook. It's one of those collections of all the popular dance-band selections with chords, that's illegal about copyright. I asked him where he got it and how much it cost. It came from Mr. Wareham, who I had for Music 5, for twenty dollars. I'd heard from Mrs. Kokat and others that Wareham is the expert on popular music around here, but I didn't realize he gave lessons. Jeff takes from him. So I went in to see him on my way back to the dorm. He said he'd be glad to give me lessons this summer. But it would be privately and I wouldn't get the one credit and the grade I do now. He charges $2.50 per lesson. I'm going to drop Music 11 (Piano), which I had scheduled for this summer, and take from him. If I ever do give piano lessons I want to be able to teach the popular method too. I'm sure there would be great demand for it, and people who know it are scarce. Remember our difficulty in finding one—well, we never did find anyone who taught like DeVito. I just know a little about chording and I want to get really good at it.

Speaking of the little I do know about it, it was enough to make a very favorable impression on my little board of judges for the proficiency test. I think I told you, the requirements are being able to play accompaniments for the melody lines given in a children's songbook. My accompaniments were pretty good, and I could play any of the songs in two to four different keys. They asked me to modulate from the Star Spangled Banner (key of E flat) to My Country 'Tis of Thee (key of G), which was just a request, not a requirement, and they thought it was good that I could do it right off, not having had any of the theory courses. My judges were Mr. Beach (choral dept.), Mr. Mandel (piano teacher), and Mr. Noyes (education dept.). And after my first song they called in Mrs. Dye from next door to listen too. She's choral.

They all made me feel good. They make me feel like I should be in music. Mr. Beach, who is leaving after this term, told me to sign up to be a Chapel Choir accompanist. I don't think he remembered me from when I tried out for Choir last fall. I put down on my application that I would like to accompany if I couldn't be in it as a singer. But he hadn't heard me play then. And Mr. Mandel talked to me afterward, wants to work it next year so that I'm scheduled as his student, because Mrs. Kokat won't be here. They made me feel so talented! It's very encouraging to be told you are good at what you have decided will be your career.

At my sax lesson this morning Mr. Rockwell said he had talked to Mr. Dunlop about my being in band this summer. Mr. Dunlop said that I would certainly be in it and to sign up now so I wouldn't have to pay the two-dollar drop-add fee to get a credit for it. People are so nice! I love everyone in the music department. Cheers for the music department! Mr. Rockwell also said that my sax lessons this summer will probably be from Bob Fought, because he himself will be full up giving woodwind and brass lessons to B.O.C. kids and Bob is being paid as a regular teacher to handle the sax dept., which he did last summer too. That won't be hard to take! Real incentive to practice, too.

I think I told you that Ruth Barziloski, Rita's cousin, passed the preliminary talent screenings for the Miss Centre County pageant. That means she goes on to the regular pageant tomorrow and Friday nights. She thought she was going to do a combined trumpet and french horn act, accompanied by Olin Butt's orchestra, which is providing music for the whole show. Olin Butt runs the Music Mart downtown and is a good sax- and clarinetist. His band played for the West Halls' Thanksgiving dance.

Just now when I came in I found a copy of Strauss's "Fantasie for French Horn" and a note on the bed. The note reads:

"Change of plans. I need an accompanist again. Could you please see if you could play this? I'll stop in after work around 10:00 p.m. Are you still available tomorrow and Friday night? Ruth. P.S.-Don't worry if you can't make it."

5-22-1963
continued...

So I have a chance for an inside view of the county-level contest for the future Miss America. And after seeing those preliminaries I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's so interesting, seeing the kind of girls who enter the contest, the girls who believe they could be Miss America. Several of them at the prelims weren't anything on looks, but had an absolutely awful self-confidence. They came in and sat down in a model's S position, ankles crossed and posed like pictures. One of the twenty prelim entrants wore glasses. She looked like the healthy outdoor type to me, weighing a couple pounds more than she should with pink cheeks and a chin that will be double when she's older. She looked healthy but that's all. Her talent was an original monologue. Another girl had a complexion like mine [acne] , slathered with makeup.

The style of dress was varied. Ruth wore a black sweater and skirt. One girl was very sexy in a low-cut black sheath. Another wore a low-cut peasant blouse. The most attractive one, in my opinion, was a working girl from Bellefonte, who wore a yellow Chanel-type suit, white blouse and pearls. Natural blonde hair. She was very pretty. We waited outside in the lobby while each contestant did her act for the judges, so I don't know how everyone did. I am really curious about who of the twenty did get cut, because the entrants have been cut to twelve. And I'll get to see it! You can't imagine the show-business aura around those judges, who are representatives from Atlantic City.

So tonight after chorus I'll stop in at Carnegie to practice this solo accompaniment. There's always something to do. The annual chorus banquet is tonight at six at the HUB and we have practice afterward. The concert went pretty well, except for flatting horribly on the last number.

I have to get ready for the banquet now. I want to come home Thursday night on the 10:30 bus, June 6, after my last exam is over at ten. Carol is leaving earlier in the day. Pete doesn't have room in the VW because he's taking his year's accumulation home.

Would you please get me an appointment with Dr. Doloff for Friday afternoon June 7 if it's humanly possible? I want to pick out frames and get prescription sunglasses so I can study outside this summer. I will pay for them. My summer courses are solid reading, tons of it. Two Psychs and history. I haven't had my teeth examined in a year now and maybe I ought to see Dr. Lutz while I'm home too. It's only fifteen days now. I'm counting them. P.S.-Carolyn has received her summer room assignment. Did mine come? McElwain, I hope.

5-30-1963
Thurs. aft.

The Miss Centre County Pageant

Exactly one week from today I'll be finished with this term. Exactly a year ago we were in the HUB for preregistration counseling. I can't get over that! This year has done more than fly.

I think I told you, my last exam is over at ten Thursday night and I want to take the ten-thirty bus home, unless some ride appears out of the blue at the last minute. It really bothers me to ask you to meet me at three a.m., and if you could leave the car downtown some place with the key hidden around it somehow, I could get home myself. I have my license with me. This is just a random suggestion, I have a feeling you won't approve it.

The residence halls open again on Sunday June 16. I register at 10:15 Tuesday morning and wouldn't have to be back till Monday. But I want to come back on Sunday to get in early to assure my job. If it's a nice day you'll probably want to stay at the lake and I can take the bus back. I'm just bringing the small suitcase.

I went into McElwain Monday to see my summer room and ask about a job. My room has no appreciable view (it faces out on a grassy court in back and looks across at the other side of McElwain), but it's nice. The curtains and bedspread and armchair are cheerier than McKee. The bathrooms are even better than Pollock, as far as showers and tubs go.

I gave an application and a copy of my summer schedule to the dining hall supervisor, Mr. McCormick. He looked at my schedule and told me he couldn't let me know for sure now if they can use me, but that I should come back the first day of next term. I know why he wasn't too enthusiastic; my schedule is pretty poor for dining hall work this summer. I have first periods every day, which eliminates breakfasts, and band (I guess) every day fourth period, which prevents working lunches. I could only work the five evening meals Monday through Friday.

But such indecisiveness is not comfortable, so the next day when I was in the HUB for a coke after EdSer class with a couple of kids, I stopped in to see the supervisor of foods there. I filled out another application for him and told him the bad points about my schedule. He said my schedule is okay for working at the HUB because they don't serve breakfasts. Each meal that a student works there, they get in two hours' time. In the regular dining halls like Waring you just get in an hour and a quarter per meal. So even though I can just work the evening meal, I can still get in two hours a day. And he said he could assure me of a job there this summer, to report in as soon as I can when I come back. I think it will be a lot of fun, and a change too. I'll be working in the Terrace room, serving the public and the town independents, not the same faces every meal like in Waring. And you wear yellow uniforms there. He said they are even busier in the summer because of all the families up for preregistration counseling, most of whom eat in the Terrace room. So I withdrew my application at McElwain.

5-30-1963
continued...

Miss Centre County 1963 is Kathleen Garvey, a girl I hardly noticed all through the contest. Ruth looked very good but she didn't place in the top five. Kathy did a singing monologue called "To Keep My Love Alive", an Ella Fitzgerald number about a woman who murders her six husbands because she doesn't believe in divorce, but "till death do us part". She had six handsome Theta Chis for silent props. But she doesn't have a great voice. She did look good in the swimsuit division and she was the best in the quick-question part.

Ruth drew No. 1 and so was first on the stage in each division. It was kind of shocking when she came on stage for the swimsuit part. It seemed so raw and crude that they were being judged on their legs and such junk. And at the end of that part, the emcee had them all out on stage in a line and directed them in taking four slow quarter-turns to the right so the judges could see them once more from each angle. It really seemed odd. One girl was so nervous you could see her knees knocking.

The whole thing was nerve-wracking. One girl, Chris Nelson, who is in Women's Chorus, had a very poor accompanist. She sang I Enjoy Being a Girl and the piano-player was so bad that Chris could hardly keep going at a steady beat, and she was so upset about it that you could see she wasn't enjoying it at all. And one girl, with a baton-twirling act, dropped her baton, natch. That is the last thing I would ever do for an act, baton-twirling. A nervous miss in it is so horrible. Ruth's solo went off without a hitch, but being just playing, she didn't have any opportunity to get her personality across with her voice, like most of the girls did.

It was a wonderful experience. Now I'll understand the tension of the Miss America Pageant more. This was it, exactly, on a smaller scale.

The Women's Chorus met for the last time last night. An evaluator was there (the Penn State music dept. is being evaluated this week). Bonnie has seen more of the evaluators than I have, in band and her theory classes. She gets the impression that they aren't too impressed.

Tuesday night I went to Mr. Mandel's recital. He's another one of the university piano teachers. Oh, I told you, he was on my proficiency board. He's very good, very young. He played sonatas by four different composers. One by Paul Hindemith was contemporary, very jazzy and full of dissonances. If I have him next year sometime for piano I'm going to ask if I could try it. It was really different.

I've changed my mind about trying to pass Music 1 by exam. Instead I'll try to get into the sight-singing course, Music 83, without having completed 1 and 2 first. 83 is given in the fall and is the music course you normally take in your sophomore fall term. But it has 1 and 2 as preqrequisites, because they are general courses in which you get a little of everything including an introduction to sight-singing. I have Bonnie's sight-singing book and she says I can borrow it for the summer, to learn the first third of the book that is covered in 1 and 2. When I come back in the fall I'll try out for Mr. Gullo to see if he'll admit me to the class. That will serve the same purpose as exempting 1, which would be very difficult, because it's a 4-credit course and I don't have too good an idea what it's like. But 2 is just a continuation of it and I know a girl who exempted 2, so I'll try for that, and keep punching to get out of here in three years.

I'm having trouble with the margin today. The thing in back that holds the left margin doesn't catch well all of a sudden, and sometimes it lets the carriage slip right by. I loaned the typewriter to Patti Phillips, our Miss Penn State, yesterday, and she changed the margins. I hate to loan things like that, and I also hate to say no. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have this typewriter. It must be kind of rough for kids who don't have any.

I got my first B in a speech I gave Monday, about why young marrieds are smart to use the installment plan. When I went to the library to look up information, my topic was why people shouldn't use it. But then I came across a very good article in House and Garden on why young couples, in particular, should take advantage of credit, and it persuaded me to change the slant of my persuasive speech. The boy who gave his speech right after me, Gordon Junker, spoke on the con side of the installment plan, and I think I was more convincing than he. He used mainly figures. One more final speech, 7 to 9 minutes long on Monday, and I'm through. That's one course I'll really be glad to have behind me.

I estimate my term average at 2.31. Anyway I don't think it will be lower than that.

Rita and I signed up to work at the HUB for a luncheon banquet for 600 on Thursday the 6th. We'll get two hours time and are supposed to go over some day beforehand to find out where everything is. We were going to go today but called first and it's the woman-in-charge's day off. I signed up mainly so I'll be familiar with it before summer.

I hate this letter, it sounds too I-ey. I feel like counting the number of times I've said I. OH! I almost forgot to even mention Penn State's latest contribution to the headlines.

Retract all I said about West Halls never having any suicides because you couldn't jump off the roofs, and besides, we have a much homier atmosphere. Art Derrick lived in Hamilton and ate in Waring C. Boy, you could leave Penn State believing that a certain number of suicides per year are to be expected in any institution this size. This must really worry the administration, and what can they do? And now the Collegian gets another storm of letters about the effects of the extreme pressure students feel under the term system. I love, love, love the term system and if they ever change to semesters I'll be very put out.

I'll probably get in one more letter before I come home, Sunday or Monday I'll write again. I have one more stamp to use up.

6-4-1963
Tues. 1:05 a.m.

The End of Spring Term

I'm writing this standing up at the dresser. I'm in the middle of packing. Bonnie is asleep. Finals week is a horror. I decided I just had to get all this done tonight and taxi it over to McElwain tomorrow afternoon. It's really a job. I got two big boxes from the dining hall which I haven't started to fill yet. This will make the third night in a row I haven't gotten to bed before 3:30 a.m. and slept beyond 7:00 a.m. in the morning. One more exam, Thursday night. I'm giving all my teachers postcards this time.

I thought I'd write a real letter but there's no time. No letter from you today, I take it you were up at the lake all weekend. Unless I hear differently from you, see you at 3:00 a.m. Friday morning.

 
 
 
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