Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s



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College is such a transition time. Now high school kids seem hopelessly young, yet the ties to your old high school friends and teachers are still strong.


Letters from Penn State - July 1963

7-22-1963
 

Trapped, continued

When we got back, I was panicked at the thought of my lesson this morning and decided to go practice an hour. It was late and Carnegie closes at ten, so I went over to Moffitt Cottage, an old house over by West Halls that is also used for practicing. When I went in, Mr. Wareham was downstairs talking to somebody. I said hello, then went up to the third floor, closed the door so it latched, and practiced. Then I put the sax away, picked up my books, and went to the door—it was locked. Don't ask me how, but it was. I pounded on it and yelled for Mr. Wareham, but he'd left. The place was empty. So I opened the window and waited for somebody to come along. After five or ten minutes some guy did and I called down to him my problem. He came up and tried the door, then went downstairs again to see if Mr. Wareham or anyone else was still around, then came up again, told me to stand back, and lunged. After three battering-ram attacks, the old door came open. He banged his head in the process, but must have felt like Sir Lancelot. He asked how long I'd been there, if I thought I could make it back to the dorm all right, etc. As if I was really shook up. I knew somebody'd come along. If not, I could just scream. But I'm glad the door opened under his force. He must feel heroic. It was an adventure.

Accompanying the choir is getting much better. Last week Bob directed the sectional because Mr. Beach was auditioning soloists for a concert we're giving August 15. He was harder to follow and I realize it's because Mr. Beach has been making concessions for me. But I'm crazy about that choir, I love every minute. Especially the "breakfasts" at eight on Sunday. And Mr. Beach.

This is such a special summer. I think it's the happiest time of my life. It's too perfect to be true. I have everything I want. I love my roommate, my room, my classes are interesting and pretty easy, and I'm a part of everything I want to be a part of, namely band and choir. And in the fall I'll lose it all. But right now it's perfect.

Though it's getting late in the summer, I would still love that dress in moss green. If you have time, make me one. I let down the hem on the daisy shift, and will lower the butterfly to wear Sunday morning. Somehow I managed to stretch that dress. It's lower on the right side than the left. I hope I can even-out the hemline by measuring it over the daisy one.

My radio has conked out. It's probably a tube.

You're up at the lake this week, lucky. It's been pretty good weather. I've just been swimming once this summer, over at White Hall one evening. If I don't get to Whipple's this summer I will feel a slight lack. I know two kids with cars, something will have to be done.

It's 12:15 and I still have to go over the Psych.

7-29-1963
Mon. eve

Classmate killed in plane crash

I shall now attempt to type on this icky thin paper. It's disturbing me already because it looks black through the roller, but I guess it's mostly because I bought something I didn't want.

A really wild thunderstorm is going on outside. And the elevators don't work every time there's lightning. I'm going over to White building at seven to go swimming. Janie just left to take a social psych test. She was home this weekend. I had really been after her to bring her trumpet back (she was first trumpet in high school), but after all my persuasive speeches, she didn't. She says she may try it again over term break and try out for band in the fall. But I bet she never does. She doesn't want to get in anything like that without her boyfriend. Sometimes I think a boyfriend is a little stultifying. That word was impulse, I bet it doesn't fit.

Carol wrote me a letter and I still haven't answered it. I got one from Bonnie Saturday too. Boy, of all the luck. Carol must live right. You said she got Kathy and Barb Rowland dates too. Did Barb quit the camp job or is this when she's home for weekends?

My last day of classes is Wednesday August 28. I don't have any exams during finals period, so I'll probably take the ten-thirty bus home that night. Unless Pete Yestrumskas, who did come, is going home that day sometime after ten a.m.

I went over to the foods building to see about the job. The woman told me they preferred high school students, whose classes didn't conflict with working hours. But she had me fill out an application and told me to call for the schedule on August 8. All the other kids there were callow youth from the local refinery and half of them were under sixteen and carrying yellow working papers. I'm going to call her up and tell her I've changed my mind. This summer is a bust as far as work is concerned.

The last band concert is Thursday evening August 1.

I talked to Mr. Gullo (who teaches Music 83, sight-singing) about wanting to take it without the prerequisites and he was very nice, told me everything I have to know, and said to come in and see him at the beginning of next term. I'm sure I'll be able to do it.

A boy in my history class, George Barkasi, was killed last week. He was president of the flying club and was flying back here with his cousin in the club's plane after a weekend at home. It crashed right after the take-off. He's the first person I ever knew who got killed. He was a real nice guy, always came in smiling, with a cigar, of all things. Now his seat is empty.

The HUB movie Friday night was "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" with Elizabeth Taylor. I'd seen it before, but it really was good. That's the one she should have gotten the Academy Award for. The movie the week before was Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest". It rained then, and the movie was shown in Rec Hall. And the sound track was awful.

It's so hot. I'd love to be at the lake, to get a suntan along with the swimming. It's ten of seven now and I want to get right over and jump in.

8-10-1963
Sat. aft.

Those hazy crazy days of summer

This morning in the mail I got a letter from you, one from Kathy, and Vogue magazine. I'm so grateful for the correspondence, and I'm getting really lax on my end. (Getting?) Anyway, thanks for not giving up on me during the long silences.

I'll be home in eighteen days. This term was so short I miss it already. It's like a dream. I'm glad there's a pretty long vacation before the next one, though. Not quite a month. Classes don't start till Monday Sept. 30, but naturally I register the first day, Wednesday the 25th, at 9:15 a.m. So I'll have to be back here on Tuesday the 24th. That gives me 26 days at home.

Poor Barb. I bet she really battled with her mother. After her Boston "experiences" and complete freedom of choice, it must be hard to accept full-time parents again. I take it that the camp job did not last or something. I haven't heard from or written to her at all. I got a letter from Bonnie last week, or I guess I told you. With Jere's highway dept. job they've bought a 1950 Buick for $150 and a bookcase for $25 and finished paying for the engagement ring. They are planning for a wedding next summer. I really doubt that they will get married before he finishes.

Speaking of weddings, I do like to read those clippings you send. It sounds like Katie Stoodley's sister sure did all right. A graduate of Cornell and Harvard Law, and settling in a pretty college town. I wonder if Fred Temke who is marrying Carol Richardson is related to Mary Temke, who graduated with me. It could be, because she just moved here around tenth grade, maybe from Harrisburg where he went to school.

Miss Dickenson [my high school band teacher] has been taking guidance courses during the summers and I know she wants to help with that kind of work, but I was surprised to read that someone is being put in over her head as music supervisor. I wonder if he'll take over any part of the band.

Janie is asleep. I feel guilty about this spasmodic typing. But the typing room is miles away down in the basement. McElwain is a big dorm. And I really like it. I wish you could see it once. I would love it if you could come out and get me on the 28th and save me from the terrors of janitors and carts and taxis. But I realize it's a weekday and Daddy would have to cut work, so if you can't, I will struggle through.

Are the plumbers going to do the upstairs bathroom right away too? A shower would be so nice. Here in McElwain there are bathtubs, and I haven't taken a bath all summer. Just showers, sometimes two a day. The lav sounds very pretty. I like the sound of the color combinations.

I sing tomorrow. That choir is fun, I'm going to miss it. Coming in at eight and sitting around with coffee while Mr. Beach cracks jokes, then going up in the loft to run through the anthem with Mr. Ceiga on the organ, and listening to the fabulous bass section right behind you. The basses are the best section and they are really tremendous. Mr. Beach usually says he has to exploit such a marvelous sound and has the basses sing the introit alone, a cappella. It's so great.

The sacred music program is Thursday evening. I probably won't be singing in it. It's part of a week-long Institute of Sacred Music in which 31 people are enrolled, 27 of whom are women. These people are going to sing in the program along with the summer choir. It's going to be sung from the chapel loft, which doesn't even hold the summer choir, which is why we rotate Sundays. And, with this abundance of women, a lot of the girls in the choir won't be able to sing. We shall make up the audience.

I got a C in my Psych midterm. My term average will probably be slightly over a 2. This has been an easy term as far as my three 3-crediters go, and I could have made much better marks. But it's my three 1-crediters that I've worked over and I've really learned a lot. This is my most profitable term so far. And, aside from academics, it's the happiest time I've ever spent. I don't know what it is about this summer, but it's golden.

I'm so glad you're making the green dress. I know, the color and style, I'll love it. The three shifts are really in vogue now, I have to be careful not to wear them too often because people remember them, especially the daisies.

Dinner calls. If you see Carol, tell her I am definitely writing this weekend.

P.S.—I got the money, and got the shoes and the reeds. Thanks a lot.

8-17-1963
Sat. aft.

"Assume" makes an ass out of you and me

It's raining out and I have the room to myself; Janie's gone home for the weekend. A music transfer student from West Chester who lives down the hall, Janita Haney, is coming over in a while and I'm going to try to talk her into a game of rummy. That's what I miss Janie for. We play so much that the concentration is intense, and we play for nickels per 500 game. Not much gambling really, because the nickel just goes back and forth every other game, on paper IOUs. And I'm getting her enthusiastic about Scrabble, which we can sign out from the duty office downstairs. Anyhow, this is a rather boring afternoon. Of course I could study...but our room is on a court and noise sort of bounces around in it, and the room across the way has their radio going full blast. I don't feel like slogging around in the rain to get to the library or Carnegie. So this is a cozy afternoon in the cell.

Your check was very timely. I was down to twenty cents and wishing I'd mentioned it on the phone. And I do love the dress. The color is just right. As I was putting it on I was thinking "It's a shame it's sleeveless because I won't have too much more chance to wear it" and then put my arms through sleeves. You think of everything! I'm so glad you did that. I just finished ironing it to wear tomorrow morning, my last singing Sunday.

I did something pretty stupid this week which I shouldn't tell you but am. I told you about the Institute of Sacred Music program? Well, the list of summer choir members who were to sing in it was posted on the chapel bulletin board at choir Tuesday night. I didn't have time to look at it before rehearsal started at seven. Then at eight Mr. Beach said that the group singing in the program should go up to the loft to rehearse with the organ and strings, and everyone else could leave. Most of the kids put on their coats (it was raining) and prepared to take off, and I was going to walk back with Mary Crosby, who'd already checked the list. A lot of kids were clustered around the bulletin board and I wasn't close enough to read it, but I could see the list was pretty darn small, around fifteen names. So I figured, as I had ever since he'd said it'd be a very cut list, that yours-truly wasn't on it and I had a good idea of who the kids were who would be on it, so there was really no point in waiting till I could elbow in to read it. Oh, assinine! I left with Mary.

Thursday afternoon when I went to accompany Lois' voice lesson, Mr. Beach asked where I was the other night. Without an inkling, I said "What night?" He said "My dear (he calls all the girls 'my dear'), your name was on the list, and when you didn't appear I didn't know what to think. I had to replace you with one of the Institute singers." Anyway, I was a part of the audience Thursday night instead of a participant just because of my own ----- are there words to express?

I just finished "The Ugly American" this morning. I may join Carol in the peace corps. That's a very good book, it makes you want to do something.

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" was the HUB movie last night. Janita and I went over to see it. It certainly beat downtown. In the summer just one of the three downtown movies is open, and it's currently showing one about a boy and his pet dolphin.

Yesterday after history I ran into Pete Yestrumskas. He said he wouldn't know for another week or so. So it would be a pretty late decision if I get a ride with him, there are just eleven more days. I wish you could come and get me. If not, send money for the taxi and bus. I've got to go dig up some packing boxes someplace. It was nice at the end of last term because I worked in the dining hall and knew the guys in the kitchen basement who had the boxes. Keeler's Book Store charges 35 cents for boxes.

The Rainbow Girls are here again, flitting around in long gowns even during the daytime. Their visit marks the end of summer. Last year when they stayed in McKee Rita and I got to see our rooms early.

I'm really looking forward to coming home, even though it's very nice here. See you soon.

8-26-1963
Mon. aft.

Postcard #1

I got your letter this morning, also the one from Pam. And the money (did I ever need it, as usual). This postcard was going for one of my grades, but I'll get another one. I definitely have a B in Psych 14. The History this afternoon was bad. I'm kind of glad it's the bus; now I can leave the packing till Wed. afternoon. So I'll see you in Scranton at 3:00 a.m. Thursday (Wed. night), and I can't wait. Oh, these last days!

8-27-1963
Tues., 2 p.m.

Postcard #2

Pete just called and I have a ride. We are leaving at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon. See you soon.

 
 
 
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