Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s



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I'm putting more pressure on my parents to let me switch out of Music Education and into straight Music, so I can finish college sooner. I want to start my real life in New York City! Meanwhile, there's the stunning news that JFK has been assassinated, and I'm the piano accompanist for a new musical.


Letters from Penn State - Nov. 1963

11-11-1963
7:00 p.m.

"It's Always Fair Weather" (a song)

I'm sitting in Schwab auditorium waiting for rehearsal to start. It's going to be a full dress rehearsal and the band will be here after Mr. Dunlop lets them out of sectionals.

On stage they're working madly on the scenery. It has to be ready now because the cast has to practice moving it around. I would swear the writers of this musical were very influenced by "No Strings". Like "No Strings", the chorus uses dance routines to change the scenery around so the curtain hardly ever closes. The plot—man trying to win girl away from a career—is the same. And the themes of several of the songs are similar. They both have a character role of a woman who loves to give parties.

This morning the director, Jerry Bartell, who is in Journalism & Broadcasting, was interviewed about the show. And Marge Bloomfield, the girl lead, sang one of the songs, a blues number. I accompanied her but wasn't in the picture, alas. It was televised in the university studio in Sparks and appeared on an Altoona station on the program "Second Chair" at 9 a.m.

Jerry said that the Thespians do two musicals a year. The one in the fall is always an original. Each spring they put on a Broadway show. I'm so lucky to have gotten into this. I gather that kids aren't as enthusiastic about trying out and working in a new show as they would be in something like "Bye Bye Birdie". (Jerry Bartell was Conrad Birdie in that last year). Joe Furst, one of the boys in my Mu 83 class who is playing in the show's band, says a couple of the guys would like to get out of it now because "it doesn't swing".

Actually I think the songs aren't bad. A couple are really good, one is terribly monotonous.

Jerry said that the writers of the show were hoping it would go on to bigger and better things and that some people from NYC were coming down to see it.

Marge Bloomfield, the girl lead, really makes the show. She's a theatre arts major and if you met her on the street you would swear she was Bonnie Hall [a bubbly very-popular blonde from my high school] . She looks just like her and is just her size—she could be her twin. She's from Altoona.

Pete is trying to figure out something with the drummer that sounds like a teletype machine. The show starts with three of the computer operators talking in rhythm. Jerry Bartell just came over and said to throw it out, it's too loud. The whole accompaniment is too loud—an 11-piece band and no microphones on the stage.

It's now break. I'm writing again because I had to appear to need my pen so this character who borrowed it would give it back to me. But now I think I'll go over to the Hub for coffee.

Tomorrow I have my string bass lesson. I haven't touched it in two weeks, since this whole thing started. Last week Pete Gano called it off in favor of making a recording of Paper Ballet. I wish he'd think of some reason to call it off tomorrow. He's probably tired and definitely not in the mood either. Of course, he doesn't have to prepare.

It's Tuesday afternoon. Pete postponed the lesson by mutual consent so he can meet with Steve McMillan, 7th term Mu Ed, who's directing the orchestra (dance band, really). Then the orchestra, me included, has a rehearsal at 4:00.

I know you can't come out to see it, but I'll do my best to get in the spring musical.

Carol's coming to see "Fair Weather" Thursday night with some of her sorority. I was talking to Mr. Wareham again today. He really thinks it's a lousy show. So many things are dangling at the last minute. The writers got in from Colorado and saw a rehearsal for the first time last night. They got slightly upset about several things, especially Mr. Wareham's arranging "Man into Space" as a cha-cha. They want it in straight 4. I think it's great as a cha-cha. And other things too numerous to mention made them very unhappy.

This is so much fun.

I haven't been able to corner Mr. Henninger yet to find out about the college of arts. But I know it's what I want. These ed methods courses, where you learn to teach children "Six Little Ducks that I Once Knew" are not for me. I know you've always thought (Daddy, especially) that a teaching degree is the best thing a woman can have. But I doubt very much if I could work it in the next six terms, and I couldn't take theatre courses that interest me, and I don't intend to teach anyway.

The dress is gorgeous, I love it. Wednesday night is the critic's rehearsal and I have to wear it then.

11-24-1963
10:30 p.m.

John F. Kennedy was shot

After saying I'd write last night I put it off till tonight, figuring the mail couldn't go out today anyway. This afternoon BIll [older brother] and Judy dropped in. Hating to start on a sour note, but if he comes once more without giving advance notice, I'm just going to say I'm too busy to come out, which I am when I haven't planned an afternoon free anyway.

He called from the lobby outside around 2:00, just when everybody back here was curled up around the radios listening to the news on Oswald's death. So I went out and we rode around for an hour or so listening to the coverage from Washington and Dallas. Then, just before we went to the Lion's Den for coffee, I said they were lucky to be going home for Thanksgiving. Bill said they weren't going, and Judy took two letters (yours to Bill) out of her purse and gave them to me to read. So I read them, and would certainly not have taken it the way Bill did (judging how he took it by your second letter). While I was on the first paragraph Judy said to Bill that I wouldn't understand it because I didn't know the big news. So I told them that you had written me about it, congratulated them, and said I had just been waiting for the radio news to be exhausted to bring up the subject.

I said that you were absolutely right about not-engaged couples staying overnight, and why in heaven's name didn't they both go just for the day. Judy said they'd like to but had already accepted another invitation. Bill said your inhospitality indicated disapproval of Judy, and there was no point in his going home alone, because he and Judy will be together from now on as a pair and you may as well get used to the idea. They can't go for Christmas because they each just have one day off. He said they would plan to go at Easter and not before. When I left I told him to at least go home one weekend before then.

I can't help it, brother or no brother, at times he really disgusts me. He is so pig-headed. And I wish he'd read an etiquette book. I hate to spend time with him and Judy because he doesn't know how to behave. I don't know why they bother to call me up, because I'm very fifth wheel. They always walk behind me, and Bill keeps Judy next to me all the time instead of walking in the middle and he interrupts Judy thoughtlessly. I don't see how she can stand him. And I suppose this is silly to say, living at Penn State and seeing amorous couples all over the place—but according to Janie's social usage course last summer, there should be no public display of affection such as hand-holding when walking along the street. Maybe I say it jealously because I haven't had anyone yet to walk along holding hands with. But I do feel that that rule should be observed when in the company of a third person. I don't know, everything about Bill annoys me lately. I do not enjoy his (their) visits.

Lovely note to begin the letter with. Rereading the above, I notice my writing looks scrabbly. But the typewriter is such a chore. I'd like to take a course in typing before I graduate.

The boots still haven't come.

I got up at 6:30 this morning to be sure and get a New York Times. There was a line of kids waiting at seven when I got downtown to Boots', which opens then. The Times is fifty cents all over here, by the way, pardon my previous misinformation. We are "out of the area" or something.

At 10:30 kids around the dorm were saying there wasn't a single paper, any city, left in town. I can't get over the whole thing. It seems impossible. We don't have any classes tomorrow. Everybody's praying we don't have to make them up, like on Thanksgiving or on an extra day at the end of the term.

Tuesday night Mr. Wareham called up and said the Theatre Arts Dept. needed a pianist for an advanced acting class that is studying musicals the last part of the term. He told me to go see the Dean, Dr. Walters, and tell him he sent me. So I went Wednesday morning, tried out by playing things from "My Fair Lady", and am now accompanist three periods a week, through December 5th, at $1.50 an hour, and also extra hours when the smaller groups within the class want to rehearse with me outside of class time. I'm rehearsing with the "Pajama Game" group tomorrow night. I started playing during class time last Thursday, 2nd and 3rd periods. The two other groups are doing "Oklahoma" and "Guys and Dolls". They're all preparing excerpts for a show to be given on the 5th for family and friends.

I like Mr. Wareham so much. He has done more for me than anybody else, he's the nicest guy. He's a terrific jazz piano player, and he's so nice to talk to. He made coffee for me last week while we were talking about how "Fair Weather" turned out. He's so comfortable to be with.

Before he got me that job, I'd already accepted one from a ballet studio in town. I played for one lesson and then quit it because it was too much, and anyway it was classical music, and they were only paying $1.25 an hour. (Listen to her: ONLY $1.25 an hour for piano playing!) I don't believe my luck.

I want to take piano (classical, 1 credit) lessons again next term, from Mr. Brinsmaid. I hate to give up Mr. Wareham.

All my finals are on Friday Dec. 6. Saturday the 7th is the Music 2 Exemption exam. I haven't made any appointment for the Music 95. It seems so hopeless. But I'll talk to Mr. Gamble again Tuesday. If I don't pass the Music 2, and stay in Music Ed, I'll be around here two full more years. Ick.

I work Thanksgiving dinner. Also tomorrow breakfast, and I can't afford to have another absence, so goodnight. Only fifteen more days.

11-29-1963
10:00 p.m.

Please God, let me exempt Music 2

I got your letter today. With Bill not going home I thought you wouldn't have too big a Thanksgiving, but fifteen people must have made it lively. Thanksgiving here was nice; we had turkey, "filling" (nobody says "stuffing" around here), peas with mushrooms, creamed onions, pecan rolls, mince or pumpkin pie, nuts and mints, and all the fruit and relishes you wanted. It's nice working that meal and seeing the kids go through all dressed up and looking happy and hardly anyone complaining about the food for once. Waring Hall looks gorgeous, it was decorated Thanksgiving eve. Christmas trees go with the homeyness of West Halls.

Right now I can't even find the letter to check, but I think two or three letters ago you p.s.'ed that you were enclosing five dollars, and I hope you forgot to put it in then, because I didn't get it. There's a possibility, I suppose, that I could have dropped it when opening the letter, which I did while walking along the street, but I'm almost sure I didn't.

The boots still haven't come.

I'm taking the Music 2 exemption test on Saturday December 7 with Mary Hylbert. She has decided not to try for 95, so I am doing that alone. I really have doubts about even trying it, and have not seen Mr. Gamble to set a day yet.

These tests, I suppose it's no great loss if I don't come through on them, it's kind of above and beyond the call, I figure, but will I ever feel like a failure if I don't. Particularly, mainly, Music 2. Because I hate Mr. Henninger so much and he knows it, I'm sure he has no urge to help me get through in 12 terms, and might even be happy to flunk me. If I don't pass 2, I can forget about graduating even in December '65, start thinking about Dec. '66.

Mr. Henninger decided our class could not afford to lose the day we did on Monday, and has moved the final into finals period so we make up that day. The final "will probably be" Monday night Dec. 9. I may come home that night (3 a.m. in Scranton unless I can get a ride), especially if I can get my paycheck early. If not, I'll wait around till Tuesday night, because the checks are regularly given out on the tenth. I wrote Doloff's for an appointment on the eleventh or later.

Please send me two checks: fifteen dollars for Music 95 (3 credits, $5 per credit) and twenty dollars for Music 2 (4 credits).

I'll be so glad when this term is over. Whether I pass these courses or not, there won't be any more speeding up I can try for until this same time next year. Eleven days. Really, just ten till all the worries are over.

The Theatre Arts class I play for is giving its show on Thursday the 5th. The Meditation Choir concert is Tuesday night. Women's chorus, meeting on Wednesday evening, is so awful that I'm giving it up next term even though any musical experience is good. It's too much and I'm not interested in it any more.

All I ever seem to write about any more are my "plans". I'm going to feel so awful if I don't pass these tests! Therefore, back to studying the Music 2. I got a B in my second Soc test. I'll probably get a B in it and C's in my two musics. But something's got to give. And the greatest thing in my whole life so far was playing for "Fair Weather". I read in the Collegian two days ago that the Thespian executive committee will vote on the musical to do in the spring this week. It's narrowed down to five now: Brigadoon, Oklahoma, Damn Yankees, Kismet, and L'il Abner. I hope they do Brigadoon. As soon as they decide, I'm going to get the full score, they run around $8.00, and really practice it.

See you soon.

12-6-1963
 

I cannot conduct

I will come home Tuesday night, with the Harmons I hope. Carol says she thinks her parents will come for us. If not, the bus.

My Music 2 exemption exam will be Tuesday. And do I feel sick about the whole business.

Today in class Mr. Henninger announced that "two of the girls are trying to exempt Music 2, we'll see what they can do." He had Mary and I get up, first I played piano and she conducted, then he had me conduct. I went through the little song once and said I can't do it, I can't conduct. Mary did it beautifully, with expression and feeling and dynamics, etc. I just can't. It's not ability, it's personality. Mary is authoritative and standing in front of the class doesn't bother her. It does me. I conduct like a stick and can't bear to look at the kids I'm conducting. I feel like an idiot. And especially I loathe doing it for Mr. Henninger. It's like him saying "Okay, monkey, dance" and I have to wave my arms for him.

He said that on Friday Mary and I will have complete charge of the class, and we'll orchestrate and conduct a minuet. Kids will bring their instruments. I don't have any time to prepare. Tomorrow morning is the Theatre Arts program and I have my Soc. 30 final Friday afternoon. I'm really sick.

Next term, no matter what happens about these darn exemptions, I mean if I fail them, I don't care how many extra terms I go. I'm never going to get into a mess like this again. There's too much to do, and I can't do anything well.

Tuesday night, come quick!

 
 
 
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