Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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My mother made most of my clothes and loved doing it. In case you wonder, my letters weren't all about me; I did respond to her own news, but am usually not including those parts here.

Letters from Penn State - late April 1963

Wed. eve.

Easter at Penn State

Easter here was beautiful, too. I went to the sunrise service on the steps of Old Main at six with Lynne, Rita's roommate. The weather was sparkling clear, if cold. Bonnie and Jere went too. The Meditation Chapel Choir sang and the brass ensemble played. Coffee and donuts were served afterward at the Chapel. The crowd was at least half townspeople. I saw two of the counterwomen from the dining hall there, and said good morning. I still can't quite call a lot of them by their first names, even though I know all of them now. The other old kids do, and the women seem to like being called by name, as I guess anybody does. But it's hard to call a woman who reminds you of your grandmother "Mary". Hardest is a woman who reminds me a lot of Aunt Louise, named Marion Schultz. Her nickname is Schultzie. Nicknames are even harder!

Your package came today along with the letter. Both the skirt, which is darling, and the shift fit perfectly. I can't get over how perfect the shift is, even the length. I don't know how you did it, with no waist seam to measure from and no model and it flared like that. Anyway, I love it. Make the other two exactly like it. Exotic print shifts are now in the window of the Charles Shop down on College Avenue.

I worked Easter dinner. It was the noon meal. They left the lights out and there were pink and yellow candles on each table, and centerpieces of paper grass and dyed eggs. We had a choice of roast beef or ham. Hot cross buns instead of bread, and for dessert a scoop of lemon sherbet with a decorated cupcake. I worked on the buffet table in C with John Gane. A boy and girl were on the buffet in each dining room. It was a long table out in the middle of the room, which the boy kept stocked with relishes, cottage cheese, candied crabapples and fruit, while the girl guarded the bowl the flowers were in for a centerpiece, because it was borrowed, and last year the kids had carried off everything. A lot of the candles and all the eggs went, but they don't mind that. I got in two hours working that meal, what with setting up, lighting the candles, and cleaning up the supreme mess of wax on the tables, egg shells, and grass all over.

Today at lunch we employees were just lining up to eat beforehand, and the cooks tested the lasagne and found that somehow at the factory the noodles had gotten full of oil and none of it was fit to eat. So they dashed around making a whole new meal of stuff they had lying around and when the regular lines opened, fifteen minutes late, there was a choice of beef stew left from Monday night, hot dogs, or spaghetti. About every other kid who came through asked "What happened to the lasagne?" The menus are posted so that almost everyone passes by them and stops to look before they go up to eat.

I don't really want to go to Washington. I'd rather get the contact lenses sooner. I'm going to write to Dr. Doloff and ask how much they cost and if I could possibly get them during June vacation, if he allows time payments. Mary Anne Saunders, next door, paid for hers on time. I could make a fifty-dollar down payment and twenty dollars a month. Speaking of money, I don't know anything about the summer tuition. I just went out and looked at the bulletin board again and the only information it has about summer term is the housing. You might as well just send it in. Remember, you did that last year too. They didn't say right off when it was due. I think we got a bill for it sometime after you paid it, and you sent it back to them corrected.

Speech is kind of fun. I gave another little no-grade three-minuter Monday. It was on mazes, don't ask me why, and I made four examples on poster paper (we were supposed to use visual aids). I made the first one the way you construct it, the second a finished maze, the third a maze with an opening only for the start, and the fourth one you could start anywhere in.

I had my second sax lesson this morning. Mr. Rockwell is so nice! He says things like "Practice only fifteen minutes at a stretch. If you feel like getting a coke, go out and get it, don't keep playing till you think you should. You aren't getting expression and concentration if your mind is on food." I haven't met anyone in this music department yet that I'm not crazy about.

Bonnie just came in, the Blue Band gave a concert at Tyrone this evening. She said hardly anyone attended. People! She said it was a good rehearsal for Sunday.

Your visit is eagerly awaited. I'd like to meet Judy [my older brother Bill's girlfriend] . The campus is getting prettier every day. It's so much nicer with leaves on the trees.

Mon. aft.

Bonnie's Father in the Flesh

Every day now the campus gets prettier. Daffodils are blooming in the borders around McKee. We must have some rare specimen growing out on the southwest corner of the building; I've seen two strolling botany classes stop to examine it.

Bonnie's 8-year-old sister Kathy was our houseguest this weekend. She came up on the bus alone Friday afternoon. The whole family came yesterday for the band concert and she went home with them. She is the cutest, most charming kid! I don't understand the D's at all. Bonnie's older brother Roger looks like his father, with kind of a hooked nose. Mrs. D is really homely, with very dark hair, prominent nose, just plain. But Bonnie and her sister have sweet baby faces, especially Kathy. Kathy is a doll. Yet she was considered a problem child in school and was recommended to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist decided the trouble was with the parents, and Mr. and Mrs. D are having periodic consultations with him now. I certainly wouldn't want to be in the same house with them. Especially Mr. D. He gives me the feeling of being very tense, as if controlling himself about something.

We have a hamster named Paula in the room now. Bonnie bought him at the local pet store for one dollar and a cage for five. He's been eating Easter eggs along with his regular diet and likes them very much. Oops, I keep saying "he". It's a girl. Reminds me of a rat or mouse and I could easily do without it, but he has taken up permanent residence. Bonnie showed him to the maid and janitor, sneakily enlisting their aid in the concealment by making it a confidence. She (Paula) has a wheel in her cage which needs oiling, but Bonnie thinks Paula would lick any oil that was put on and get sick, so we go to sleep to the steady creak of the wheel every night, because this hamster is nocturnal.

The concert yesterday was very good. There was a guest flute soloist, James Pellerite. Everything was professional, with Mr. Dunlop's attention to detail. Unlike our chorus concert, the doors weren't supposed to open till 2:30 and they didn't, so no one was inside to see the warming up. When the chorus was practicing beforehand, half the audience was already inside. And Mr. Dunlop uses one of the girl flutists in the front row to tell him when there is absolute quiet and no one finding a seat between numbers before he starts the next. She nods slightly to him when everyone in the audience is settled. He waited almost five minutes for the siren of what must have been a three-alarm fire to stop. It went on and on. You'll have to come to a band concert sometime and see him. He's great.

Midterm congestion is starting. I have an Ed Ser test tomorrow, a listening test Monday, and a major speech and a Music 6 test on Wednesday. There aren't enough hours in the day. I do so much want to exempt the Music 1 and 2 courses. For $2.00 I bought their textbook in manuscript form from the teacher, Mr. Henninger, who wrote it. They're both 4-credit courses and there's a lot to them. The 13-credit load I have this term takes up an awful lot of time too. I'll be glad when I'm rid of Phys Ed after this summer. It's only one credit but takes as much class time as a 3-credit course. I'll try to get volleyball the second half.

When you come up or send another of the dresses, whichever is first, please include that book of simple piano duets (includes "Hall of the Mountain King", etc.) and that paperback of mine, "High Society". I'm thinking of combining it and "The Status Seekers" as sources for one of my speeches. The duets is for one of the guys who works in the dining hall; he's just started taking piano lessons, practices like mad and is really progressing, and we've been going over to Carnegie together. I haven't been giving much time to the piano lately, what with the sax. The guy on second sax now is third term, so he'll still be here next year. Bob is so strong on first that they only need the two of them. It's a question of Dennis Olenwine or me next year, and I hope it will be me.

I have to go to dinner now. Turkey tetrazzini, I think.


Lost my Glasses

Excuse the delay and this short note (I'm writing with just a pen refill, I lost the pen yesterday). But this midterm week is absolutely the worst! I had a piano lesson and Music 6 listening test on Monday. Tomorrow are my sax lesson, Music 6 midterm exam, and a major speech, which I'm trying to write now, on the psychology of names.

To add to these worries I lost my glasses yesterday. They may turn up sometime but I can't find them anywhere and am going blind trying to study the Music 6 book.

I'm seriously considering going to an optometrist in State College and getting contacts here. There are five listed in the yellow pages. When I can breathe after tomorrow is over with, I think I'll call all of them and find out their different ways and means.

I hope you can make it this Sunday. If you come, please bring some blouses: the sleeveless white boatneck from Sears; the white scoop-neck ruffled one; the sleeveless lacey-front one; the black sleeveless one, and anything else you think I may have forgotten. I'm sure the black eyelet and white-skirted dress is too small on top. The shorts I got last summer are really tight.

I got 65 in my first listening test. This term is too much. I'm going to drop the piano lessons I scheduled for this summer and drop Chorus next fall. There's too much to do. I work a full schedule in the dining hall and it takes time but I refuse to drop that because I think it's very important. And I've got to sandwich in studying for Music 1 and 2. If I felt I didn't have the slightest chance of exempting them, I wouldn't want to come this summer. It wouldn't do me any good. Right now I do wish I was looking forward to a long vacation in 5 weeks rather than an even stiffer summer schedule. Psych 13 and 14 and History 20 are just solid reading, tons of it. And I'll have band, I hope. And Phys Ed, and sax lessons, and the dining hall, and the close-at-hand exemptions.

Don't mind me. At the moment I feel overloaded and depressed. But I realize my case is like anyone else's. I've just let some things go till the last minute. If I only had my glasses!

See you soon.

Thurs. eve.

Miss Centre County contest

I'm sitting here waiting for my order-out milkshake to come. Today was really muggy, I don't know what the temperature was. It's suddenly dark outside and the thunder and lightning is spectacular.

I got your letter this morning. You make me feel so good.

Everyone should get their hair done once in a while. It must have been interesting seeing what the beauty school is like. I notice you just say "cut", which I take it means you didn't get it set. No, I misread, you say "done". I wish you'd gotten it done last week so I could've seen it. I don't remember you ever going to a hairdresser before. I wish I could see the "professional" look on you.

Dr. Kalin finally called today, said to come in tomorrow at my convenience to be fitted. I'm glad I have my others, his three days are more like seven. [Not sure what this is about. New glasses, even though I'm planning to get contacts soon?] I've decided that the contacts must wait until I can get them from Dr. Doloff at home. Dr. Kalin, I think, deliberately deceives people by operating out of a humble-looking house with a weedy front yard, making the customers think he just gets by like anyone else. But while I was there he got a phone call from somebody who was coming to visit him for the weekend from Pittsburgh and he was talking about time for cocktails and nine holes of golf at the Centre Country Country Club, which he belongs to, before dinner the night the guy gets in. His exorbitant fees pay for the country club.

Especially to Mother: Happy Mother's day. Darn, I almost sound like one of the icky cards in the stores. I would have sent you a card with your present but there was not one card that was worded right. Most of them start out "To Mother (or "For Mother) on Mother's Day". Which sounds sickeningly redundant to me, like a proclamation or something. Of course you'd write "Mother" on the envelope, no one else would open it, so why repeat who it's for on the card cover?

My milkshake just arrived. Yum!

As I was saying: re cards, maybe I just had bad luck with the two stores I tried, and waited till their stocks were depleted. But I still think the card-writing business needs some new talent. Happy Mother's day. I hope the gift fits; if not, I can return it. I thought it looked very springy.

The last couple paragraphs don't sound exactly right, my complaining over the cards. I don't know how you could be a better mother than you are.

The academic picture is mediocre. Speech 1, C. Speech 2, C. Music 6 midterm, C. The music is pretty disgraceful. It was entirely essay, just two listening excerpts at the beginning to analyze.

Ruth Barziloski, Rita's cousin who is in Mu Ed, has entered the Miss Centre County contest, the local preliminary for the Miss America Pageant. It's in Bellefonte on May 23 and 24. She's going to play the french horn for the talent competition and asked me to accompany her on the piano, which I agreed to do. I think it will be fun to see something like that.

On the way back from chorus last night Pat Maurer and I passed Schwab and an intermission-like crowd on the front steps. We figured it must be the dress rehearsal of ByeBye Birdie, which opens tonight. It was. I'd think they would have had the auditorium staked out, since tickets for it cost $1.75. But we wandered in unquestioned and watched it from the balcony. They have an orchestra and lots of polished dance numbers, just like Broadway.

Sunday night around nine a pack of boys assembled on the front lawn of McKee. Most of them wore gray sweat suits, carried pails and small logs, and wore cardboard oakleaf-shaped signs around their necks. One by one they stood at the top of the center steps leading down into the front yard and shouted out poems of their own authorship. Their subject matter was all on the oak tree, supposedly. Most were on a par with a line from one boy's:

"Girls are made by guys like me, but only God can make a tree."

Etcetera. It was initiation for Druids, a men's hat society for athletically-outstanding freshmen and sophomores. The oak leaf is their symbol.

Today was Bonnie's birthday. I gave her a salt and pepper set for her hope chest. Her parents sent her a big cake-by-wire. She is downstairs with Jere now, eating it with Pepsi while watching the Twilight Zone. It's pretty good. Jere gave her a charm bracelet.

Due to various interruptions it is now 10:00 and I will over-and-out. I want to write to Bill and tell him how much I like Judy. That was really a nice day Sunday. [When my parents visited they brought along my older brother and his new girlfriend.]

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