Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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I can't find the letters from winter term 1964, but probably will eventually. My older brother is going to be married and unfortunately that involves me. I'm inducted into the Mu Phi Epsilon music honor sorority, not that I deserve to be, but they kindly admit all music majors.

Letters from Penn State - April 1964


The start of spring term

I'm all settled in for this term and think that, class-wise anyway, it will be the best term I've had. I'm registered for string bass but am dropping it.

Interruption—Janie just called and we're going swimming.

White Hall is not open for swimming yet this term. I'm back after spending a half hour at the Dell. We're going over to McElwain Tuesday to try and find a big corner room whose present occupants won't be back next year. [My current roommate Bonnie will graduate this term. Janie, my last-summer roommate, and I will room together next year.]

Anyway, I don't have a schedule slip but here are my classes: English 189 (Modern Drama), English 112 (Fiction Writing), Music 96 (Harmonic Dictation), French 2, and French Lab.

Enclosed is a copy of my grades, in case you didn't get them. I had a hard time getting them, nobody knew where they were because I'd switched [from Music Ed to straight Music] . Finally the dean's secretary called the registrar's office and they read them to me over the phone. Then I got two copies in the mail. That B in French really bowled me over. Piano, I kind of suspected he wouldn't give me an A, because the best piano students take from him, like Vicki Brown and Phyllis Levin.

The contacts are a problem. Today I took them out while working dinner because I was tearing all over the place dishing out salad with onions in it. And then, to go swimming, I took them out again. And just now put them in again. I don't think I'll stay up late enough to get my time in. They are murder for reading and the reading has begun. In 189 we're going to cover 30 plays, or a play a period. But I think I'll survive with them, if only a sore throat I've had for two days doesn't turn into a cold.

My first assignment for 112 is a description of an activity of which you have authoritative first-hand knowledge, written in the first person. That sounds harder to me than writing a story. He also kind of said "Choose an activity in which you have command of its technical language." All I can think of is playing piano or in the band.

I feel inspired about my marks this term. I like all my courses, all my teachers, it's spring, summer vacation is ahead, I just had a great vacation at home, and I feel like the things I can learn this term are important to my future. I feel like 4.0 material. So I'll stop now and get my French ready for tomorrow.

Sun. night

My brother is getting married

The package came yesterday. Surprises like the blouses are so nice! They fit and I like them, though I can't wear them with too many things. I haven't tried on the dresses you let down yet. The skirts fit well but I'm going to take them up an inch, the pink one tonight. I also took up the Helen Harper one. As for the way they hang, they look straight around when on alone, but under my trench coat they hang in front at least an inch. After careful study I think it's mostly if not all the coat's fault; it's shorter in front.

Two things you mentioned in your letter: (1) The contacts have been shelved again till summer. I am sure, sure, I can do it then. (2) I didn't drop string bass. Your letter saying it was a shame to drop it and right afterward running into Pete with his charming smile, I just couldn't tell him I was dropping his course.

So here I am again with fourteen credits and two jobs and working to take another course by exam. Mr. Gamble decided the "gifted" kids eligible to take Mu 45 shouldn't have to go to the regular classes of it, MWF 3rd, so he's holding a special class for four or five on Monday nights at 8:00. Since I'm free I had to take advantage of it. It will be, I think, me, Mary Hylbert, Dick Althouse, and Joe Furst.

I always wonder if I get into all these time-taker-uppers because I want an excuse for not concentrating on one particular thing and doing very well in it.

I got my first paper back in English 112 Friday, a B. I'm determined to get an A in that course. It was a description of an activity from the first person point of view; I did a second-grade ballet class. He said the "writing is convincing, often very sharp" but that the whole thing was insignificant, didn't have a purpose. I wasn't trying to make it purposeful and knew it wasn't. The next one is due Friday, a character sketch. I'm doing it on Mrs. Schlumpf, the ballet teacher, and I think I can make it "significant".


My brother's getting married, contd.

Maybe you saw on TV or read in the news about Penn State's 50-mile hike. Some university in Scotland challenged us to see who could have more students finish a 50-mile walk in 24 hours. Over 1100 kids registered for it (girls had to have written parental permission; 221 girls signed up). 700-some kids actually started out last night at 8:00, including three girls from my hall. We won the contest, I forget by how many. But, from the kids who went, it was really grueling. The girls on my floor quit after 42 miles.

There were supposed to be check-in stops with food every five miles. They turned out to be every ten or twelve miles. The third one was the first to have coffee and the halfway-mark one was the first to have sandwiches. The route was over dark back roads, the kids were spread out over ten miles, and the roads were not policed. The hikers were harrassed by kids in automobiles who grabbed at the kids as they went by, tripped and poked them with sticks. An MG chased a couple of kids up into a field. A '63 Cadillac got a bottle through its windshield. The kids who went all look half dead.

I got a letter from Bill last week that antagonized me, I can't really say why. He said "In case Judy didn't mention the specific part you are to have in the wedding, you are to be maid of honor, which means you will be escorted by Fred [a cousin, 15-20 years older] , who will be best man".

For some reason this made me mad. I'm sure they just decided to make me maid of honor because they would rather have me with Fred than one of Judy's girfriends, because when we were home she talked to me about being a bridesmaid. I suppose it shouldn't make any difference to me, considering that Fred will be with Millie [his wife] at the reception anyway, not that I would want to be with him, but I understood that at wedding parties the bridesmaids and ushers are paired off. I'd love to know what I'm going to do at this "reception from 2 to 5 with an orchestra".

This whole thing nauseates me. Bill wrote "We'll try to get out to see you this term". I hope he doesn't strain himself; his visits are such a joy to me. He closed with "Don't forget to drop a line to your future sister-in-law (underlines his). I couldn't care less about my "future sister-in-law" or this stupid marriage, because I consider it stupid and wish they'd leave me out of it. I can't help it, we have so little in common (Bill and I), I feel like I don't care about him or anything he does at all, which sounds horrible.

Anyway, suddenly having this maid-of-honor bit dumped on me made me mad. I wrote to Judy, not Bill, and said that maybe Bill had got it wrong, but he'd written that I was to be maid of honor, which was an honor I just couldn't accept because I didn't think the maid of honor and best man should be relatives, and I didn't want to be escorted by a relative.

It is now Monday morning and I got a letter from Judy. She says the girl she asked is now pregnant and so won't be able to be maid of honor. She says that it doesn't put her on the spot, though, if I would rather be a bridesmaid, and she is glad I let her know how I feel.

I hope they don't feel negative about me now. She says two things: "We just thought you might like standing up for us better." "Also, according to etiquette, the groom's sister is usually asked to be maid of honor instead of bridesmaid."

I always thought that bridesmaids and maids of honor were friends and relatives of the bride, and ushers and best men were friends and relatives of the groom.

I may as well shut up on the subject and let matters take their course.

The Mu Phi pledge concert is this Friday night. Mary Hylbert and I are playing a piano duet. As of now, anyway. The pledge master called another meeting for tonight because there have to be more solos in the program (so far, Bonnie's the only one, with a clarinet solo), because it has to be longer, because the sorority's province governor is going to attend.

Please call Dr. Wagner and see if he'll give me a prescription for Perihemin. I still think they'd be good for me.

4:30 p.m.

Mu Phi Epsilon honorary music sorority

I'm writing from a cozy private little 2x4 room in Ritenour where I am isolated with the measles. So far it's really nice because it's pouring out and I'd rather be here than out there and I haven't gotten tired of reading yet.

I hear the tinkle of dishes and silverware. The dinner trays just came out of the elevator. Lunch was really good—barbecues, potato chips, soup, crackers, sherbet, a cookie and coffee.

Dinner just came in. My menu: pork chop, mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed vegetables, iced raisin bread, waldorf salad, lemon pie, coffee.

And it's all so pretty on a tray with a little sugar and creamer and salt and pepper shakers and the coffee in a pot and matching napkin and place mat. I just started on it and the mashed potatoes are real.

I just finished. Carol said she lost weight while she was here and I can see why. The food is pretty but the servings are small. And the boys upstairs get the same portions we do.

Anyhow, this is fun. I don't itch much, mostly my neck. I'll probably be here three days and can catch up on some reading.

This morning I got up at 9:00, planning to go down to the Arts dean to see if I could drop string bass (Now I've given up the idea again; I'll miss my lesson tomorrow anyway) and then come over here to see if I could get a prescription for Perihemin before my third period class. I noticed while washing that I looked sort of awful around the eyes, but didn't think anything about it. Then I started to put on makeup and noticed my splotchy neck. So I came over here first.

I didn't get a chance to ask about the Perihemin. Ritenour is very busy. You go into the lobby first and tell the receptionist what's wrong with you. I said "I have a rash" and she asked if I was ready to stay awhile. She gets out your card, tells you to sit down and wait for your name to be called. So after a half hour I got into the doctor's office. He said "Where's your rash" and I showed him my neck and he said "Say no more. You'll have to stay awhile. Give this to the nurse." So I took the yellow paper he gave me out to the nurse in the hall and was taken right over to the hospital part of the building. Maybe a doctor will come around before I'm discharged and I can ask about Perihemin then.

Bonnie brought some things over for me in my train case but was not allowed in to see me.

The Mu Phi Epsilon pledge concert was kind of awful, I thought. Mary and I played a Moussorgsky sonata that was too simple, sounded like something out of John Thompson, because we couldn't find anything harder, and didn't even play it very well. Thank heavens it's over.

Yesterday I ushered at the Blue Band concert; Mu Phi was asked to provide the ushers. Tina Burkholder, a Mu Phi and the band's first trumpet, played a long solo. She's very good. Her name was on the cover with Mr. Dunlop's, as "soloist".

Last week Janie and I put in our dorm applications for next year. We put down McElwain: 1st choice and Simmons: 2nd choice.

On my way over here this morning I looked in my mailbox and found a package sign but the post office didn't open until noon, so I'll have to wait three days before I see the jumpers, darn.

What I hate missing is Mr. Gamble's Music 45 class tonight. It's really fun and he's going so fast and starting so deep I have to work to catch up. I spent Sunday night (last night) reading a book on figured bass to understand what he's talking about and he's making assignments and I did a really good job on harmonizing a chorale melody we were supposed to do for tonight.

I'm getting a nice vacation. Maybe I'll even get letters written to Kathy and the two B's, for once.

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