Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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If my letters seem needlessly full of information about classes and grades, it's partly to avoid telling my parents about other things, like my anemic social life. But to reiterate for the umpteenth time, Penn State isn't where I really wanted to be. I wanted to be done with it and out on my own, and now it appears I have things under control to graduate in only ten terms, less than three years.

Letters from Penn State - May 1964


Spring Week Carnival

It will be two weeks tomorrow since I last wrote. The time has flown. I would've this past week except Steve McMillan called on Monday and asked if I could play for the L'il Abner rehearsals. So I spent every minute practicing the music and then the evenings in Schwab. It's really a good show and I'm so glad I had a finger in it! Friday morning the director, Alan Just, and Jerry Bartell, who plays General Bullmoose, were interviewed on the "Second Chair" TV show and I played for Jerry, who sang "Progress is the Root of All Evil". And I got a complimentary ticket for Thursday night, in the first row center section of the balcony, where the accoustics are best. Those shows are more fun than enything. The casting in this one is especially good. Daisy Mae, who is played by Joan Sork, was cast on the condition that she would get her hair yellow-blonde. So Joan, who has naturally medium-brown hair, has been having successive lightening jobs done for the last couple months. She's still in the strawberry blonde stage.

Your trip next Sunday sounds so inviting. Of course, anything along that line would, I'm counting the days till vacation (38). Is Oxford in Maryland too? Will you spend the whole week traveling? Lucky Chris. Out-of-season vacations must have an entirely different atmosphere.

I am slogging along in my classes. My second English paper was also a B. "...writing's OK, if not striking, and you handle the dialogue quite competently..." I did it and the one due last Wednesday the night before. This next one I will definitely start tonight. It's due a week Monday. The French 2 midterm is Tuesday. I got a 78 in the only quiz we've had in it so far. The English 189 midterm is a week Monday.

Last night Carol and Becky and I and another girl from Simmons went to the Spring Week carnival out by Beaver stadium. It was really something to see, but I don't think many people, us included, were prepared for how cold it was and how windy. They have a carnival every other year. The sororities and fraternities and some dorms have tents for "side shows" in which they put on 10-20 minute skits. The shows and their outside decoration and ballyhoo are really good and inspired, because their organizations get points for the number of tickets they collect. The sorority-frat group with the most points gets a trophy at the awards program Tuesday night, at which Miss Penn State is crowned and other honors are given out.

Tickets cost ten cents apiece and were sold at three central booths in the middle of the rectangle formed by the 30-some skit tents. They should have had more ticket-booths because the lines at them were a mile long. We each bought six and only used five because it was freezing. It was a great kind of carnival, though, because they all put on such good shows outside their tents to get you to come in. Each tent had an assigned theme, all based on history, like "Gutenberg's Printing Press", "Louis XIV", "Salem Witch Trials". We went to Carol's (Henry VIII), Becky's (Ghenghis Khan), and three others: Custer's Last Stand, Incarnation of Cheops, and Battle of Hastings. I thought "Ghengis Khan" was the best, because they had a lot of chairs inside and the stage was up high enough so the people who stood could see anyway. And the actors talked loud enough.

The noise was terrific. Every tent had drums, if nothing else. They all had raised platforms out front for their dancing girls and jazz bands to perform on. Indians did war dances around a man in agony on the stake in front of "Custer" all night.

They all had girls dancing. The Salem Witch Trials had girls in cute little witch costumes with short skirts and black stockings out front doing the can-can. Oedipus Rex had a boy stripper out front. The theme of every skit and every barker's spiel was sex and one barker just stood and screamed "sex, sex!" (Rape of the Locke). Each group had advertisers walking around in costume. The tents had impressive fake fronts. To get into "Ghengis Khan" you went into a dragon's mouth. There were two big gold sphinxes in front of "Cheops", there was the Parthenon and a French sidewalk cafe and a '20s "flicker" theater ("Son-of-a-Sheik") and saloons and an Aztec temple. It was fabulous. The rides (ferris wheel, octopus, etc., went almost neglected, mainly because it was so cold and it was better to be in the crush of people in a tent. They didn't even have hot drinks for sale, just soda and popcorn and candy apples and cotton candy, etc. But it is really a great uncommercialized carnival; I just wish Spring Week was a little later in May.

I've been pretty busy the last couple of weeks. Both Sundays I had to usher as a project of Mu Phi Epsilon, first for the band concert, then for the glee-club/chorus concert. Our pledge party is next Monday night. We should be sisterized pretty soon.

It'll be so interesting to have new neighbors at home. I can't wait for the summer. The Charlmont is supposed to call sometime in May. [Apparently I applied for a summer waitressing job.] Let me know right away when they do. I have to go work dinner.


I think I can graduate in 10 terms

Can you believe this, another letter in only two days?! I just thought of a couple of things I forgot to mention.

First the clothes. I took up both skirts and they are fine. And I love the shifts. They are just the right length and they're perfect to wear around here. People must be sick of seeing me in them already. They don't wrinkle and I wear them every other day.

And while on the subject of clothes, I've already gotten to taking the iron for granted. I don't know how I ever got along without it. I never realized how much time I spent fooling around with those rattle-traps downstairs. Now I just go down and plug mine in and in a minute it's hot. It looks so nice with its mirror-finish bottom next to all those down there covered with brown scorch. It's wonderful.

You asked about funds. Well, I certainly have enough money, as you can imagine. My next payment on the contacts will come when I get my paycheck at the end of this week. Last pay-time I paid $20 to Mr. Wareham for a "fake book" which he has ordered for me from N.Y. It's one of those illegal collections of hundreds of songs, just melody line and chords.

I want to keep you completely informed class-wise. This morning I told Pete that I would rather take an F in String Bass and forget the rest of the term. The highest I could get now even if I kept on is a D, and it hardly makes any difference at all in a one-credit course. It will lower my term average less than .2. Even with the F, I think I may get a 3.0 this term. This is optimism, but the lowest possible with the F is 2.29. And it's really a load off my mind. I hope you see it that way. I can't drop it now. So I'm just forgetting about it.

I was outside sun-tanning yesterday and today and have a lovely burn. The whole front lawn of McKee was packed today, a sea of bathing beauties. Everything smells delicious and looks beautiful.

I am really considering graduating in March now. I'm not absolutely sure I can. Fall and Winter terms next year I would have 13 credits each (13, not 14, is supposed to be the limit you may schedule unless you have made a 3.0 or 3.5, I forget which, the previous term) and I would just make it. Anyway, when I preregister for fall later this term, I'm going to schedule the 13 credits of required subjects so that if I can, and if I want to, I will be able to graduate in March.

There's a Junior Resident meeting in a few minutes (about the sunbathing, certain excesses like unbuttoning the top of a 2-piece when you're lying on your stomach so your back will be all tan).

Sun. night

Carol is leaving her sorority

It's late so this is another short scrawl. I don't know where the time goes. Thank heavens it does, anyway. Only 25 days more. My last exam is French, from 8:30 to 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 11 and unless I can get a ride I'll come home on the 10:30 bus. Pete graduates and won't leave till Sunday; Carol's going home Wednesday. So it would be perfect if you can come up Saturday or Sunday the 6 or 7th.

I have a story due Friday that must contain symbolism. I just can't think of a symbol! I'm going to write about a young married college couple, because I was really impressed by one I baby-sat for earlier this term. He's a pitcher on the varsity team and she's very pretty and artistic and they both come from well-to-do-families. They have a darling two-room $90-a-month apartment and a six-month-old baby. It looked perfect.

Now it's Monday afternoon. I'm out on the front lawn trying to get a suntan before my fifth period class. I haven't used water in the iron yet. And don't bother to send the pink and white shirtwaist, there isn't that much more time to wear it.

Carol and I got together last week in the Lions Den. Her deactivating was a result of several incidents. She didn't like a lot of the things her sisters did. The night of the carnival, we stopped in at East Halls for a minute so she could show us the suite. Her big sister was there with her boyfriend and they were "deeply involved" with each other when she introduced us, and didn't bother to disentangle themselves. And there was a $10 fine if she wasn't back out at the fairgrounds to help clean up, though it would be the Kappa Sigma boys who would do all the work, and it was very cold. There were a number of things she didn't agree with. So she is going to get a room in Simmons again next year, may have to take a single. Janie and I tried to change our room preference to Simmons but couldn't, so we'll probably get in McElwain.

I was really going to send money this last pay period, but due to things like shoe-heeling and skirt-pressing, etc., I didn't. I will get the $40 finished with this term. Have you heard from the Charlmont yet? I've been wondering, if they decide not to use me, if they just won't contact me at all.

I guess I'll be playing for Mrs. Schlumpf's recital. [I have a job as accompanist for a ballet school in town.] I think it's the end of this month but she hasn't named the day yet. If I don't get the Charlmont job, she wants me to come out here for the three weeks in July when she's giving a concentrated summer course with a modern dancer brought in from the Jose Limon troupe in NYC. But I've told her she better find somebody else.

I've got to leave for Eng. 112 now. The heat is terrific and the lawn is covered with girls; also several boys. It's very disillusioning to walk through the quadrangle now. It's thick with boys courting old Sol. You'd think they'd get their tans playing tennis. Ah, well.

Tues. night

Bonnie and I are on the outs

The time is flying by, only sixteen days. Your trips sound so wonderful I almost hope I don't get the Charlmont job and can come with you if you go places. I guess I never was the greatest traveler in the world, Chris is much more appreciative than I was, but I'm so glad I've been places with you; it comes in handy all the time. My English 189 term paper is on "Our Town", the theme of which is that people never appreciate what they have, that they take life for granted. How true. But I'm getting to appreciate you more and more.

Enclosed is a money order; now I owe you twenty dollars. If I don't get a job this summer it's going to be uncomfortable to go back on an allowance.

Last week was filled up with another "special". Margery Bloomfield, the girl lead in "Fair Weather", called Tuesday and said she'd been asked to sing at the Candlelight Club Saturday night and would I accompany her. So I said yes. The Candlelight Club is a nightclub in the HUB ballroom on Saturday nights, $2.00 a couple, with good dance bands, candles and checkered table cloths, a marquee and red carpet at the entrance, and coke and Sprite served in drink glasses. It's really nice.

We got together twice before Sat. night, and I wasted all my time up to 10:00 that evening trying to make a jazzy enough accompaniment for "I Get a Kick Out of You", etc. She was supposed to sing during the band's break, but the drummer and bass player stayed to back her up, thank goodness, and I didn't feel so alone. In fact, I felt pretty good. It's fun to play in a little dance group like that; I kind of wish I were a boy and had more of an opportunity to. The bass player, who also sang with the band, sat down and talked to us afterward. He was a nut, sounded like Pal Joey or something, talking about how he was with "the Cops", etc. We got a capsule life history of him in five or ten mintues. He was brash and bragging, smooth and handsome, obviously never going to get anywhere, but he had the glamour of someone who dreams and gambles.

Sunday night Mu Phi held its sisterization ceremony and I am now a sister. The pins hadn't come in yet, but they pinned long-stemmed white roses on us; we had to wear white to the ceremony and they covered our faces with white veils. It was held in the home of Dr. Andrews, a female Music Ed prof, and we had cake and ice cream and punch afterward. I won't go into the details of the ceremony; they are secret.

Bonnie just came in the room. She is mad at me and I can't really blame her. If we aren't speaking when you come to visit, don't be surprised. I think that has been maybe the major adverse element of this school year: I don't like my roommate. And like it or not, your roommate has an effect on you, maybe bigger than I thought. Last night Bonnie turned out her light at one, and I kept mine on and didn't take my work out to the lobby to finish as I've always done before (she's always in bed before I am). So the light was on till nearly two and Bonnie got out of bed and cried and said she had an ulcer (I thought ulcers were in the stomach; she says it's in the mouth and she can only sleep on one side, the side facing my light). Anyhow, I said I was sorry, afterward, but she was sobbing hysterically and of course I know how much I hated DeDe for the 200 watt ceiling light at night, but I never left my light on before, I always set my hair in the bathroom. However, despite these defenses, I realize that I did it a lot to antagonize her, because I don't like her. I need to get away from her. This sounds so petty and stupid, and I hate sour notes in letters, I shouldn't have mentioned it.

Lately I've begun to think I must have made Bill and Judy mad. Before, they were up twice or more a term. This term they haven't come at all, and I haven't heard from them since Judy's letter saying I could be just a bridesmaid if I wanted. They probably are mad, because I was mad when I wrote to Judy and it probably sounded that way.

Also lately though, I've started to feel better about their getting married. Before, I didn't even want to think about it, for various psycho reasons. Now I'm all for it, if that's what they want.

The term is coming to its usual bustling busy finish. The ballet school is having its recital Friday night the 5th and I have to play for it, in the high school auditorium. Dress rehearsal is the 3rd. My final story is due Monday, the 189 paper is due the 5th, Part I of the French final is Tuesday the 9th, and the 189 final is the 10th, and after French Part II Thursday night, I will probably take the bus.

And I have to pack. I've accumulated a lot of stuff; be prepared. We may as well take the bike home, I don't think I'll use it next year. And there's the trunk, green wardrobe, two overnight cases, your tan suitcase, sax, record player, and books, etc. Tell me what day you're coming; maybe bring a picnic.

Tues. night

End of spring term

I should have written before but I was busy with my last English 112 story. And I'll be swamped the rest of the week with the 189 paper due Friday and the recital rehearsals, recital Friday night. Which is why I hope very much you come Sunday instead of Saturday, because I won't get around to packing until after French Saturday morning.

Bonnie has already turned out her light so I have to, too, in a minute. This is just a note to let you know I'm still here. Bobby Fisher, 6-time National Chess champion, was in Waring lounge Sunday afternoon, playing 50 people at once and talking. It's really impressive to observe such a brain at work.

I would love to drive out to Williamsport with you. I'd love to go anywhere.

Right now I've got to go to bed.

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