Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


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I'd forgotten my roommate's blowup with her father until rereading these pages. My own parents made my life so easy. Thank you once again, dearest parents. I'll never stop thanking you.

Letters from Penn State - January 1963

10:45 a.m.

Back for Winter Quarter

I got in at 8:00 last night, just fifteen minutes late. There were small buses at the station to take kids and their luggage anywhere on campus for thirty-five cents. The "limousines" stopped at McKee first, so I was in the dorm at 8:15. DeDe has arrived, Bonnie and Kristi haven't. I slept in 106.

This morning I went over to Waring and picked up my meal ticket and key. Also I got my job back and changed from a 0 to a 1 (taxes). I work lunch and dinner today and all three meals tomorrow. By late tomorrow afternoon the weekend schedule will be up. I saw three other old-timers at the employment office and two new ones.

Carol got in at 3:00 yesterday. I talked to her last night. Rita isn't here yet. I can't unpack my suitcases until Kristi arrives and we make the shift, so I hope she comes this afternoon. [In the fall it was me and DeDe in 104 and Bonnie and Kristi in 106. Kristi and I are switching places.] I register at 9:30 on Saturday. Division of Counseling will have a visitor this afternoon.

We workers eat at eleven so I'll have to close. That was awfully nice of you, to stand in that cold slush till the bus pulled out yesterday. It's lousy weather here too, a cold drizzle. But my room is so cozy and warm (hot!) that I have the window halfway up.


I'm now a Music Ed major

Changing curriculums certainly involves a lot of walking! I went back and forth from the Home Ec building to the Ed building, to Willard, to the Division of Counseling, waiting in the longest slowest lines at each place. But I am now in Music Ed., and my new advisor, Dr. Paul Campbell, is wonderful. When the red tape department finally got around to demanding my old advisor's signature, I went reluctantly over to Mrs. Lawson's office. And lo and behold, she has gone to Arizona for a vacation. So I talked to her new replacement, Mrs. Walker, who was very nice and didn't care what I did, and didn't try to talk me out of switching.

It's now Sunday. I worked breakfast, dishing out the French toast, syrup, and cocoa. Mrs. Schleiker asked for my schedule this morning to plan the meals for the coming week. My schedule, planned with the dining hall in mind, is beautiful. I have all breakfasts free, all dinners free, and only three lunches blocked. This means that in the five-day week I am free to work twelve out of the fifteen meals, while last term I was free for only six.

I hope she puts me down more often. I know they appreciate kids who stick around and come back. So many work for only a few weeks and quit. I'm up to a dollar an hour now and working up to a dollar ten. Friday morning I was serving eggs when Mrs. Neal came over and asked me if I could stay after and help with some box lunches. I did, and it was fun besides giving me four hours on the time card. Waring had to prepare five hundred lunches to take over to Rec hall for the people who are helping with registration. I put gelatin salad on plates, bagged brownies, and packed rolls. Then I went over to Rec hall with Joe Lasusky, who also stayed, to help serve the soup. Think of all the lovely money!

There are only four girls working so far. Barb Turing, Judy Powers and I are back, and there is one new girl, Joy. She came over from East halls.

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday my only class is Philosophy 4, meeting from 2:20 to 3:35. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday I have Music 5 from 9:35 to 10:50 and Biological Sciences 1 from 11:10 to 12:25, both with Carol. That's really a coincidence. Also on Tuesday I have a no-credit education-indoctrination course, Ed Ser 10, at 2:20. After that, at 3:55, all Mu Ed students meet in the band room in the armory for announcements and programs of general interest.

Dr. Campbell decided that I ought to get active in some musical organization right away, so he put me in the women's chorus which he directs. It meets for two and a half hours every Wednesday evening starting at 6:30. A show is in the planning stages, combining the women's chorus with the men's, which Mr. Gullo directs. I think I will like it very much.

Idiot me lost my matric card at Registration yesterday and was nearly going out of my mind at the thought of paying four dollars for a new one. Just a minute ago a boy called and said he'd found it. I didn't see how anyone couldn't have found it, since I had it at the last station of registration and had just crossed the street to McKee when I noticed it was gone. But I'd given up hope on it, after checking with the lost and found twice, and nobody phoning. The boy is at Beta Theta Pi, the richest frat on campus, and I'm supposed to go over there this afternoon to get it back.

I love my roommate. Bonnie is so sweet and so fair, we seem to see eye to eye on most things. [She's a Music Ed major.] I hope we never get on each other's nerves, as roommates can so easily do. She is one of the nicest girls I have ever known. We don't see each other much, what with her always with Jere [her Blue Band boyfriend since high school] and me trying to get my schedule fixed or over at the dining hall. My schedule still isn't complete. I have to see Mr. Brinsmaid to find out if he can fit me in for piano lessons.

I have to go now. Thank you for the check. I may need it for the lessons. Bonnie says they cost around two dollars a lesson, nine lessons a term.


Getting insulted in music class

This afternoon all the Mu Ed students met in the armory for lesson schedules. Happily they had room for me in the piano department and I am down for a period with Mrs. Kokat on Friday morning. And chorus meets for the first time this term tomorrow night. Suddenly I feel very "in" music.

This morning was my first Music 5 class. The prof's name is Wareham. He began by saying that many of the students probably thought they were at a disadvantage, having had nothing about music before, compared to any music majors in the class. Then he asked everyone in Mu Ed to raise their hands. I was the only one in a class of about fifty, because I'm taking it at an odd time. So he said "In this entire class there is only one music major and for all we know she probably shouldn't be here anyway. There's a good chance she'd make a much better Phys. Ed. teacher or biochemist. So you see, you are pitted against students with experience on a par with your own----". Sheesh!! Remind me never to raise my hand again.

Carol just called to tell me she made the Chapel Choir. Not too lucky! I would dearly love to be in that too. Maybe singing in this chorus will improve my voice.

Carol and I started out in Bi Sci together this morning, plus Pete Yestrumskas, but the room got slightly overcrowded and everybody from Pinkerton to Zweiger had to move, all the way over to 209 Home Ec South, where I had CLTX last term. Darn it! Sparks would have been so convenient for me.

I got two of my books used, two new. Bonnie sold me her Phil 4. My Music 5, which was written by the head of the Penn State music dept., is also third-hand. My Phil prof also wrote his own book, called "The Balanced Life". His name is Hans Freund and he has a fairly heavy German accent.

It's now 10:00 Wednesday evening and I just got back from Chorus. Am I sold! We practiced with the boys' chorus for a concert to be given on February 17 and it sounded so beautiful that I wished it would never end. There was one I liked especially, called "I Hear A'Prayin'" or something like that. It's a Negro spiritual and really wonderful. Also a song from Brigadoon, "The Heather". Mr. Gullo, the boys' leader, rehearsed us, and I never heard such a powerful rousing enthusiastic voice. I am so, so glad I am in music. I paid for my piano lessons this morning, 21.50.

Bonnie and I are getting along beautifully. You can tell I'm in a good mood this evening; the whole day has gone very well. I worked an extra meal this evening, due to a shortage of help. Tomorrow is the tenth, I hope we get paid, instead of waiting for the twenty-fifth.

Last Saturday night I went to a wrestling match over at Rec Hall. Lehigh beat us by a narrow margin. I never went much for wrestling in high school but somehow this was very exciting. Maybe it's the college atmosphere. Our team is pretty good. The basketball team won its game, which was played immediately after the wrestling, against Temple.

I work breakfast tomorrow and have to read another chapter in Bi Sci yet, so will close.


Clothing Necessities

Thank you for the dress. It came yesterday morning along with your letter. I think it's the prettiest dress I've ever had and it fits perfectly. It is perfect, the length, the belt, everything!

While on the subject of clothes, I have more needs. We were told that the standard dress of the Women's Chorus is a black skirt and black blouse, black heels, and a white blazer with a Penn State crest. My paycheck on the twenty-fifth will be sizable, since I've been working about twice as much as I did last term. I thought I might buy the blazer, I hear they run about fifteen dollars, and you could make me a plain black sheath. That little black dress I do have is short-waisted and doesn't look very good any more. Also, I'd prefer a textured wool. This sounds like an order to Sears Roebuck or something. But I wouldn't have to have it until the middle of next month, Feb. 17. Tell me what you think.

I never did see this Jack LaLanne while at home, and still can't understand how a muscle man could be more of an incentive than Debbie Drake, but good luck with your resolution. I just had a thought, maybe he's on the air out here. I'll tune in Monday morning.

My bus trip back was very safe as far as menacing strangers go. That woman I sat with from Scranton got off at Wilkes_Barre. Then the woman who had been sitting across the aisle asked if I'd mind if she joined me. So she moved over and yakked at me for all the next two hours till I got off at Sunbury. What a character! She's the kind of gossipy idiot you read about in stories. I hardly had to say "Um Hmm" every five minutes. But she was interesting. She's a piece-worker in a shoe factory in Carbondale and I got an earful about the unions, the civil service (one of her sons is a professional fireman), and her daughter-in-law, whom she was on her way to visit, who had just had a caesarian. The bus from Sunbury to State College was an extra, to cart all the college kids, and it didn't have a luggage compartment. So I ended up sitting with my suitcases on the seat beside me.

I cashed the check, by the way. My first piano lesson yesterday was inspiring. Mrs. Kokat is about twenty-five, small, blonde, black harlequin glasses, and wore an apricot sweater-and-skirt set. She is very pretty and has a lovely voice. I brought along Hanon, the Bach two-part inventions, and Chopin's waltzes. She assigned me the first twenty Hanon exercises, a waltz, an invention, and told me to call up Pifer's in Bellefonte and order the three-part ones, which I did this afternoon. She said that next week, after she'd heard how I did on those, she'd decide what sonata to give me. I like her a lot.

My Music 5 course is fascinating. I'm so enthused that I spent this afternoon listening to Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" in the HUB listening room, for examples of a coloratura soprano voice. That class is so interesting. Today Mr. Wareham played a record on which ordinary sounds were amplified and their frequencies speeded up or slowed. They all sounded so impossible that I couldn't guess even one. Busy signals, coffee perking, screen doors slamming, a match being extinquished in water--they were not of this earth. He dropped a block of wood and asked if we thought it had a musical tone. Nobody was sure. Then he threw seven other blocks on the floor, one at a time, and it played a scale. He has us humming and singing, jabbing our diaphragms, and waving our arms around in circles to put a tremolo in our voices.

I went to an InterVarsity meeting again last night and have definitely decided that it was my last. The speaker kept having us turn to different pages in the Bibles that were on the seats to follow along. They discussed plans for having Billy Graham visit the campus.


The Angst of Sorority Rushing

It is now no longer afternoon; I just got back from chorus. I'm glad I'm in that instead of the chapel choir. That music is so gorgeous that I'm hoarse. We practice from seven till ten, actually ten-fifteen, because he always runs over. At 8:30 there's a 15-minute break when we can go down to the Lion's Den for cokes. I go over with Pat Maurer, who lives next door. We practiced with the boys again. I think they're better than we are. Last week and this week when they came in to join us after the break, they sang us a song, very impromptu, while taking their seats. Tonight it was "Lida Rose". But the boys are mean to Dr. Campbell when he directs instead of their own Mr. Gullo. They boo and hiss when he gets up. Mr. Gullo rates cheers and applause. How juvenile! And Dr. Campbell is one of the nicest men I've ever met. Mr. Gullo does get more out of the boys, though. He sings right along with them and has a tremendous voice. I guess the two will share the directing at concert time.

Last night Carol and I met at the HUB to listen to records for Music 5. We put on "Porgy and Bess" and now know the difference between a baritone and a mezzo-sprano. But I think we could've figured that out anyway. Those listening booths are lovely for a private conference and I heard all about Carol's visit to Sigma Nu Saturday night. Then we went down to the Lion's Den for cokes, got all enthused from the jukebox, and went back to Ewing to practice the fruge. That dance is exactly the opposite of the twist. You go up and down instead of back and forth. It's closer to the hula. Carol gave me one of her travel posters to decorate the wall.

The main business of sorority rush is over. Ribboning was Monday night. Around 5:00 the sorority girls came in little bunches to the dorms. They put big welcoming posters on their new members' doors and slid the invitations under the doors, then ran away. Surprising to me, DeDe did not make it. Also surprising, Katie Stoodly was cut, and both girls seem like good sorority material to me. This is considering a couple of really plain girls I know who were pledged. Judy Shaw, definitely not plain of course (remember, my junior resident?) made Kappa Kappa Gamma. Carol's roommate, Bernie Brown, made Delta Zeta, which is a very highly regarded one. Out of eight hundred-and-some rushees, 513 were pledged. I know one girl, Donna Tartaglia, who was pinned (frat) on Saturday night and then ribboned on Monday. What a weekend! The fraternity, Delta Upsilon, sent her a dozen red roses.

This morning over at the dining hall the checker in A didn't show up, so Mrs. Neal gave me the job. About 7:15 Terry Flanagan looked out of the dishroom and told me I had his place. He thought he was on dishroom and didn't have to be there till later. Then Mrs. Neal told him to take the dishroom, that she'd gotten a replacement. The poor kid. But I had fun. Checking is the most wonderful job!

You don't have to send the clock. I'm doing all right. But bring it if you come. I'll try to write Bill [older brother] a letter. Things are picking up speed fast, though. My first Phil bluebook is tomorrow afternoon. Bonnie gave me her old Phil test questions to look over. She plays clarinet in the concert band. This term she is also taking violin and voice lessons.


Some people have scary parents

It never hit me so hard before how lucky I am to have you for parents.

I came in after working breakfast this morning and found Bonnie had been crying. She said "You may think you have money problems, working in the dining hall. Take a look at this." She handed me an envelope postmarked York and I sat down in the armchair and read her letter.

It was typed on the most magnificent-looking stationery I have ever seen, sort of on scrolls, appropriate for the aloof and dignified tone of the writer. It began "You have hurt us many times before. But we could never be prepared for as deep a hurt as you have caused us now."

Bonnie's father never wanted her to go to college in the first place. And if she simply had to go, he thought Westchester or Indiana would be better because they were cheaper. But Bonnie of course wanted to be with Jere. She convinced her father to let her come to Penn State by the argument that she would have to pay about three hundred dollars a year for music lessons at the state teachers' colleges, while at Penn State there was no extra charge. She didn't find out differently until her first term, when she didn't have any lessons. But she was scheduled for them in her winter and spring terms.

She didn't tell her father that she would have to pay for the lessons. She worked during Christmas vacation last year and used the money for the winter term lessons. In the spring term she worked in the dining hall, earning $119.00 which she didn't tell her parents anything about. The money covered her lessons last spring and this fall. She worked again this Christmas and has the money for this term.

Her income tax form was sent to her home address. Her father opens all her mail.

Bonnie's parents consider the money for their children's educations a loan in the strictest sense of the word. Bonnie keeps a complete record of every cent she spends and her father gets a copy. He expects every penny back and soon. Her older brother, three years out of college, has paid back more than half of his already.

Mr D. was very angry that Bonnie had had money he didn't know anything about. He felt that if she did earn any extra money, she should turn it over to him as part of the debt. He thinks she just used it for spending, and Bonnie won't tell him about the music fees because he would probably make her leave Penn State then and there.

Her father said he would "continue to loan her the tuition and housing money if she could present to him a good reason why he should, but she would get no more extra money from him, for anything, books and laundry and personal necessities included. Furthermore, while he wants her always to feel that their home is hers, she is old enough to accept long-overdue responsibilities. Whenever she comes home from now on, she will pay room and board. Also, there will be no more newsy letters from him, ever. If she doesn't see fit to tell them what she is doing, she need not hear what they are doing."

There were several paragraphs along the line of "you have been Queen for almost twenty years. It's time you came down and joined the multitudes." He signed off without any closing, just "Dad".

I gave the letter back to Bonnie and said "I don't have the slightest idea what to say." She said "Nobody else does either."

My roommate has been disowned by her family. That letter was impossibly cold. I can hardly imagine a person being that way with their own child. No wonder she is anxious to get married. Jere, by the way, says they are not going to pay back one cent of "the debt" and Mr. D. can take it to court if he wants to, that it's his obligation to pay for his own daughter and no one can force Bonnie to pay. Bonnie is worried about that, says she can see her father going after Jere with a gun. She says Jere is just waiting till they graduate and marry before he tells Mr D. to go to hell.

You have always been wonderful to me and I'm very grateful, especially for feeling wanted.

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