Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


Go to a different page:

Page # of 44

I'm trying to earn a degree in only three calendar years because what I really want is to move to New York City, get a job there, and start living a glamorous life.

Letters from Penn State - February 1963


The package arrived yesterday and everything fits. I love the skirt, it's a little longer than a couple of the ones I have, but I'm kind of glad of that. The fillers are right in style here. When I get my paycheck Friday I'm going to look for a red and white checked blouse to go with the red one and the navy skirt. That ought to look really nice.

Carol and I went to the movies last night to see "Gypsy" and to the Lion's Den for cokes afterward. Rosalind Russell stole the show as Gypsy's mother; Natalie wasn't exactly right for the stripper role. But we both liked the picture and left the theater feeling like burlesque is the most glamorous occupation in the world.

Yesterday I had my first Phil bluebook. It was three essay questions, half an hour to answer them in. I wouldn't hazard a guess as to my mark; Philosophy seems very vague and mostly-your-own-opinion to me.

My second piano lesson went quite well. You can't keep me away from Carnegie. Mrs. Kokat is ordering a book of Handel's Suites for me. I can't remember ever having anything by Handel before. She says he writes something like Bach. I admire her and like her an awful lot.

Yesterday I found a postcard in my box. It reads as follows:

  • You are eligible for PREP BAND. Report to 101 Armory for next rehearsal at 4 p.m., Tuesday, January 22.
  • James W. Dunlop

So think of me Tuesday at four when once again I pick up the good old sax.


Bonnie is Coping

Excuse the lapse in communication; this has been a pretty busy week. I just came back from working breakfast and got your letter.

Back to Bonnie: She wrote a short note to her father saying she accepts his terms. She says she is never going home again. She has enough money for next term, when she will start working in the dining hall again. Her father doesn't know that she does, because she keeps her money in two different banking accounts he doesn't know she has. This summer she will work and live with her aunt. She has already applied for a scholarship for next year and will probably get it, because her marks are very good. Jere is going on scholarships now, his parents simply don't have the money to give him. He graduates next year, then they can get married and will have income to get Bonnie through. During term break this time, only four days, the concert band is going on tour for two days. So Bonnie will spend the other two nights at Jere's House.

Jere's father called Bonnie's father to try to talk to him, but Mr. D. hung up on him. As for Bonnie's mother, she gets forty dollars a week, I think Bonnie said, or else twenty, and that is simply it as far as her expenditures for the house and clothing go. If you knew Bonnie and had all the information on her family, maybe you would feel as blank as I do about getting her to talk to somebody. There were two other children in her family, one between her and her older brother Roger and one between her and her younger sister Cathy. Both died and both were retarded. One died at age nine months, the other was fourteen or so. The whole thing sounds funny to me.

I got a D plus in my Philosophy blueboook. The test was divided into three parts (three essay questions). I got two C minuses and one D. I guess I better start spending some time on it. My first Bi Sci test is Tuesday night. It will be mostly objective.

I hope Grandma Shaw is better. I am going to write to her and Mrs. Young tonight.

Do the fabric samples mean you got both? I don't know what to say; I think that any time I feel like wearing a black sheath besides this concert, I would want to feel very dressed-up and the silk would be better. But then on the stage with the lights shining up, maybe the chino, more opaque, would be better. Oh, make it the silk. I just had that black dress in plain cotton. I got the blazer today, by the way. They were on sale, $11.89. Thank you for the check. The crest came separate and cost, of all the ridiculous things I ever heard, $1.00. The final price was $12.93. I got size 12, it fits very well and I bet I wear it to death. I put a plastic cleaner's bag over it to keep in the closet; it is a creamy white and seems like it might get dirty quite easily.

Band on Tuesday afternoon was fun in an exciting, afraid-in-the-stomach kind of way. I love it so much but I feel sort of on the defensive or something because I'm not good enough to deserve to be there. Prep Band is an organization for music majors who are taking their couple of terms on each different instrument and want group experience on it. Just about everyone there has another instrument they play really well in the Blue Band and this is just diversion.

Bob Fought was there, playing baritone, a brass instrument requiring lip movement the sax does not, and doing very well. Some people! His best friend, Max Mascia, who is first trombone in the Blue Band, played tuba. Peggy Shobert, who lives in McKee and was in my ice-skating class, switched from oboe to bari sax. And the whole "just-learning" group sounded at least twice as good as the high school band. Some beginners' group! I despise the feeling of just being tolerated, a hanger-on, in something over my head. But it is thrilling.

My second piano lesson went pretty well. I had the Bach invention memorized and she said that from the way I played it she has decided to give me a harder sonata when the book comes in next week. The practice rooms are absolutely free. You just go in and fight for one. One thing that bothers me is that it's against the rules to lock the doors and kids stick their heads in on the average of every fifteen minutes just to see who's inside. This is very distracting and I especially hate it when I'm bleating away on the sax. I've taken to locking the door anyway and just hoping the janitor doesn't come around to check.

I went over to White with Kathy last night to swim. It really felt good to be in the water again and we practiced diving. But I forgot to bring a scarf and my wet hair practically turned to strings of icicles on the way back to the dorm. It's been very cold here this past week, probably with you too. And the wind is terrific! It tears right through you.

Things at the dining hall are moving along happily. One night my bread-and-butter job was spiced up by the supervisor's telling me that Food Services had called to say there was an inch-long splinter of metal in one of the loaves and that the servers should watch out for it. That night was really fun; it was like a treasure hunt. Nobody found it, by the way. I am now the oldest-timer girl employee, which just goes to show you the turnover. Quite a few of the boys, though, have been working two or three years.

Only one of the girls I was with last summer is planning on coming back this summer and she is Joan Evans, Linda Myers' roommate. Linda has also switched out of Home Ec over to education. Rita, Kathy, and Joan are still in Home Ec and seem pretty attached to it. They probably won't change. There are many signs up now for interviews for summer jobs and they are tempting. But...

Carol's fourteen credits are Music 5 (3), Psych 2 (3), Bi Sci 1 (3), Chapel Choir (1), Phys Ed (tapdancing, 1), and probably English 3 (3), though I haven't heard her mention English, generally she would get her English requirement over with the first two terms. Next term I'm going to ask Dr. Campbell about loading it on; after checking my curriculum, it looks to me like I can't afford to take only ten credits, especially since I lost a few in switching, and still expect to graduate in twelve terms. Which I want, because I want to be in on June graduation exercises, the biggest of the year.

I hope you can come and visit soon. Welcome, any time. And don't forget to bring my flower!

Wed. afternoon

I will attend Summer Term again

Today is the most gorgeous day! It feels like June. Yesterday the temperature was 47 degrees. It must be sixty today. I do wish my bike wasn't in storage, but I guess I'll leave it there till the end of this month.

I'm really glad you came Sunday; it was a wonderful change from the usual pace, I don't mean just the food. I still have the apple setting on my desk, can't seem to take a bite out of it. I wish they'd have apples for dessert over at the dining hall.

I just got out of Phil class, where we were told the date of our final exam. It's first period (8:00) Wednesday, March 20, at Rec Hall. The ten-week period is over on Saturday, March 16. But this new program started last term and extra days are tacked on for finals, Monday , Tuesday, and Wednesday, the eighteenth to twentieth. So naturally I get one so late that I have to stick around till the last day. The residence halls open again on Sunday. I'll have three days at home. There will be a week between spring and summer terms. I've heard that summer term-ers will stay in West Halls again this year, and hope it's true.

Mrs. Bohn, our cleaning lady, came in yesterday morning to change the sheets and admired our decorations, even the windows, no word about the tape. So I guess we're safe. Bonnie says Hello, she likes the apricot squares. She stayed up late last night composing a minuet for Music 44 and it really sounds pretty good. I can't wait till I get some music theory courses but they all have a prerequisite, Music 1, which is only given in the fall term. I'm trying to figure out a schedule for summer term now, and I hope I don't run out of general courses like History and Psych to fill the gap.

Carolyn Chock, next door, and I went to the Jose Limon modern dance program at Rec Hall Sunday evening. It was very interesting; the lights and costumes were lovely. But I think I'd rather see ballet. We are going to see "The Turn of the Screw" at Schwab Friday night. It's an operatic form of the play, with Patricia Neway. Saturday afternoon is a gymnastics meet. I hear they are very good and am going.

Tomorrow morning I have to make up a Music 5 exam which is given tonight when I have chorus. So pardon the brevity of this letter. I'll probably write again on Saturday.

Sun. evening

Less Employment, More Studying!

The dress came on Friday. I wore it that evening to see "The Turn of the Screw". That fabric is very pretty and the length is just right, slightly longer than the green. Only one complaint: it is kind of loose through the bust, I think the side-seams should be deeper. It isn't necessary to send it home, though. There are only five weeks more and I'll wear the blazer over it and it would probably be better if you saw it, anyway. I'm looking for a pin for it.

It's Monday now. I got your letter this morning. First off, the money situation. I am so rich I feel guilty. Do you realize you have given me eighty dollars already this term? Even with twenty for piano lessons, that's still a lot of money. I got my second paycheck Friday, it was for $30.75. The one on the tenth was for $32.23. I sold my Soc. book for $5.80. Oh, and you sent me $15.00 for the blazer. I have earned $7.05 babysitting. So the total amount I have received so far this term is $170.83. That is staggering. I have spent a lot on clothes. This morning I opened a savings account at the Peoples National Bank. So that will be one place I can throw my money when I get my paycheck. It appears that my paycheck will stay around thirty dollars twice a month, which is three times the five dollars a week I was to get as an allowance. So far this term I have bought three expensive blouses, a sweater, a belt, a wool scarf, a blazer, a pair of mittens, a pair of black slacks, and three pairs of socks.

I have psychoanalyzed myself and decided the reason I spend so much money needlessly is because everything comes too easy for me and I don't have to work for it at all. I honestly envy the kids in the dining hall who have to work if they are going to eat. There are kids who work three terms in the dining hall and have the money for a fourth term from their paychecks, which they scrounge. I enjoy working and making money. Not because I have anything in particular in mind to do with the money; just to work, be doing something responsible, having someone depend on me to be there. I need to work.

Before you brought up the subject of contact lenses, which I had forgotten about recently for some reason, I was seriously thinking about the Foster Parents Plan, adopting a child for fifteen dollars a month. That would still leave me forty-five dollars a month. Now I've decided that even allowing for my impulsive spending (I bought a Dave Brubeck album Saturday), I can have the contact lenses by summer. Anyway, I need more money like a hole in the head, and feel guilty about the ridiculous amount I've spent already. And the order-out food this term! Money, money, money!

"The Turn of the Screw" in operatic form did not impress me much. The play on television was a lot more suspenseful. In opera you are supposed to appreciate the music even if you can't understand the words. The words were in English. I heard a man behind me say as we were going out, "I defy you to hum one phrase of that music." It was pretty tuneless. Interesting, but sort of boring after a while. The only words in the whole thing that weren't sung were the little boy's when he screamed "Peter Quint, you devil!". It sounded really odd to hear the woman sing lines like "Mrs. Grose, where is Miles?".

Carolyn and I went to the gymnastics meet with Army Saturday evening. We won 44-42 or something like that. It was really something. The things the boys could do were fantastic. They were all wiry-looking, with tremendous arms and chests. They could all do splits and hold themselves horizontal on their hands, sometimes just one hand. It was more entertaining than the wrestling match by far. The next one is on the twenty-third and I am certainly going to be there.

Due to certain technical difficulties, I still haven't made up my Music 5 mid-term. And I don't know what I got in my Bi Sci test, will find out tomorrow. So far in Phil I have two Cs and a D plus. I saw the final exam schedule today and see that in addition to the Phil exam first period on Wednesday, I have Music 5 fifth period and Bi Sci sixth. Which means I don't get through till about 5:30 on Wednesday March 20, and if I took the bus, and I like to ride on the bus, I would be stuck with the ten-thirty one again if I leave in the evening. So think about whether you care to come meet me at two a.m., Daddy. If Gerhard goes with Carol or vice versa, I don't want to be along. I don't think near as much of Gerhard as I did of Harry.

I told Mrs. Osipow Friday that I wouldn't be able to babysit for her any more after Monday, figuring a week's notice was enough for her to find someone else. So this morning I went over for the last time. It was too much. The only morning I had to sleep was Wednesday. Thursday I worked breakfast (up at 5:45), Friday I babysat (up at 6:15), Saturday and Sunday I worked breakfast, Monday I babysat, and Tuesday I worked breakfast. Then I'd spend my afternoons in bed. But I didn't want to get tied down to a steady job like that in the first place, just an odd job now and then.

I hope you're fully recovered now. Something is going around out here too; two of the girls on this side of the first floor are bedded down in Ritenour. Headlining in the Collegian was the information that a boy from Pollock had been rushed to Danville Medical Center, or Geisinger, on the suspicion that he had meningitis. Everyone who had been in close contact with him was to report to Ritenour for medication.

I was talking to Carol on the phone today. She said the Lewis' aren't too keen on Ronnie's coming to Penn State. A lot of people seem to have the wrong idea about this place. Penn State is the most wonderful college as far as anything and everything goes that---Oh, words. Everybody who comes loves it here. I can't imagine being at a small college. There is so much to do and see here. Carolyn and I went over to the HUB Sunday afternoon to see a showing of "Gigi", but they'd sent the wrong movie and "Spirit of Saint Louis" was playing instead, so we didn't stay. Next weekend it's "Blackboard Jungle". These movies cost twenty-five cents. "The Caine Mutiny" was shown over in Waring for a dime last Friday. They're all in color.

The concert is at 1:00 p.m. in Schwab on the seventeenth. We practice there this Wednesday with the brass choir and the organ, which are being used for special effects in "The ChristTheme" from Ben Hur, and "Polovetzian Dances" from "Prince Igor", parts of which are the same tune as "Stranger in Paradise". Dress rehearsal is Saturday at one.

This term is going fast, it's the busiest one yet. Pretty soon I'll see you again. Keep working on the trombone, Chris. The Blue Band needs you.

Sun. evening

The Co-ed Choirs Concert

The concert this afternoon was wonderful. Now I feel sort of let down because it's over and we won't ever be practicing that music again. Schwab was pretty well filled and I don't think we ever sounded better. Besides piano, there was also brass, drum, string bass, organ, and harp accompaniment on some of the numbers. The last one, "Polovetzian Dances", was climactic. It's 44 pages long, fast and driving. Every time we go through that, Mr. Gullo is exhausted. He gets red in the face and afterward pulls out his handkerchief. I wish you could have heard it.

Dress rehearsal was yesterday. We got to Schwab and found a note on the door saying it was to be held at the HUB instead. This was because the boys had been smoking on the stage when we practiced there Wednesday evening and dropped their ashes and cigarette butts on the floor, which is against the rules. Consequently it wasn't the greatest dress rehearsal in the world, since we were minus the harp and we were all spread out, not in the proper seating order. It's going to seem so boring from now on, just practicing with the girls. We give our own separate concert on May 19th.

I'm playing in a recital Tuesday evening, some of Mrs. Kokat's students. My contribution is a Chopin waltz. Five other girls are playing, none of whom I know, and Bob Fought. It is private, a little gathering in Mr. Brinsmaid's lesson room, just for us to hear each other. Tomorrow is going to be divided between practicing for that and studying for a Bi Sci test I have Tuesday morning.

Speaking of tests, I got a C in my first Bi Sci one. Brightening, my last Phil test was a B, which makes a D plus, two Cs, and a B so far in that. The Phil test I took on Friday I have grave doubts about, however. I predict a D. Anyway, this Fri. our assignment is a written report which I can probably dress up into a good mark. The crowning note this time is my mark in the mid-term Music 5 exam, a 95. Which is a lovely A, and very encouraging as far as being a music major goes.

Bonnie and I would like some chocolate chip cookies. We have discovered that they are our mutual favorite, if they are homemade. But Bonnie likes them better without nuts. Next time you get in a baking mood, think of us with these horrible store-bought things. We're always hungry for good home cooking.

Today was open house in McKee. The boys were free to drift in and out as they pleased and everybody had to leave their doors open. It was from two to five and I missed being around for it all because we had to be at Schwab at two and I didn't get back till five after four, and had to be over at the dining hall at four-fifteen. Bonnie had Jere in and they listened to the records they've gotten from the record club so far. Everybody had their record players on and with all the doors open it was really noisy. It's funny to see boys in the halls and in the rooms.

Bonnie has lost her room key, she left it in the lounge one evening last week and it hasn't been returned. She can't afford to pay for a new one, so we have been leaving the door open all the time. We took the decorations down tonight. Soon shamrocks will go up.

Bonnie is getting Life magazine in the mail now, so it's homey, being able to pick that up every week. I got Vogue on Wednesday.

There have been no drastic events over at the dining hall recently. There's a new rule that girls can no longer wear aprons, only the cooks can, and so you have to be sure to have a slip on hand for when you're wearing slacks. And from now on when people come back for more than two cups of coffee, you have to make them take it on a tray. This is because a kid went out of C with a stack of four cups and saucers and tripped. They don't make you pay for broken dishes around here, but four cups and saucers is equivalent to $4.40. In each of the dishrooms they have one of each piece of china mounted on the wall with the price painted on it in black magic marker. This is a reminder and it is hoped that it will make the boys more careful. [Only boys work in the dishrooms.]

It's late and I'm going to try to force myself out of bed tomorrow for an early breakfast, even though I don't work.

Sun. evening

Nude Snowmen

I just got back from Carnegie, where I spent a couple of hours. Mrs. Kokat certainly gives a lot for one week. She has already had me spend a small fortune on new music, and I ordered another book yesterday which will run the total higher, how much I don't know. So far I have nineteen Mozart sonatas ($4.16), Clementi's "Gradus Ad Parnassum" parts I and II ($4.36), and Bach's three-part inventions ($1.04). The one I just ordered is Kabalevsky's twenty-four preludes. So far I've done two more of the old Chopin waltzes, one two-part invention, two three-part inventions, a sonata, and pages of scales and exercises.

Mrs. Kokat is from Great Bend, Kansas. She could place you as near as Chanute and Parsons. She likes Pa. better, says it is more imaginative scenery. Her husband has his doctorate in econometrics and they are going to Washington next year. She is expecting a baby. The recital Tuesday evening was called off. It really snowed that day and Mrs. Kokat lives out in Park Forest, couldn't get the car through.

It sounds like you can hardly find time to be sick. What a schedule! Anyway, I guess your two servants [father and younger brother] are pretty loyal. This must just be the season for flu. Ritenour has cut out visiting hours temporarily. It's been that way for over a week because the place is jammed, and all with "communicable diseases".

By the way, I do know Reverend Lintern. He was Ned at the time, a lifeguard at Sky Lake the summer of 1957. I didn't know he was at Chinchilla. That's nice, I liked him.

What will happen to Shirley now? She was planning to go into nurse's training at Hahnemann in June. I wonder if it will help, since her father won't be opposing it any more, or if she will have to keep working because of financial difficulties. She's really had it rough.

It's now Monday evening. I just came back from dinner, which was Spanish steak, green beans, rolls, relish salad, and blueberry pie. Pretty good. Today was payday and I added ten dollars to my savings account. I am so proud of that little book! Bonnie is proud of hers, too. She has no withdrawals. And I sent a money order to Pifer's. Checks do have their points, but very limitedly for me. I guess there is still no need to be able to write them.

I still want to come to school this summer, but now wonder if there is any point in it. The way the music curriculum is set up, each course is only offered one term during the year, and none of them are offered in the summer. I'd have to take all general courses this summer, like speech and psych and history. Then I'd run out of general courses to take while I'm taking the basic music courses.

I don't think I can possibly get through in three years. Since last Wednesday I've been trying to see Dr. Fishburn to find out what I can do about scheduling, if I should come this summer, but he is sick. The posters are up now about summer term housing and applications were available starting today. The girls will stay in Simmons and McElwain, the boys in Pollock B and C, and the grads in Grange. Simmons and McElwain are the same age as McKee, and I think I would like living there.

Yesterday all the kids in the area high schools who had made district band were up here to practice with the Blue Band. I went over to listen. Bands are so beautiful, I wish I would spend more time on the sax. Next term I'm going to take sax lessons. Another reason I want to come in the summer is because I can take lessons then and will be sure to practice, and will probably make summer band again. Then maybe, with that under my belt, I can make Concert Band in the fall.

Penn State is lovely in the snow. It's been snowing off and on for several days, is snowing right now. An inter-fraternity snow sculpture contest is going on. Tuesday night, when the snow was fresh and deep and there wasn't any wind, people were out building snowmen all over the place. Qualifying that, on campus you rarely see a plain old ordinary snowman; we are too sophisticated for that. You see mostly very artistic nudes.

I'm going to call Carol and talk her into going to the movies tonight to see "Two for the Seesaw". I never get a chance to talk to her and haven't seen a movie in ages. This will take some talking, I have a feeling.

Page # of 44