Girl Coming of Age in the 1960s


Go to a different page:

Page # of 44

New York City is where I really want to be. I'm trying to get through Penn State as quickly as possible so I can go live there. Penn State is out in the country in the dead center of the state, "equally far from everywhere".

Letters from Penn State - April 1963

Sun. aft.

That Wonderful Trip to NYC

It's pretty hot here today. Out on the front lawn several girls are sun-tanning. One thing I'll say for Pollock: it was nice to have a private sundeck. This [McKee Hall] is very public. Not only can everyone with a room facing front look down on you, but you're visible to all the kids passing on the sidewalk.

New York was fabulous. I have mastered both the subways and the buses. And I must say, I feel perfectly qualified to go there on my own now. Last weekend I was free as a bird.

We left at about 8:30, after some fuss about the chaperones not being there and then finding that they had been sitting in the back of the bus all the time. Carolyn and I sat in the front seat. It was one of the buses the football team uses, with an elevated back part, and "Nittany Lions" painted on it. Just before noon we stopped for half an hour at a Howard Johnson's and got hamburgers and ice cream. We were at the New Yorker by three.

The hotel has forty floors and our group was scattered all over. Before we got our keys and separated, the group chairman wished us a happy weekend and said he would see us again at 6:30 Sunday evening out front to board the bus. He had distributed the tickets we paid for in advance en route. The girls' chaperone, Mrs. David Young (not over twenty-five and her husband was along too), had us meet in her room before we went to our own to establish a curfew. She felt that we really didn't need one, but it might be a good idea. If a girl was not going to be in by that time, she should call and let her roommates know, so they wouldn't worry. The time was set at three a.m., but we could stay out as late as we wanted. That was the last time I saw our chaperones until Sunday night.

Carolyn and I and two other girls, Mimi and Sue, went to our room, 2522. We got to use the express elevators, which went from the lobby to the twentieth floor and up. My bed was right by a window from which I could see the empire state, looking up thirty-fourth street. We had a television and air-conditioning.

Mimi and Sue both had their boyfriends along. They called them immediately, washed and changed their clothes, and left. Carolyn and I had never dreamed the group would be so impersonal, each one planning his own program and not trying to go places in bunches. We took showers and studied the subway map, feeling very alone. We decided to go down to Greenwich Village before dinner, walked over to sixth avenue to get the BMT, and got off at Eighth street. It was so marvelous, being independent. The village was a disappointment; it was the wrong time of day and the wrong season. It was pretty cold and not many people were on the square. We saw Washington Mews, with the darling houses that were once stables. That's where I'm going to live someday.

We were determined to go into a coffee house, but the authentic ones were scary, with dark curtained windows and windowless doors. Finally we came across one, Manzini's, that had its doors propped open and we could see inside. It was very dark, but we could see what it was like. Now I think it wasn't the place where real beats go, just a place to attract tourists. There was one other couple inside. We went in.

A girl with long dark hair waited on us. I had a cup of cinnamon espresso, 65 cents. Also a piece of cake that was positively stale. It was fifty cents. Carolyn's bill was $1.37, mine I forget. Anyway, they couldn't cash a five-dollar bill, the smallest we had, and had to go next door for it. What an awful place! So much for coffee houses, if that was representative.

I didn't realize N.Y.U. was right on the square. Lucky Pam! [a childhood friend who was going there]

After that awful cake we wanted to go somewhere we could trust for dinner. It was about 7:00 and the play started at 8:30, so I suggested Toffenetti's [which my mother had recommended], since it was on Times Square anyway. We went there and ordered Hawaiian chicken salads and, before the waitress could get away, I asked for sherry. She asked if I was of age and I said yes and started to get out my matric card and she said she'd take my word for it. Then Carolyn ordered Bordeau.

The drinks arrived first. I took one sip and it burned and even on that, I felt my stomach churn. Then I remembered that it was better not to drink on an empty stomach and took only tiny sips till I was done eating. Then I alternated sips of it with bites of roll until it was gone. Carolyn took just about as long. Then we went downstairs to the ladies room to get ready for the show. Both our faces were flushed. It is amazing what one little drink can do. That was the first and last for the weekend.

Our seats for "Stop the World" were high but central. It was a very odd kind of musical, no scenery except risers in a semi-circle around the stage. Everything was shown in pantomime, like the birth of a child by someone rising from the floor and taking uncertain first steps. The humor was very sophisticated, much of it satire. Anthony Newly was wonderful. But it was not at all like Oklahoma or South Pacific. Right after it we went back to the hotel. Sue didn't stay out very late either.


The desk phoned us at eight Saturday morning, as requested. Carolyn and I got up and went down to the hotel coffee shop for breakfast. Breakfast was expensive there. I had blueberry pancakes and coffee. Then we went to the first show at Radio City. The movie came on first, "A Girl Named Tamiko" with Lawrence Harvey. The stage show was very impressive as usual, though not the Easter show, and Carolyn hadn't seen it before. The theme was spring, fishing, and a fair.

After it let out, Carolyn and I separated. She wanted to go to a museum. After seeing "Stop the World" I couldn't bear the idea of spending time at a museum when I could be seeing another show. She went to see the Frick collection. I ate lunch at a Schrafft's on Fifty-second street and then went back to Times Square. It was starting to drizzle a little. I had decided to try both "Oliver" and "No Strings". I cam to the latter first, at the Broadhurst theater on forty-fourth. "Oliver" was on forty-fifth, it was raining, so I went into "No Strings". It was 2:00, the matinee started at 2:30. They had a few standing room tickets left. I paid three dollars for one and took my place at number twelve along the rail. Even standing room is numbered!

"No Strings" is my idea of a musical. There was scenery and dancing and pretty girls and lots of costume changes. Diahann Carroll was an American model in Paris and her costumes were by Henri Bendel. Gorgeous! I liked it twice as much as "Stop the World", though they were both very good. Seeing something on the stage is fifty times better than a movie. And the small but wonderful orchestras each show has! I wanted to forget the opera and go to another show that night.

After seeing the opera, I did wish I'd not gone. Well, not really, at least now I know what it's like. We sat in the very top balcony at the Met, a dizzying height. But the sound wasn't too good at that altitude, neither was the view, even with the little binoculars on the seats. It was "Othello", so at least I knew the plot. But Carolyn and I left after the third act. Neither of us was getting anything out of it. We are not cultured enough yet. I just sat and wondered who the people were who sat in the red boxes right down by the stage. It was going on eleven when we left, really dragging because there was a 15-minute intermission between each act. We had a late dinner at the Calico Kitchen. I had veal parmigiani, which is my favorite here at the dining hall, and Carolyn had a steak sandwich. It was a very nice place.

Sunday morning we went to the Marble Collegiate Church, after breakfast at Horn and Hardart. It was televised, and seemed sort of impersonal like Schwab. Then I went to Central Park and saw the ice skating and the horses and the lake, but not the zoo. Everybody was out walking their dogs. I walked down Central Park West and took the subway back to the hotel from 60th Street. Lunch at Horn and Hardart again. Then Carolyn and I went to the ballet.

We were high up there too, but not too high. It was really good. One of the stars, Violette Verdy, was at Penn State with "America Dances". She did one of the same dances she did here. Jim Williams, the group chairman, saw us at intermission and said to wait after it was over, that he had arranged for a visit backstage, courtesy of Miss Verdy, since USG sponsored her when she was here. So we went back afterward, were greeted by her husband, a Mr. Clark, who said she had had to leave right after her last dance because she had a cold, but he showed us around anyway. The dancers were all very young, just our age. Imagine being them, instead of at Penn State. I do envy them. My daughter is taking ballet lessons.

The City Center is pretty far uptown and Carolyn and I walked to Ruby Foo's. It was glamorous. The waiters wore red mandarin jackets and the hostess had on a beautiful blue cheongsam. The menus were gold and huge. Dinners were four or five dollars. Afterward they served us fortune cookies. Mine just said to keep my temper. Fortune cookies are not very tasty.

The bus left late, of course. We turned in our room keys and discovered a rather surprising phone bill. It seems they charge you twenty cents even for calls that are not completed, like my two to theaters to find out if they had tickets left, and neither answered. On the way home we made one stop at Howard Johnson's, and arrived here at 1:45. Then we had to stand around for twenty minutes waiting for campus patrol cars to take us back to the dorms. And, natch, I worked breakfast the next morning.

All in all, New York was pretty fabulous. I want to go again in September.

Because of the signing out at term break, I had to go to Judicial. I was "punished" with one withdrawal, staying in the dorm on a one o'clock night. I took it last night.

The group out on the lawn has tripled now. It is 3:15. I wore the pink and white dress this morning and got compliments. Spring is certainly here and I'll be looking forward to the other dresses. I broke down and bought one spring skirt for the trip, eight dollars, a beige rayon plated. I didn't step inside one store in New York.

I have to go and practice the piano now. My lesson is on Monday this term.

Thurs. aft.

Music Lessons

Your letter and package came today. The cake has already been sampled and pronounced delicious by everybody. Bonnie and I are swamped with candy; her parents sent a box too. Thanks a lot, it is appreciated.

I didn't get to switch Bi Sci for Speech. To do it I'd have had to schedule it for a period that conflicts with meals and cut down working time. So I ride the bike out to Wagner every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon. Wagner is where the boys have ROTC, with plenty of wide open field around for drills. It's almost out to the football field, what a hike when I have to wear a dress to give a speech and can't ride my bike.

While in New York I spent around thirty dollars. This is after the Met, ballet, and "Stop the World" tickets, and the bus and hotel, which were in the original $22.55. The whole trip was approximately fifty dollars. Carolyn was talking to me the other day. She wants to go to Washington D.C. for a weekend at the end of this term. I'd love to go too. That would be around June 8, or we might get out earlier if our profs don't use the final exam period. I could save the money myself. There are quite a number of kids who come from there. We would tour the whitehouse and the treasury, etc., and stay at the YWCA. What do you think?

I am alright financially. The sax lessons are free, for some reason. Bonnie's trumpet instruction is too. I guess all woodwind and brass lessons are no charge. Since I added the course and didn't get started on it right away, my first sax lesson was just yesterday. Mr Rockwell teaches it and is very nice.

Mrs. Kokat is so earnest and sincere! She is frustrated because she can never get through my whole lesson and says it keeps me from progressing. At my lesson Monday morning she said she would call me Thursday or Friday to see about driving me out to her house Saturday afternoon for a lesson there, to take the place of next Monday's. Then we could take as long as necessary.

Visit me any time. I hope clear warm days start coming again pretty soon. It's been cold here lately, 28 degrees yesterday morning. Coming events are: April 21, Blue Band concert, 3:00 p.m.; May 12, Mother's day, open-house in the dorms, Men's Glee Club concert, 3:00 p.m.; May 19, Women's Chorus Concert 3:00 p.m. Saturday April 27 is Spring Week Carnival, which I don't know anything about yet. Come whenever it's a beautiful day.

There are about twice as many kids working this term as last, a lot of new girls. But I still work seven meals Monday through Friday. This week it is: Monday breakfast, Tuesday dinner, Wednesday lunch, Thursday dinner, and all three on Friday. Easter weekend at least half signed up to take the weekend off, so maybe I'll get in an extra meal or two. We got our paychecks yesterday. I got 23.96, not so much, because of the three days I missed to go to N.Y.

USG campaigning is going strong now. There are three parties, Liberal, Campus, and University. They all have bulletins on their party platforms; enclosed is the University's. I think Campus sounds best. They are going to be in McKee rec room tonight for questioning. Elections for next year's class offices are also going on now. Carolee Foley is running for president of our class.

I just finished reading "To Kill a Mockingbird". That is a really good book, and it never looked especially interesting to me when it came out in the Condensed Books at home, though I remember you told me it was good. I also saw the movie. Honestly, the dialogue is word for word from the book. If it comes to our town, don't miss it.

The first test in Music 6 is Monday. It will be entirely listening, identifying works of Bach. Mr. Raver, who looks very young, is wonderful. I guess he's around thirty-two, he graduated from college in 1951. He is the university organist and had the class over to Schwab one afternoon to demonstrate Bach's organ fugues. He is always pointing things out on the piano in class. I don't have a book yet, which is disturbing. The stores ran out of them right away because the enrollment for Music 6 this term was unexpectedly large. Anyhow I've got to go over to the armory listening room and start memorizing melodies.

Happy Easter, I hope everyone comes to dinner.

Page # of 44