Space flights, Sweater sets and Slam books #AtoZChallenge

S is for Space flights, Sweater sets and Slam books. Nineteenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

Today, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is in the U.S. space exploration spotlight — sending back amazing photos, videos and data from the red planet and launching a mini-helicopter for the first time.

Yet in my early teens (1963-65), when space flights were still new, they somehow seemed like a much bigger deal — preempting TV broadcasts while we stopped everything to watch the NASA countdowns. And I remember an amusing example of this , from when I was 13 — a quintessential early-sixties moment!

NASA Launch on May 15, 1963. In my early teens (1963-65), space flights were still new and they seemed like a much bigger deal — preempting TV broadcasts while we stopped everything to watch the NASA countdowns. Photo: Wikipedia

My mom had taken me to my orthodontist appointment, but it coincided with a space flight launch — possibly the May 15, 1963 launch of astronaut L. Gordon Cooper into orbit in the final manned flight of Project Mercury, since manned flights were an especially big deal.

Anyway, none of us wanted to miss the live launch — so after adjusting my braces the orthodontist quickly waved me and Mom into his office and the three of us stood in front of his little black-and-white TV and watched the fiery liftoff.

Sweater sets

Of course, at age 13-15 I had to be dressed correctly to go to the dentist, watch space flights and attend school — which is where sweater sets came in.

One of the popular outfits in my early teens was a frothy pastel mohair cardigan worn with a matching pleated wool skirt. All the girls at school wore them — and I badly wanted a sweater set of my own.

The problem was, with five children at home my parents kept to a budget — which meant I usually had to wear the “next best version” that was available at the discount store.

Not that the knockoff clothing wasn’t nice — I just felt out of sync because it wasn’t what the other teen girls were wearing.

Pink mohair sweater (c. 1960s). One of the popular outfits in my early teens was a pastel mohair cardigan worn with a matching pleated wool skirt. All the girls at school wore them — and I badly wanted a sweater set of my own. Photo: Pinterest.com

So when Christmas rolled around, I sighed and put the sweater set on my wish list as the number one item — hoping for a miracle.

Happily, Santa heard my plea and dropped a hint to my parents — because that year, under the tree, were a gorgeous baby-pink mohair sweater and matching skirt! And not the knockoffs, either. I couldn’t wait to proudly wear them to school!

Slam books

Clothes were part of fitting in — and so was acceptance by teen peers. And one tough way to test that acceptance was with a slam book. 

Alas, the concept of slam books originated in the 1940s as a form of bullying, where teens would “slam” someone in writing in a notebook that was passed around. Fortunately, by the early 1960s slam books had morphed into something a bit less sinister.

Slam book. Photo: Pinterest.com

You created a slam book using a spiral bound notebook, putting the word SLAM on the front, and writing the names of the people you wanted to include on the top of each page.

Then you’d go up to students and ask, “Do you want to sign my slam book?” And they could anonymously write whatever they wanted — good or bad — on the person’s page.

Yes, there were teens who vented in slam books and wrote derogatory comments on someone’s page — which we all lived in fear of.  But oddly, the other fear was being left out of slam books altogether.

So the slam books I started — and the ones I remember signing — usually had my friends in them and we mainly wrote compliments about one another, striving in our own way for social acceptance during our early teen years.

Up next, T is for Talking on the busy signal. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Rock-n-Roll DJs: My brief crush on Jack Rose #AtoZChallenge

R is for Rock-n-Roll DJs: My brief crush on Jack Rose. Eighteenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

The soundtrack of my early teens was WENE 1430 AM — our local radio station on Main St. in Endicott, N.Y.

The station went Top 40 in 1962, six months before I turned 13 — and rocketed straight to number one in the Triple Cities as we Baby Boomers started to tune in.

WENE Radio Center in its heyday. Located on Main St. in Endicott, N.Y., WENE 1430 AM radio was the soundtrack of my teen years.

Sure, I still listened to Detroit, Boston and New York City mega-stations when they boosted their signals late at night — but their disc jockeys were faraway idols, reachable only by letters.

Jack Rose takes my call

Press and Sun Bulletin. Jack Rose had the afternoon time slot on weekends.

The WENE disc jockeys, however, were just a phone call away — and that’s how, at 14, I started calling Jack Rose, who had the afternoon slot on weekends.

I heard on air that WENE was refusing to play a song by Eric Burdon and the Animals. So I phoned the station to complain — and Jack Rose took the call.  This was definitely teen diary material!

WENE Top 40. The “Big Parade of Hits” for February 8, 1964.

Aug. 8, 1964. [DJ] Jim Scott said today that he didn’t like “House of the Rising Sun,” so I called WENE to talk to him. I got Jack Rose and talked to him. Jack said, “Well don’t worry, pretty soon it will be on the survey and he’ll have to play it.” He’s really a SHARP guy!! I’m gonna call him back later tomorrow!

Aug. 9, 1964. Called Jack. He said “call back at 6” and we talked for 1.5 hours! He’s 6’ tall, age 23, goes to Harper [College] and is real sharp. He’s a real panic to talk to.

Rock star proxies

In the Top 40 era, WENE disc jockeys were like rock star proxies — popular and idolized from a distance, yet accessible enough for a phone chat. And I was not the only one dialing the station!

WENE disc jockeys and staff back in the day. I never met Jack Rose — and he never sent me a photo. So I only got to know him through his dulcet tones on the air and on our regular phone calls.

Lots of local teens were calling WENE in the early 1960s. And before long — much to the consternation of our mothers — my best girlfriends from the block and from school were also regularly chatting with their own personal DJs.

Fast forward to now and I was surprised to discover — in the audio history below — that the station actually had a policy of encouraging WENE disc jockeys to spin records at local hops and to get to know their teen fan base.

Well, no wonder they always answered the phone when we called!

Here today, gone tomorrow

Alas, as with most of my teen crushes and idols, Jack Rose was here today, gone tomorrow — on to greener pastures in Radio Land, as I got over him and moved on with my teen life.

Nov. 8, 1964. Called Jack! He’s gonna work at WARM [in Wilkes Barre, PA] or WINR [in Binghamton].

Nov. 15, 1964. Well, he’s gone! Jack (Rose) got the job at WARM (590 am – 9-12 noon weekdays!!). We talked for an hour today. He promised he’d write me. And he will. I cried for a while, but he will write.

Nov. 22, 1964. Jack’s last day at WENE! Lots of kids called him up to say goodbye!!

Dec. 8, 1964. Got a letter from Jack Rose! He’s a doll for writing. Next letter I’m going have him send me his pic! Dyin’ to see him!

A cherished brush with celebrity

And that was the end of that. I never did meet Jack in person — and he never sent me a photo. So I only got to know him through his dulcet tones on the air and on our regular phone calls.

Yet for a teen girl like me, living in small suburban Endwell, chatting with Jack Rose was one more cherished brush with celebrity — right up there with kissing Gene Pitney and having my Dave Clark 5 Fan Club announced in the local paper

Up next, S is for Space flights, Sweater sets and Slam books. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Questioning everything! #AtoZChallenge

Q is for Questioning everything! Seventeenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

When I turned 13 in 1963, I was still coming off childhood and living in the moment without much introspection.

But as my early teens progressed, I started forming my own opinions — and pretty soon I was questioning everything!

Most of the time, my teen questions were aimed at the nonsensical edicts of adults — but soon enough, I was also critically assessing my peers who I disagreed with.

The suitcase conundrum

My maternal grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence, who we called Boom, had some famous pronouncements that could always get me going. Enter the suitcase conundrum.

During my teens, I traveled alone to my grandparents’ house on the train or bus to spend a couple of weeks in the summer. And there were contradictory rules for these trips.

“Don’t talk to strangers,” Boom would admonish, “And don’t lift your suitcase on and off the overhead rack, ask someone to help you.” The obvious question: How do I ask someone to help me if I can’t talk to strangers? Sheesh! Anyway, it was the sixties — I could lift my own suitcase.

Challenging adults

By the time I was 14, my diary started containing confrontations here and there with adults as I gained my teen footing — like this three-day run  in April 1964.

April 8, 1964. I can’t talk on the telephone for a week cause I asked Dad if he could be more quiet.[We had one phone located in our dining room.]

April 9, 1964. Miss T. yelled at us, so I go, “Who does she think she is?” Then she said, “I know who I am, do you know who you are?” Now she’s all mad. What’ll I do?

April 10, 1964. Mr. S. said if he catches Kath or I in the A.V. room he’ll move our lockers! [I had a crush on an A.V. guy at the time.]

Mixed parties and thwarted double dates

Meanwhile, as my teen girlfriends started having house parties and inviting boys, my parents were stuck in 1950s-World.  A Junior Prom-style date was the only type they would approve of — all carefully chaperoned with a parent driving us to and from. I was not happy.

Jan. 20, 1964. Jackie’s having a mixed party [boys and girls] and I can’t go! Feb. 9, 1964. Terry said they played spin the bottle [a kissing game] at Jackie’s party!

By the time I was 15, my friends had moved on to dating and going steady, but my folks (who had not dated until college) still wouldn’t relent.

Hence this sad diary entry in my now larger journal — since I’d outgrown my childhood one.

Dec. 23, 1965. Last night I was going to double date with a friend of mine. I made sure my parents knew all parties involved so they couldn’t possibly object. I might’ve known they’d find something to object to no matter how careful I was. [In this case, the boy was older than me.]

Questioning classmates

Meanwhile, at school, I was beginning to have my own, strong ideas about literature, art, history — you name it.

The last straw in English was a classmate who criticized one of my favorite books — Catcher In the Rye.

Oct. 1, 1965. [She] is the epitome of pessimism. She lacks insight and perception of beauty and purpose…[and] has made numerous derogatory comments about, “Catcher in the Rye.” I never cease to be amazed at the amount of sordid information she manages to dig out of that perfectly harmless book.

Thus, bit by bit, I started questioning everything and everyone during my early teen years — my grandparents, my teachers, my parents, my classmates — unaware at the time that each pointed query was another step on the path to forming my own, personal outlook.

Up next, R is for Rock and Roll DJs. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time