Sepia Saturday 519. Z is for Zap! Adolescence begins. Last of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. I’m grateful to be completing the challenge! Thanks for joining me on the journey.
By the end of my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y., I had grown in ways I might not have on our Altamont, N.Y. farm.
I learned how to negotiate social interactions with the 50-or-so kids on my block — and with my network of Baby Boom friends at school.late-night radio, television, library visits and reading I also became aware of the larger world beyond my small suburban town. And thus I transitioned into my teenage years.
Crushes and conflicts
A sure sign that adolescence was upon me was an endless stream of boys and crushes that began to populate my diary. I barely wrote anything when I was twelve — and those entries were mostly in pencil and often about family events like visits to my grandparents.
But when I turned thirteen in 1963 all that changed. I began writing in pen, I journaled every day in much bolder cursive — and the main subject was boys.
Who I had a crush on, who my friends liked and the seemingly endless list of places where we could and did run into boys — at school, at skating parties and dances, at ice cream socials, at the lake, at sports events, when they came down to our block and even at church!
Although I also wrote about conflicts with my girlfriends from the neighborhood and from school. We argued, we stopped speaking, then we reconsidered and resumed hanging around together — all part of the mix-and-match of sorting out the dawning teenage years.
A sudden life-changing event
Yet while lighter, flirtatious entries dominated the early months of my teen diary — near the end of the year a sudden, life-changing event marked the true dividing line between my elementary years and adolescence.
That event was the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy.
The day it happened, our principal came on the Junior High loud speaker in the afternoon and unexpectedly called us all back to homeroom. What could it be, we wondered?
Once we were seated in our respective classrooms he made the shocking PA announcement that the president had been killed. I started to cry as the reality washed over me — and I headed for my diary soon after I got home.
Nov. 22, 1963 The president is dead!!!! John F. Kennedy was killed today by 2 bullets & died in his wife’s arms! I cried for hours in school! It’s so sad! He was such a great man!
The stuff of life decisions
School was cancelled for the next few days. While my parents and siblings led a normal life upstairs, I took up residence in our basement rec room, glued to non-stop TV news coverage — unusual back then — of the assassination and its aftermath.
Which is how I ended up seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV! And where I watched JFK’s funeral procession. And where I started weighing my first life decisions.
Nov. 25, 1963 – I hope to further my knowledge by reading a lot! I want to go into politics if I can! It will require a lot of reading.
Dec. 3, 1963 – I’ve decided to be a writer. I was talking to Dad & he said the ideal profession was writing! I could work for a newspaper! Maybe I could even write about JFK!
Zap! Adolescence begins
Yet even at thirteen, I sensed that this unprecedented event — which rose above my usual day-to-day concerns about boys and ice cream socials and trips to the lake — demanded a more mature, thoughtful approach than anything that had happened during my elementary years.
And Zap! That’s how my adolescence began.
Please stop back on May 4 for the wrap-up post: “Recap and Reflections on Endwell: My Elementary Years.” Your comments as always are greatly appreciated! Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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