Zap! Adolescence begins #AtoZChallenge

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.

My connections to nature deepened with annual trips to Cape Cod, weekend jaunts to our lakeside camp and living near the flood-prone Susquehanna River.

My family all dressed up for Easter (1964). I was fourteen when when this photo was taken — starting into my teens and all decked out in my white hat and gloves. Front from left, my brother Jeff, sister Amy and brother Mark. Back from left, Gramps [my maternal grandfather Tony Laurence], me, my dad Norm Charboneau and Boom [my ever-fashionable maternal grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence]. Stretched behind us is Malverne Rd. in Endwell, N.Y. — the backdrop of my elementary years. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau
Through my teachers, 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.

A five-year diary much like mine. A sure sign that adolescence was upon me was an endless stream of boys and crushes that began to populate my diary — only to be replaced by more serious entries toward the end of my first teen year.

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 Kennedy motorcade in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963. Near the end of 1963, when I was thirteen, a sudden, life-changing event marked the true dividing line between my elementary years and adolescence. That event was the assassination of U.S. Pres. John F. Kennedy. Photo: U.S. National Archives

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

All of this happened long before independent investigations by attorney Mark Lane, filmmaker Oliver Stone and others raised doubts about the official version of the Kennedy assassination.

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.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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22 thoughts on “Zap! Adolescence begins #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I also remember that remarkable moment in time. The picture in my mind is our gym class where we sat on the bleachers in our blue bloomer outfits hearing the news from our teacher.

    1. Wow, I was in gym class as well — right before they called us back to home room. Such major events have a way of uniting us in a common experience, much like the coronavirus pandemic today. Thanks for your visits during A to Z!

  2. I was at work when we got the news about the president’s assassination and I remember distinctly staring out the window and asking myself how could it have happened. I, also, saw the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. Awful times. On a happier note, I like your family photo with your two brothers handsomely outfitted in suits – and you looked very grown up in your hat and gloves.

  3. Congratulations on making it through the alphabet. What’s next? The Dewey Decimal challenge?
    I remember President Kennedy’s assassination too. My mom and I were living temporarily with my grandparents outside Washington D.C. until we joined my dad in Germany later that December. It was the first time I had seen adults register alarm, grief, anger, and anxiety about an event concerning a national figure. Then when I saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald, I suddenly became a real eyewitness like millions of other Americans. Sadly our TV generation has experienced too many of these tragedies.

  4. I remember too the announcement from our principal the day Kennedy was shot. We were sent home from school. I was petrified walking home because I thought the shooter was driving madly through our neighborhood. I kept trying to figure what to do if I heard gunshots.

  5. Congratulations on finishing the A-Z Challenge, Molly. You made great choices in your topics. All your articles now could be the start of your autobiography!

    We must be round about the same age – the diary, the boy thing, and remembering the day of Kennedy’s assassination, even in Canada. I was in typing class, our teacher came in and before telling us, he said:”You’ll always remember this day.” And I do.

    1. Your teacher was right — unforgettable. Thanks so much for your visits and comments during the challenge. I loved that we had so much in common growing up!

  6. I had a hat just like yours at the same age…we must be within 12 months of each other. Interesting to read of how you negotiated your friends and networks. My neighbourhood was much quieter so the dynamics were more static. I too remember the day JFK was shot. Even Down Under it was a shock. Congratulations on a very enjoyable A to Z series!

    1. Yes, I believe we are contemporaries! That hat was the latest fashion at the time — hence my fashionable grandmother sporting one as well. I started out with a quieter childhood on the farm — but the suburbs, and my raucous street, totally socialized me. Enjoyed your A to Z series as well! Thanks so much for your regular visits and comments.

  7. My own diary from my teen years was filled with the same type of memories as yours. Sadly, I got rid of them at some point in my twenties. I’m still sad that I threw them away. I’d love to go back and read them again. Our adolescent years are such a transformative period in our lives. Weekends In Maine

    1. The beauty of being a writer/blogger our memories persist over time and and our creative process can still tap them. I wish I had saved my college diary, but the major events of that period stay with me — as your teen memories undoubtedly do — and in the long run those are the important ones.

  8. Congratulations on finishing the A to Z… it’s been fun! I was a big diary writer, and sadly threw all of them in my trashcan before I married. How silly was I… and I’m still mad at myself for that decision. Hope all yours was saved.

    1. I threw out my college diary, which I did not keep for long. But saved my childhood and teenage ones. Have no fear. Even without your diaries, the memories of most importance are still with you. Thanks for your visits/comments during A to Z!

  9. You look so grown up in your Sunday finery. I was in high school when JFK was killed. I remember the non-stop coverage. What a different time that was.

    Congratulations on completing 26 posts about your life and another A to Z! I enjoyed following along.

    1. Thanks, Kristin. Have enjoyed your posts as well. Your family has such a rich history it’s always a pleasure to read what you write about them. Appreciate your visits/comments during A to Z!

  10. A great finish to your childhood memories theme. I was particularly struck by your account of JFK’s assassination as it echoed so much mine over 3000 miles away in Scotland – I wrote about it under R – We too saw live on TV the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald and it was indeed a life defining moment.

    1. I went back and read yours, and the parallels are uncanny — and yes, life defining. Thanks for your visits/comments during A to Z!

  11. Congratulations on completing A to Z! The Kennedy assassination was the defining moment for many of us. I’m younger than you (I was in 6th grade on that day), and the zap of adolescence was still a year or so away, but we do share that moment in common.

    1. Thanks, Alana — and appreciate your visits/comments during A to Z! Interesting to learn how you and others were affected by the JFK assassination — a shocking event for a teen let alone a youngster.

  12. Congratulations in completing the A to Z Challenge!
    I’ve enjoyed going on this trip down memory lane with you, so many of our experiences were the same. Even the title of this Z post hit me… that’s exactly what it’s like. Into the stage of not-a-kid/not-an-adult, you’re too old/you’re too young, irresponsible/ responsible… It was easier being the kid you’ve been writing about.

    1. So true! The dawning teen years are indeed transformative — and more challenging. Hoping to write about them in 2021. Meanwhile, thanks for your visits/comments during A to Z! Seems we did have much in common — and I am sure we will continue to cross blogging paths in the future.

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