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:

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:

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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14 thoughts on “Space flights, Sweater sets and Slam books #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I was enthusiastic on everything space in growing up and was always in front of the TV when splashdown was expected. I do remember watching the space capsule open and astronauts exit out. Often I wrote to NASA asking for info and did receive a few things I saved in my scrapbooks I kept in growing up. I should blog on them, but I have dismantled some things to store elsewhere. Love the sweater… don’t think I ever asked for clothes as by the time I really got into wanting certain items, I was a little older and asked for them during the year. Don’t remember any slam books in my area in the 60’s… yes def sounds like bullying. Great memories. I’m sure I have so many more memories that I just can’t remember… so frustrating! LOL

  2. I wonder if Slam books were an upstate New York thing? I was in junior high at Laurel Junior High in Rome, N.Y. and was in fear of those things….under my name it was typically “nice” or N.B.A. (never been acquainted, phew!)…My favorite outfit was a black mohair cardigan sweater with a black, purple and gray kilt….oh the memories, Molly!!!

  3. I love that cardigan! I’ve never heard of Slam books. Sounds like they could have become very hurtful. I love thAt you and your friends used is for the good

    1. Yes, the sweater set was to die for — and slam books are apparently still around, because you can now buy a fancy one online.

  4. I did not know that was the origins of SLAM books. Glad they evolved into something a little nicer (at least most of the time).

    Happy Santa heard your pleas too. That must have been a special Christmas.

  5. I had never heard of slam books before, so that was something new to me. Yes, like you my family here in Scotland was hooked on the space coverage. I remember watching with my father Yuri Gagarin feted on his return to Moscow. We would watch the US launch of rockets and also,the return and I could not understand how the recovery ships would know exactly where the capsule was coming down in the ocean. With the landing on the moon, we stayed up late to, watch the moment and then dashed outside to look up at the moon – as if we were going to see anything!!

    1. How funny! I recall my friends and I also being worried that the return capsule might “miss” the ocean and crash into land. Loved that you went out to look at the moon after the first landing.

  6. Well, if the SLAM Book actually turned out a collection of compliments? 🙂

    I realize you were alive and adult for the Moon Landing in 1969. Don’t you just love the historical moments where even dentists and teachers will turn on the TV? Like for “Space Stuff” – and Soccer, pardon me, Football.

    Love your sweater, it’s super pretty and probably very soft to wear. Thank you, Peg and Norm! ❤️

    1. Yes, those were the days of being mesmerized by space flights. My parents even had a family reunion for my youngest sister’s fifth birthday — timed with the moon landing — that featured a TV on the back deck where we could all watch.

  7. Three wonderful memories! Space flights are a must-remember, I watched a rocket launch back in 1982 and it’s still a strong memory! I have photos when my sisters and I were very young, wearing skirts and pulls made by my mom, crochet. It was the fashion ! Fun slam book!

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