Category Archives: A to Z Challenge 2021

Margot, Moose and ancestral connections #AtoZChallenge

M is for Margot, Moose and ancestral connections. Thirteenth 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.

During my early teens (1963-65), I ended up with a couple of nicknames that followed me through high school.

One was assigned, the other was an embarrassing accident — but both had a ancestral connection I didn’t fully appreciate at the time.

Margot: My French alter ego

My school taught us French from the 4th grade — so by Junior High, I was in a dedicated French immersion class with it’s own teacher.

With my French surname, the language appealed to me — hearkening back to my Quebecois ancestors. And I was even more thrilled when the teacher told us we would have to choose a French first name to use in class to connect us with Francophone culture.

French poodle. Sweeping into Junior High French class as “Margot,” I felt a certain sense of panache — and it helped that my classmates had French names, too. Image: Pixabay

My first name, Molly, was from my paternal Welsh-Irish grandmother (a version Mary). But there were already Mary’s and Maria’s in the class — so one of them got the French name Marie.

After some trial and error I settled on Margot (the French version of Margaret, my Mom’s name) — and I have to say, the teacher had a point.  Sweeping into French class as Margot, I felt a certain sense of panache — and it helped that my classmates had French names, too.

Thus during our French hour, we teens were transported to another world where we were cooler, more sophisticated versions of our Junior High selves.

Dewey see a moose?

Alas, my other teen nickname, Moose, was more unfortunate. By age 13, I was already bigger and taller than many of my classmates — and being associated, even in jest, with a huge, lumbering animal did not help!

Yet there was also an ancestral connection to this embarrassing moniker — the blame falling on my father’s Uncle Dewey Charboneau from Dolgeville, N.Y.

Moose. My other teen nickname, “Moose,” was more unfortunate. By age 13, I was already bigger and taller than many of my classmates — and being associated, even in jest, with a huge, lumbering animal did not help! Image: Pixabay

A gym teacher’s innocent question

One day in Junior High gym class, we had a new instructor — and after our exercise period, she was reviewing the roll and getting to know our names.

When she got to me, she asked, “Are you related to Dewey Charboneau?” Imagine my surprise!

So I replied, “Yes, he’s my dad’s uncle.” It turned out she was from Dolgeville and she knew Uncle Dewey well.

“A really nice man,” she summed up, which is what everyone said about him. And that should have been the end of it.

The locker room ribbing

The problem was, the other teen girls thought the name Dewey was hilarious. Add to that the fact that I’d been the focus of attention in gym class — and the ribbing started as soon as we got into the locker room.

High School hear book message (1968). Lest you think I am making this all up, here is the evidence: A message greeting me as “moose” in my 1968 senior yearbook. Scan by Molly Charboneau.

“Dewey! Dewey! Dewey see a duck? Dewey see a squirrel? Do we see a horse? Dewey see a moose?” they called out — laughing away while I stood there red-faced. Again, that should have been the end of it.

But alas, one of the girls told Frank and Tom — a couple of the boys in my crowd — and they started to call me Moose out loud in the hallway in front of everyone. And they continued to do so, as a private joke, until we parted ways after High School (as evidenced by Frank’s message in my senior yearbook above).

Uncle Dewey forgiven

Eventually, I realized my dad’s Uncle Dewey was innocent of sticking me with the Moose nickname — which I happily left behind when I went off to college.

Me with a portrait of Uncle Dewey Charboneau in his Dolgeville Masons Lodge (2015). When I looked up at his portrait, I had to chuckle. Because the first thing I thought of was, “Dewey see a moose?” — that fateful Junior High mantra from my early teen years. Photo by Amy L. Williamson

Fast forward 50 years, and I was pleased to discover a painting of  Uncle Dewey in his Dolgeville Masons Hall when my sister Amy and I visited during the 2015 Violet Festival.

Yet when I looked up at his portrait, I had to chuckle. Because the first thing I thought of was, “Dewey see a moose?” — that fateful Junior High mantra from my early teen years.

Up next, N is for Norm: My forty-something dad. 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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Line dancing and Long distance friendships #AtoZChallenge

L is for Line dancing and Long distance friendships. Twelfth 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.

Couples dancing was popular on American Bandstand in my early teens (1963-65).

But as the sixties progressed, more liberating freestyle dances like the Twist, the Mashed Potatoes and the Jerk took over.

Technically, you still had a dance partner for many of these — but now you just danced in their general vicinity, with no leader or follower.

LINE DANCING

Yet my great passion was line dancing in its various permutations — and I loved participating in these group dances at our school soirees. One of the first group dances I learned was Little Eva’s “Loco-motion” — more of a chain dance with one dancer behind the next, which came out in 1962, the year I started Junior High.

Then there was the Stroll, with dancers facing one another and couples taking turns free-styling down the center. This dance began in the 1950s — but it was re-adapted throughout the sixties, as shown in the video below.

The mysterious Wiggle Wobble

But the line/chain dance that appears in my teen diary — for which I can find no video — is the Wiggle Wobble.

On Jan. 19, 1964, right before I turned 14, I noted in my diary that a Junior High girlfriend told me she danced with “a whole bunch of kids” at the recent dance — and “she said it was the Wiggle Wobble.”

Wow, I must have missed that school dance! But by the next one, on Valentine’s Day, I was all caught up with the Wiggle Wobble — which seems to have combined the stroll with a chain dance, judging by my diary entries.

Feb. 13, 1964. Dance Tomorrow!! Feb. 14, 1964. The dance was a “BLAST”!…I led a chain through the middle of the Wiggle Wobble 5 times!!

LONG DISTANCE FRIENDSHIPS

When I wasn’t busy with dances or crushes or school work, I maintained long distance friendships with several teens I’d met through the Dave Clark Five Fan Club — or at the Altamont Fair during summer visits to my grandparents.

You’ve already met Bobbie and Marty from Burnt Hills, N.Y. — two girls who responded to one of my DC5 ads on Albany radio.  Soon a third girl, a friend of Bobbie’s nicknamed “Hyish,” joined the team — and amongst us we carried on a lively, old-school correspondence (yep, with pen, paper, envelopes and stamps!).

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Pen, paper, envelopes and stamps. In my early teens, I maintained long distance friendships with teens I’d met through the Dave Clark Five Fan Club, or at the Altamont Fair during summer visits to my grandparents near Albany, N.Y. — and we carried on a lively, old-school correspondence. Graphic: Pixabay

More friends from the fair

In the summer of 1964, my grandmother got me my first payroll job — and at 14, I worked at the Altamont Fair during it’s two-week run in August. (More on this in my Letter W post.)

Of course there were other teens working at the fair, too — along with nightly DJ’d dances — and by the fall I was writing to several teen boys and girls I’d met there.

These long distance friendships were fun and exciting at the start — but challenging to maintain over time. Phone calls were expensive, there was no Internet or email, and who knew when we’d see one another again?

Yet during my early teens, my fleeting long distance friendships helped me mentally escape the confines of my small suburban town — and set my sights on the wider world I would enter as a young adult.

Up next, M is for Margot, Moose and ancestral connections. 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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Kents and the creek: I learn to smoke #AtoZChallenge

K is for Kents and the creek: I learn to smoke. Eleventh 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.

In the summer when school was out, I spent much more time on my block. And by the early 1960s, many of the Baby Boom kids on the street were now teens like me — trying to model adult behaviors and figure out where we fit in.

At some point in our early teens, one of the cool, grown-up things we all tried was smoking cigarettes down by the creek at the end of our street. And this opened up a whole new world of deception and subterfuge to outwit our unsuspecting parents.

https://pixabay.com/photos/cigarette-smoke-burning-cigarette-110849/
Cigarette. Photo: Pixabay

Where to get cigarettes?

On the block, we were already veterans of cooperative endeavors from our childhood Halloween Mayhem campaigns. To try smoking as teens, we also had to put our heads together to figure out where and how to get cigarettes.

A few of the parents were smokers, so it was easy enough for some of the neighborhood teens to pilfer one or two cigarettes from a pack here and there — which we would pass around, each of us taking a puff (but nobody inhaling).

My dad, who was a Kent smoker, was trying to quit — so all he had was one reserve “temptation” pack in the house. I pilfered one or two cigarettes from that — but then I had to stop or he’d figure it out.

Drafting a younger sibling

None of this pilfering resulted in an adequate supply — so a new plan was hatched. One of the younger siblings would be drafted to make a trip to the store for a whole pack — someone old enough to walk up to Main Street alone, but young enough that the local store owner could see they were clearly not going to smoke.

Next was forging a note from the kid’s mother saying the cigarettes were for her — then pooling our allowance and babysitting money to pay for the smokes. Amazingly, this plan worked! And more than once, if I remember correctly.

Avoiding the parents

The creek was an ideal, secluded place for smoking. It was surrounded by woods at the end of the street — and our parents never went there. But we still lived in fear of being caught.

To protect my teen co-conspirators and avoid my parents’ prying eyes, I even invented a secret symbol in my diary to indicate when I had smoked — so they wouldn’t catch on if they happened to read it.

Visiting Brixius Creek with my brother Mark on a trip to Endwell, N.Y. (2007). I have fond memories of going down to the creek — where we teens could get away from our folks, try something new and exercise a bit of independence as we grew toward adulthood. Photo by Mark Charboneau

One teen got caught

But not everyone was good at subterfuge — and one of the funniest smoking episodes involved a teen girl up the block.

One winter — when it was too cold for the creek — she was periodically smoking in secret up in her room, then dropping the butts out the window into the snow.

Then spring came, the snow melted and her dad went berserk when he found the pile of butts under her window. Yikes! That was the talk of the street for weeks.

The creek: our teen refuge

Fortunately, although I enjoyed the intrigue of sneaking around, I wasn’t too crazy about smoking and never took it up.

But I still have fond memories of going down to the creek — where we teens could get away from our folks, try something new and exercise a bit of independence as we grew toward adulthood.

Up next,  L is for Line dancing and Long distance friendships. 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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