Tag Archives: Charboneau

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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Orange juice can curlers and On-the-roof suntans #AtoZChallenge

O is for Orange juice can curlers and On-the-roof suntans. Fifteenth 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 in 1963-65, the favored hairstyle was straight, shoulder-length hair with a flip at the bottom — sometimes teased at the top for what today’s stylists call “elevation.”

Alas, my curly brown hair had plenty of elevation — especially when it was rainy or humid. The trick was trying to flatten my hair and straighten my curls out.

One sure-fire method was to set my hair using orange juice can curlers. The Hair Do magazine cover below gives you a relatively fancy idea of how this worked.

Hair Do magazine cover from the 1960s. Image: Pinterest

Air dried coiffure

In my early teens, large curlers, blow dryers and myriad hair products were not yet commercially available. So we curly-haired girls turned to DIY solutions — stockpiling frozen orange juice cans until we had enough to cover our heads.

Most of the teen girls on my block, and even some of the moms, set their hair this way — then wrapped a light chiffon scarf over the top so their coiffure could air dry. Thus it was normal on our street to see females at work and play with a head full of curlers.

Frozen orange juice cans made excellent hair curlers during my early teens (1963-65). Photo: Molly Charboneau

I became adept at using the orange juice can curlers in my early teens — but when I couldn’t air dry in the daytime, I’d have to sleep overnight with them in. Ouch!

The only way to do it was to hang your head off the bed — which made for a challenging night’s sleep. Fortunately, chemical hair straightener kits came out in my later teens and I was able to give up the OJ curlers for good.

Getting an early tan

Another beauty challenge for teen girls in the early 1960s was having a good tan over the summer. There were no sunscreen creams back then. In fact nobody was aware of the damage the sun’s rays could do to fair skin — and being fair, I usually burned my first time or two in the summer sun.

On the roof suntanning (c. 1964). That’s me on the left, at age 14, my hair freshly out of orange juice can curlers, getting a rooftop tan up on our screened porch with my friend from up the street. Photo: Norm Charboneau

My teenage girlfriends and I exchanged tips about this tanning/burning problem, and the accepted solution was to start your tan as early as possible and build it up gradually.

So some time after Easter — when it was often still cold out with frosty nights — I’d lay a blanket down in our back yard at high noon, put on my bathing suit, and start working on my tan. Brrrr!

On-the-roof tanning

Eventually, this gave way to a new and improved procedure: I’d climb onto the roof of our porch (the same one where I read Edgar Allen Poe) and start my tan up there, where the dark roofing was a bit warmer.

Sometimes my girlfriend from up the street would join me. And there, on high — with our hair carefully set and clad in our modest two-piece bathing suits — we’d start our on-the-roof suntans to be ready for the summer.

Up next, P is for Peg: My mulitasking mom. 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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