During the sixties , the last day of school was only perhaps an hour in the morning, just long enough to pick up your report card and recieve your end of school lecture. The sun was out, and the prospect of having nearly three months without school or classes was almost too much excitement to endure. Aside from Christmas Eve, the first day of summer vacation was probably the most grand day in my life. Most of the neighborhood kids would rally for a giant game of kickball, or other group games on the recently defunct schoolyard to celebrate VE day (Victory over Elementary school) .
Kite flying was another way of passing the time. My brothers and I would often make our own kites out of newspaper and narrow tree branches. Kites were affordable enough, it was just more fun to try and make our own. We'd string these branches like a bow, notching the ends with a pocketknife to feed the string into. Once kite flying became tedious, it was off to some other adventure. Tree climbing was fun, most noteably our neighbors' cherry tree, until I got caught in it. I slipped and began to slide, and my arm got all twisted until I ended up hanging by arm behind my back. It was just like one of those torture instruments in the Inquisition. I had to hang there yelling my head off for some time before anybody heard me. Did that nightmarish episode deter me from climbing trees? Of course not.
I can recall one summer in particular where my mom decided to sign me up for two weeks in Bible School . The thought of having spend every day until noon locked up inside the church basement was the cruellest of punishments. A black cloud hovered over the first leg of my precious summer vacation like an albatross. The ever-present threat of bible school hung over my head, and the worst part was, there was no way out of it. As it turned out, bible school wasn't half bad. We actually did fun things, including building a church out of popsicle sticks. It was there that I learned the ever-famous:
"This is the church, This is the steeple. Open the doors, and here's all the people."
Of course, after bible school I ran home, shed my clothes as quickly as possible, threw on dirty jeans and whatever else I felt I looked cool in, and ran out for a day's fun. I can remember putting on my rubber boots, and my dad's table saw goggles because I thought they made me look semi-military. My jeans had three pockets in front. That little slash pocket off to the side was the best. I always had this odd fascination for storage, and strange places to ride on. (recall my interest in running boards on trucks). Just as I was feeling wonderfully rugged, my mom would always call me back in the house to "dress down for the heat", making me wear a short sleeve shirt and shorts like everybody else. I agree with Ray Davies of The Kinks: "I'm not like everybody else!"
- Badminton Birdys (how cool were they?)
- Lawn Darts
- Duck tail shirts
- Switchblade combs
- Transistor radios with earplug (they were the ultimate in cool.
- Slip N' Slides (When the monkey bar conspiracy failed, this toy was yet another attempt at killing off us kids.)
- Backyard swing sets. (I loved 'em! Especially that weird swinging glider that held 4 kids.)
- Playing Hangman in our writing tablets? You can still play it here!
60's Fashion: Did we really used to do that?
As for my fascination with pockets, I soon fell in love with Levi jackets once I saw a kid on the block wearing one. I never knew what they were, I just called them "pockets jackets". So, thinking back on Levi jackets brings to mind some of the fads and styles we used to try. I can recall not rolling up my pant legs, but rather rolling them up inside. The guys all wore jeans or cords. Those were the pants to wear. If they were jeans, we'd try to keep the legs rolled up inside to give the impression of hemless pants. Unlike other pants, jeans always came longer. Levi Strauss Co., or Wrangler understood that kids mostly grew upward faster than they grew outward.
Guys used to also wear their belts with the buckle to the side of the hip. That was the cool way. Also, anybody who had a watch (which was a rareity), they wore it upside down with the watch face on the underside of the wrist. I'm talking about the 1962-1964 era. There were two strange substances that guys and men put on their hair: Brylcreem and Butch Wax. I could never tolerate Butch haircuts or crewcuts for that matter, so I never needed Butch Wax . I used to like Brylcreem though simply for the fact that my Dad used it. Brylcreem, in all its glory, had probably the worst smell of anything on the planet. It was also slimy, not thick, and full of oil. For the Butch Wax set, they had those equally bizarre hand combs. These were plastic pads with little plastic spikes on them. There was a plastic handpiece on top that your hand slipped under to hold onto it.
Indian-style bead belts were also pretty cool. I had several of those. During those early sixties, loud, flamboyant shirts, Hawaiian style, and checks, were very popular. The Converse tennis shoes were also great. Remember hightops? Then there were "Red Ball Jets" which I think were put out by Keds. The little rubber ball logo on the ankle area of the high top was red. Other manly footwear consisted of "Desert Boots" and "Engineer Boots" . We used to also put cleats on our Loafers (slip-on dress shoes) so that we may sound cool when "clicking" down the shiny school hallways. Usually, "the Mauvos" used to wear Engineer Boots and cleated loafers. "Mauvos" were the tough guys that were always in trouble and everyone was afraid of.
Speaking of cool, it was considered ultimately hip to rip off the cloth tab on the back of another guy's dress shirt. It always made someone mad, I guess that's why it was cool. Certain Guys' dress shirts had this little tab loop on the back, probably so you could hang it on something for later wear. Anyway, the idea was to sneak up behind a guy, grab ahold and rip it off. We called them "fruit loops". We used to also cut off the sleeves of T-shirts and sweatshirts. Such barbarians we were, but looking good the whole time.
Aside from their wacky behaviors and confounding natures, girls likewise had fashion style. They work knee socks and plaid pleated skirts. I can recall plastic bandanas and berets for the hair, and those wonderful "Mary Janes" the black shoes with the black straps. Girls were also famous for kicking you in the shins. It seemed like it didn't matter what you did, you got a kick in the shins for it. Still, for all of their shortcomings, girls were worthwhile, and good to have around. They made us guys feel heroic and were always on hand as an audience to our stingray show-offing and skateboard showmanship.
As for more styles, I remember these wide, flaring dresses. Then there were pony tails and pig tails. Then there were the pig tail-type of things that were curled, and long. The word for it escapes me now. I recall that "pig tails" were shorter and stuck out both sides of the head. I'm talking about the long-haired girls that had these two really long tails on both sides. Either of these were great for a quick tug at the drinking fountain, or when you sat behind them. This activity will now bring me to...
Girls: The Sweet, The Bad, and The Dangerous
Girls were indeed an interesting phenomenon . The word "enigma" would first come to mind. Girls were creatures of mystery that baffled, bewildered, and confounded us guys to no end. Girls had their own culture. With the exception of "Tomboys" , they were really pretty much unacceptable in our manly circle. I plan to greatly expound on girls here, so let's just roll up our sleeves and get on with it. First, as I mentioned before about school, girls were always smarter than guys. It was a known fact. Then there were the bad girls. They were double-trouble for they were the girls that could beat us guys up! As pretty, and saintly, and winsome as they appeared, they could whop you in the chops with relative force then return to jump rope as if nothing at all had occurred. These girls were always labeled as "dangerous." Needless to say, they earned our respect. In keeping with these girls, there were also the "wrestlers"; girls who could jump on you, pin you down, then whop you in the chops. Those were the "extremely dangerous" ones.
Interestingly, these girls weren't aggressive. They just defended themselves, their honor, territory, pony tails, younger siblings, or whatever else needed defending. In short, I shamefully submit that the "dangerous" girls were trouble that us guys had to intentionally go looking for. Of course, girls had another type of trouble to offer a guy back then. There was nothing worse than when a girl decided that you were her "boyfriend" and there was absolutely nothing you could do about it. She'd show up arbitrarily on your doorstep, or assault you with a saturation campaign of nightly telephone calls. When it happened to me, my first thought was "A girl actually likes me? How wierd..." , soon after that it became "if she calls me one more time..." Then, to make matters worse, your own friends would turn on you. You know the ones; the girl-friendless guys who had nothing better than to enjoy your torment.