Looking back it seems as if the teens then had much more to do. You just don't see too many of them out these days unless you're at the shopping malls or you happen to be visiting someone who has one and by some chance you wander into their room by mistake which is where they tend to stay.
We were busy. Friday nights during the school year we'd head for the sock-hop at the school gym. It didn't matter how popular a kid was, the sock-hop was the place to be. Even the wall flowers were there. Sometimes they got to dance and other times they just stood around. Around the walls. No one cared too much about who was who. Really popular kids had more friends, usually smarter ones and the kids not considered to be a real catch or way cool had friends too, ones who liked to smoke cigarettes. So everyone had somebody to hang out with. Girls could even dance with each other and no one looked at you funny.
You got in the dance free. You just had to be a kid to go in and if you are much under the age of half a century you probably have never heard of such. I think it was all in the music. Gone are the scrapbooks filled with pictures and movie stubs, magazine glossies, and bits and pieces that only a thirteen year old girl would consider sacred and precious.
Today I draw from my memory album still fairly clear and intact. Typically we were carbon copies. Did peer pressure exist then? You bet it did. One difference was that we were not impressed with labels. Lucky girls like me had mothers who could sew and we were proud of the beautiful hand made skirts and blouses. Layer upon layer of brightly colored crinoline can-can petticoats starched so stiff that our upper thighs stayed chaffed and sore but those skirts stood out like inverted umbrellas. We all wore short sleeved sweaters with white cotton collars. White bobby socks and penny loafers completed the look and those of us with long hair wore ponytails with long chiffon scarves tied either around the ponytail or at our neck. And when you got into the gym you took your shoes off at the door and stayed in your socks until you got ready to go. Rubber soled shoes would mess up the floor. All the latest dances were introduced, practiced and perfected at those school sock-hops. The kids who had a television at home got to see them first on American Bandstand and had a leg up on some. Dances like the Bop, the Slide, the Stroll and a little later the Shuffle. Yeah we were cool alright. We danced to a frenzy, the night sounds throbbing and twanging. Elvis, The Big Bopper, Fats Domino and Little Richard. The dance got over when the adult chaperones could tolerate no more.
Dancing didn't stop at the sock-hops. Our generation was consumed with movement and energy and when not in school we could be found dancing at the donut shop. They also made and sold stuff like donuts and a few other treats but were primarily in business for the jukebox.
The dancing. For a dime you could get three songs and five for a quarer. The girls who baby sat or picked up change from doing home chores hoarded those dimes and quarters for more music. Rock and Roll was our drug of choice and we were hooked. It was during the donut shop days that I discovered my fascination with the dregs of society had not just ceased with the Foxholers, and I befriended girls my parents disapproved of. I remember feeling sorry for them that the "good" girls would have nothing to do with them and wanted to show them that they were important. These were girls who smoked cigarettes and wore make-up. They were a little older and went for the bad boy type. They took to me like a slug takes to salt and I started going by their houses after school and became amazed at how girls who were "poor" could have such pretty clothes and so many sweaters. They encouraged me to try them on and soon began giving me sweaters as gifts. It didn't feel right but I did love those sweaters. I still remember well my mother's reaction the first time I wore one of the sweaters home. She became the interrogator from hell with all her questions and ranting and raving. She demanded that I return the sweater and forbade me to have anything more to do with those girls. She told me that nothing good would come from getting things so easy. I thought she was unfair and mean and just didn't understand so I continued my friendships on the sly but found it so hard trying to keep all those sweaters hidden.
Well there is a moral to this story of course and it wasn't long at all before my "friends" let me in on their wardrobe acquisitions. You guessed it. Shoplifting! I soon became an accomplice and actually stuffed some of the sweaters in bags too and took them home and had to find hiding places. It had the feeling of an elicit romance. Something you had to be very careful of, not to be fully enjoyed. It didn't take long before I could not sleep and was constantly tormented by the knowledge that I had become a THIEF. What was I to do. Prayers didn't seem to be working. Or were they. Each time I prayed for forgiveness the sweaters would poke out of their hiding place to shout "Thief.............you'll burn in hell"!
Morning and afternoons crossing the street in front of school, it seemed as if the school crossing guard somehow knew about my dirty deeds and conscience won over. Thank you God. Unable to stand the pressure and guilt I confessed to him what I had done, and he agreed to let it be our secret. My penance was to bring to him in a paper bag all the sweaters I had stolen and he walked into J.C. Penny with me to return my shameful stash. He offered me protection throughout the ordeal. I was banned from shopping at J.C.Penny. Shopping? We never shopped there. Remember my mother was a seamstress but she didn't do sweaters.
It was many years before I learned from my mother that she had been childhood friends with the school guard and had known all along of the crime and punishment. Today when I put on a pretty sweater I'm sometimes reminded of those sweaters of long ago and feel a bit of shame I wonder if those other girls grew to take a different path. I become aware and remindful of my ever present conscience, that little voice of God's spirit within each of us.