To finish my middle school years, I must add the story of my discovery of Elvis Presley and RockandRoll. All of a sudden at school, there was a buzz about this new singer, his name one I had never heard before….Elvis. Even Buddy Holly and Richie Valens had first names other guys had, but not Elvis! Now, you have to know, we didn’t have texting, we didn’t have twitter, we didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have the internet and all that implies like MySpace, Facebook, Utube, etc. So the buzz was mostly word of mouth, notes passed in class, and phone conversations at night. But it was as good as twitter! Elvis was hot! Only in our day, we didn’t say hot, we said, groovy, happening, hip. So Elvis was hip! A lot of the kids weren’t allowed to “like” him; especially the hard core southern Baptist kids. I had been raised a Methodist, and we were even allowed to dance! So I could listen ad infinitum to the LP record which was a gift from my mother’s best friend, Dortha, who lived across the street. I played it on my record player, and the scratchy sound of Heartbreak Hotel was heaven to me; no speakers, of course. Many a night I fell asleep to the sound of Elvis crooning, and if you left the arm up, it would play and play and play!
Elvis was on Ed Sullivan but they only taped him from the waist up because of his “gyrations.” Being a naïve fourteen year old, I really didn’t know what the fuss was about; just looked like rockandroll to me. All in the mind, right? One day, one of my friends on my block excitedly told me that Elvis was going to be at the local movie theatre in a movie called, “Love Me Tender.” We animatedly dressed in our best to go on our “date” with Elvis. Normally, when we went to the movies, we had our pick of most of the rows and seats in the house. Imagine our surprise when we got to the movie theatre and there was a line for the tickets! After purchasing our tickets, we hurried to get a seat even before getting our popcorn as we knew it would be full. Sure enough, our seats in the front (about four rows in) were full. The room was brimming with anticipation, buzzing, every seat filled, and we had to sit in the very back row! People without children were even sitting in the “Cry Room.” Yes, back in the day there was a special room with a plate glass window at the very back with a row of seats and floor room. The sound was piped in as the room was “soundproofed,” for people who took their children to the movies. If the baby or child got fussy or noisy, you could take them in there and they wouldn’t disturb the other guests. The floor was carpeted unlike the rest of the theatre so toddlers could crawl around and play with their toys. Great idea, huh? Wonder what happened to it?
Peggy Sue and I grabbed two of the last two seats just as the movie started. Now, I had been going to movies all of my life, my parents and grandparents frequently took us children for family entertainment and as detailed in one of my other stories; my parents used the movies for a Saturday afternoon baby-sitter. We had intended to go and grab popcorn and drinks, but we quickly forgot as the face of the most beautiful boy (man)? I had ever seen filled the screen. We practically swooned (yes, swooned; the word faint just does not do justice to the feeling we had), especially when he sang “Love Me Tender” to Debra Paget. Elvis held his own in his first movie with Richard Egan, and real tears ran down our faces at the end when he died. (Sorry, hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone). We left the movie house dejectedly as our hero had died, but then the makers of the movie were smart; they had him singing at the end, kind of like an angel looking over his family. So, I was in love. I had never had those feelings before, and as my grandchildren are reading this (I hope) will leave a lot of what I felt to the imagination. Suffice it to say that I had all the symptoms of love, and was forever after crazily in love with Elvis. As my family knows, my love for him has transcended his death. Many dreams of Elvis, during the day and during the night has enhanced my life.
Unfortunately, I was never able to go to one of his early concerts, but was lucky enough to see him in concert in 1973 in Fort Worth, Texas. My friend Betsy had gotten the tickets; you had to call a radio station, but she was whatever # you had to be to even get a chance to buy the tickets. So we didn’t know where our seats were. As we walked into the concert hall, Betsy said my eyes got wider and wider as the usher led us to our seats. We were in the 12th row; I could almost reach out and touch Elvis! We stood most of the time, watching him, and I could see the muscle in his leg underneath the blue jumpsuit twitching against the fabric. Swoon again! I floated out of the theatre. On the way in, people were staring at us and Betsy thought they might think I was Priscilla with my long dark hair and eyeliner, but of course, I was a good four inches taller than Priscilla! Lucky Priscilla. Not because she was shorter…because she had Elvis!
Also had my first two “dates” before I started high school. In 7th grade Peggy Sue had a boyfriend which my mother thought was scandalous. So I couldn’t tell her that Peggy Sue had arranged for her boyfriend to bring a friend to meet us at the movies; my date was Gerald, a short black haired boy in my class. Peggy Sue and I dressed together at her house, wearing white (shirtwaist, we called them because they tucked in at the waist)short sleeved blouses with straight pencil thin grayskirts , calf length and red scarves tied around our necks. We thought we looked very in style (and we probably did). We met the guys at the movie, and Peggy Sue and I sat together and the guys sat on either side of us. I regret to say that Peggy Sue and her date spent most of the movie kissing (they were only 12) so my mother was right! Gerald at one point put his arm around the back of my chair, and you would have thought that he kissed me! I jumped and he removed his arm; we were both so inexperienced (thank goodness)! My mother asked me when I went home how the movie was, and I gushed with my confession. It felt so good not to have to carry that secret! She didn’t reprimand me because I was so remorseful, and I decided that I didn’t really want to go to movies with boys just yet; it made me too nervous and I couldn’t enjoy the movie. Movies were already such a big part of my life; that I would rather see the movie, (and I was only 12; evidently not ready for the opposite sex).
The second date was with Charles. Our mothers arranged this date for a school dance. I didn’t really even want to go to the dance, but I wasn’t asked by anyone what I wanted. I got dressed in an ice blue organdy dress that my grandmother had made just for the occasion. Charles was a boy in my class that was what kids today might call a “nerd”. Even though I could have been too, because that term was reserved for kids that were quiet and made good grades, but I was friends with the rowdy girls, girls who were popular and outgoing, and therefore, was thought by everyone else to be one of them, just by association. When I say rowdy, they just laughed and talked a lot and called attention to themselves; that’s all. Nothing too outrageous, and they were cute, up to date. Peggy Sue had an older sister so she was really up to date with all the latest rockandroll singers. The only way I could keep up was through her. I never could figure out where they got all their information. So Charles’ mother drove him to my house. He had a corsage; I think a white carnation, and was wearing a nice dark suit and tie (he was 12 or 13, remember). Our mothers had talked about that too. They were friends at church, and getting a much bigger kick out of this than either Charles or me. So my mother pinned the corsage on me, after I put on my jacket, and then posed us by the door. If I can find that picture, I will post it here. Charles and I looked like deer caught in headlights, both obviously doing our duty to our mothers. I remember that Charles got in the back seat with me, and his mother was in the front driving. I had never had a chauffeur before; it felt weird. And like most memories….fade to black; have no idea how it went at the dance or who else of my friends might have been there.
We girls only wore skirts and dresses to school (gasp)! We could wear rolled up jeans, capris, and shorts (anything that looked like a girl was wearing it; none of this androgynous clothing) around the house and to very few functions; even to go to my grandmother’s house for dinner, it was a dress. It was actually mid sixties before we were allowed to wear “pant suits” to work. And believe me, it had to be a suit, and look professional or no pants. It was the fifties, and petticoats and circular skirts were in, as in poodle skirts. If you were really in, you wore lots of petticoats under your dress. They were made of all kinds of material, but taffeta was the best as it rustled as you walked! We starched them and hung them on hangers to dry from clotheslines in our rooms, so they would be stiff and stick out. The more your skirt stuck out, the more “mod” you were. I could never match most of the other girls in my starched petticoats; first I only had a few. My mother just didn’t think the fad was that important and I’m sure money factored in. One girl wore 13 to school under her skirts—she had to walk sideways down the halls! I was at her house one day and she had several clotheslines (I only needed one) hung across her room, way up high (she had to stand on the bed to hang her petticoats)and petticoats of all colors decorated her room! Once I went to church camp, and my mother only packed one dress for me. To my chagrin, I found out that we dressed for dinner every night (camp was all inside, no sleeping on the ground although of course, we did outside activities) and the girls wore the dreaded petticoats. Somehow, I suppose I called and told my mother; she mailed me more dresses, but no petticoats…horrors!
As a child, I had naturally curly hair. My mother would keep my hair short to try to control it’s unruliness and so it would curl more. Other people around me, my mother, grandmother, and even my baby sister at three were enduring permanents. They smelled terrible, and I still wanted one. My mother just emphatically said I didn’t need one, and that was that. All of that was fine when I was younger. I didn’t like my hair short, but I didn’t like a lot of things, and just endured them. Finally, I reached an age when I felt free to speak up more, and insisted on trying to grow my hair long like all the other girls who were rolling their long hair on orange juice cans (you know, the concentrate cans). They would roll the long strands around the cans which had been scrupulously cleaned (I hope) and then somehow pin them to their heads. My hair was never long enough for cans, but I would roll my hair on the largest rollers I could find. All of this was in an attempt to straighten our hair. Curls were out. Some girls even ironed their hair. Mine wasn’t long enough, I would have scorched my face. If you can believe it; we slept on these rollers and cans. When I washed my hair once a week (yes, you heard right from someone who washes it every day now), I rolled it up wet and slept, well, tried to sleep. Many a hair washing night was spent tossing and turning and the bobby pins and rollers-yes the rollers had brushes into them—sticking into my scalp. What price beauty? My hair might have some straightness to it the first day, albeit a slight wave. BUT after the first night, the curls would spring back, and I would resentfully brush and brush trying to get them out! Why did I sleep on those rollers then? Heck if I know. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that we didn’t have hair dryers of any kind, curling iron, hot rollers, nothing. The luckiest people were people who could afford a beauty shop trip once a week. Then you wrapped your sprayed, teased stiff do in toilet paper (so it wouldn’t mash too much) and hoped for the best; tried to poof out any dents and go on. Honestly, sometimes hair wasn’t brushed or combed for a week. The few times I did that, I always felt something was living in my “nest” of hair. Very itchy.
Still remember the first time I learned how to tease my hair, I spent hours practicing on myself, my sister, and my friends. We thought we were all movie stars then. How we contributed to global warning too, spraying away those aerosol cans. In high school ponytails were in. The popular girls put their long, long, STRAIGHT hair in a pony tail. There were only regular rubber bands too, terrible for the hair. Then these girls in their 13 petticoats and their high, high, long ponytails would flounce down the halls at school gathering the admiring glances of all they surveyed. Alas, my pony tail was more a dog’s tail and a curly dog’s tail at that. But slick it back I would, and wet it, hoping it would grow and be straight to no avail. The other girls tails bounced around as they walked; mine might have bobbed a little.
In the early sixties, I came into my own as Elizabeth Taylor made the “bubble cut” famous in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”. The neckline short, curly bob was perfect for my hair, and as Elizabeth and I both had black hair, my senior friends called me “Maggie” (the Cat); Elizabeth’s name in the movie (also because MaryHelen was just too long and not catchy). Lately, I have wished that I had kept that nickname, but I didn’t, and now my nickname is Mimi, the one my grandchildren gave me. And now, I am considered lucky; I have "wash and wear" hair. With a proper cut, my hair dries naturally into an appealing modern do.
One story I tell though about my hair is something my youngest daughter said one day. I am the only one in my immediate family blessed with curly hair; my daughters, my sister all had that long straight hair that I used to long for. Of course, my girls with their long straight hair used to always want curly hair. One day I was blow drying my hair and my girls, ten and seven were watching me. Suddenly, April the 7 year old said to her sister, Lisa, "Look at that! She's blowing curls into her hair!" I was probably actually trying to blow curls out, but I still chuckle about that. The grass is always greener.
Finally, I am ready to go to my first year of high school, my sopomore year in 1958-1959 (see next chapter).