I’m not sure when middle school started getting better but somewhere along the way it did.
Specific memories of middle school are rare –the mind does a good job filtering out those unpleasant things that aren’t worth clinging to anyway. I do remember a middle school science teacher named Mr. Marconi (like the inventor of the radio) suddenly I was much more interested in science than ever before! I also remember a very elderly home economics teacher (although her name escapes me) and I remember learning a new word in her class – peeve.
“Open kitchen cabinets are my pet peeve,” I remember her saying. And I had no idea what she was talking about! Was there a pet in the cabinets? Was his name Peeve? And exactly what kind of pet was it? I often think of her when I see my kitchen cabinets standing ajar!
For younger readers who didn’t take home economics, in the late 1960s it was still assumed than girls needed to learn to cook and sew and boys needed to learn woodworking and how to handle light tools – saws, hammers, drills. My mother and grandmother were both very talented seamstresses but that was not a skill I developed. My favorite part of home economics was making a dress that I could hem as short as I wanted to! I finally got to wear a mini-skirt to school (quite the fashion in the late 1960s). I can still picture that dress. It was red with a white ships and nautical symbols printed on it. It was a sleeveless, straight shift of heavy cotton. I wore it the one day we had to and was incredibly uncomfortable and self-conscious. I never wore it again.
The summer of 1969 was the year of the moon landing and a two week long camping trip at Kerr Lake. I remember taking several friends from bowling on the camping trip (one tent for boys and one for girls.) I remember we hooked up a small portable TV at the picnic table and watched the coverage of the moon walk. This was probably the year I began dating and I dated older guys who I knew from bowling. Usually they were two to three years older than I was and my mother knew them. I had a lot of guys who were friends (actually many more guy friends than girlfriends) and usually we would do things in a group but eventually I would go on a date with one of the guys and then another. My recollection of dating was that you could go “on a date” with a different guy every weekend and the guys could all be friends with each other. It was not that way for my children. The only way a guy knew you were not available for dating is if you started “going steady.”
I think I was 14 going on 15 when I began “going steady” with Steve. We went to different schools and met through bowling. My recollection is that we dated for two or three years before he went to college (probably when I still had most of high school ahead of me.) Steve was a good bowler but an even better tennis player and my mother would often drive me to wherever he was playing tennis (sometimes even out of state) so I could watch the match. This is somewhat surprising since my mother didn’t really like Steve.
My grandfather (JBK) spent Christmas 1969 with us and recounts the big ice storm on Christmas eve that knocked out power to many homes in Richmond.
“We woke up to a ground covered with snow, with a coating of ice, and we heard over the radio that 50,000 homes were without electricity – broken power lines. We began to get calls from relatives who were staying in bed to keep warm, and wondering how to get any hot food. Bry and Ceil invited them all to come over to 3736 Shore Drive, and they began to arrive and warm themselves before the blazing fire in the big basement recreation room. They all brought contributions of food and at 5 o ‘clock we had another grand feast. Including the Brennans (our closest family friends) there were 18. All but the Brennans went home for the night, but the Brennan’s house was still without power so 4 children slept by the fire, on cots, camp mattresses, etc. My children are perfect hosts, and it was a delightful house party.”
So my descriptive phrase for this year would have to be – starting to date.