OK kids, time to join Sherman and Mr. Peabody in the Wayback Machine! And please don’t tell me you never heard of Sherman and Mr. Peabody….
From 1966-1970, I went to the Philadelphia High School for Girls, aka Girls’ High, a public single sex high school for which one had to qualify academically. It was very much like a private school, with long-held traditions such as our pink marble halls and numbered classes (I was in the 214th class to graduate).
This is not an example of our dress code — behind the statue you can see the pink marble halls.
Let me get on my soapbox here: going to a single-sex high school made me who I am today. Not so much due to the academics offered as the FREEDOM to come out of the intelligence closet. Imagine – no boys to mock us if we got the answer wrong, or to scorn us because we were “too smart.” Excelling was cool at my high school. I certainly did not love going to school but I gained a lot of confidence there, and lifelong friends with whom I am still in contact via Facebook! Go GHS 214!
In 1968, America was changing. The Vietnam War was on everyone’s minds. We still had a military draft! It was very scary for my male friends, who prayed their birthdays would be given a high number in the draft lottery.
“And it’s 1-2-3, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, next stop is Vietnam!”
My high school had a dress code. We had to wear skirts. NO PANTS allowed, even when it was freezing cold. Fortunately, that ended sophomore year, and this became the uniform.
“Bell bottom blues, you made me cry…”
So I started high school wearing matching heather sweater and skirt outfits, complete with circle pin and Weejun loafers, but ended on a different note.
Here is my yearbook picture. The Girls’ High authorities made every girl wear the same sweater and pearls for picture-taking, trying to stifle our freedom of expression!
But here’s what I actually looked like as a senior:
Check out that denim mini skirt!
Unlike my fellow bloggers at CTWorkingMoms, I was not even a little bit athletic. I spent my time thinking deep thoughts, writing poetry, listening to music (I would spend hours in my room listening to “Sweet Baby James,” crying because poor James Taylor suffered so much) and hanging out with my little boyfriend, who fancied himself a musician.
Poor suffering James — he was pretty cute back then, though.
We went for long car rides. Gasoline was 22 cents a gallon. We went to live music shows at small clubs such as the Electric Factory and the Main Point, and saw Bonnie Raitt, Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills and Nash (pre-Young), Fairport Convention, Traffic, Derek and the Dominos and lots more. I did not go to Woodstock, however (damn parents).
I had a job making leather sandals like these, although they did not come with feet.
Here are some bad things I did in high school (bad in the eyes of my parents, I mean):
• Wrote and signed the first absence note of my senior school year, so the homeroom teacher would not know my mother’s handwriting. This enabled me to write my own absence notes, so I could cut school whenever I wanted. I liked to go to the zoo when I cut school.
“Something tells me it’s all happening at the Zoo…”
• Challenged my parents a lot. For example, when they tried to impose a curfew, I told them that anything they feared I would do after midnight, I could easily do before midnight. They hated when I did that kind of thing.
• Often went to NYC by myself (once to see Bobby Kennedy lying in state at St. Patrick’s Cathedral – I was devastated when he was assassinated).
• Took the subway to downtown Philadelphia, which my parents equated with walking on a tightrope over an alligator pit in terms of the danger quotient.
• Ran away a few times (to my grandmother’s or aunt’s house – what a rebel).
• Bought a pair of wire-rim glasses on my own when my parents refused to do so. I wore them only while out of the house and changed into my parent-approved glasses before I got home (rebel revisited).
I am contemplating a blade of grass, as we liked to do in the 1960s.
• Along with many others, I wore a black armband to high school graduation, because the Kent State murders had just occurred. Since the traditional garb for Girls’ High graduations was a white dress, and I was on the front row on stage (being a class officer), the black armband was very obvious and my parents thought I was the only one doing this. They were livid.
• Some other things that are perhaps better kept to myself!
It was a great time to be alive, musically and politically. Some people my age still retain that rebellious, idealistic, change-the-world mentality. It definitely informs my work on a daily basis, because there is nothing I love more than bringing a state or federal agency to its knees. I grew up thinking that it was possible to make a difference, to end injustice and prejudice, and that challenging authority and the conventional wisdom was my duty. These were not my parents’ values at all, so I have to give credit to being lucky enough to go to Girls’ High in the late 1960s. Our school motto was “Vincit qui se vincit”: “She conquers who conquers herself.” We were taught to rise above our fears and self-limitations in order to achieve the greater good. It still works for me!