Teenage Mechanism………….#34 (the 50’s)

Sign of the times

The bus ride home from Frick Junior High was over, Gary walking with Linda Grindstaff  from the bus stop, the seventh graders making comments about  school and the fads of dress appearance.   Gary having never given serious thought to dress or countenance,  but Linda opened a closed-door.  She was good natured in her comments,  pointing out the differences in classmates.

She was correct, his friends,  Don Bryant and Hank Ball sported flat tops,  and there were other differences that he recognized,  both having expensive brands of  clothes.   Even at Burckhalter elementary,  Don and Hank always dressed better than many of the others,  Gary accrediting their up-scale clothes to an accepted  fact,  their family income,  Don’s father a banker, and Hanks Dad, the general manager of Ball Cannery.

He realized that there were those who appraised a person by appearance or attire, but Gary was more into assessing people by their character, their interest and the way they acted.   The youth was aware of the struggle his family endured to provide the necessities for him and his sisters,  and for the most part felt comfortable in his appearance.  He was discovering that junior high was far different from elementary school,  where you spent six years with the same classmates, in the same room all day.   Your classmates were more like brother and sisters, accepting each other, and for some reason, they always looked the same no matter how they dressed.  With some thought,  it was a truism, like family, Linda was always Linda, and Hank was always Hank,  regardless of what they were wearing.

Gary realized that a midterm class didn’t have a new craze or fad to contend with, unlike the Fall Semester class entering junior high after summer vacation.  There was no school break for the start of the spring semester,  the grade change for the midterm class seemed like a continuation of the school year.   The introduction of style and fad was a new issue thrust upon the new seventh grader.  The latest clothing fad at school was Levi’s,  and because of family finances, and their higher cost, Gary would  settling for a generic brand pair of jeans, but with his new found Tribune paper route income offering to  supplement the added cost, it wasn’t long before he was finally able to acquire his one and only pair of  Levi’s.  It was a well-known fact that Levi’s wearers would go weeks without washing them,  even to the point of hiding their jeans from their weekly wash.   It was commonly believed they would shrink, fade , and lose their distinctly dark appearance if coming in contact with water,  Gary attempting to participate in this long standing practice but to no avail,  no thanks to an alert Mother.

School dress codes were strict and adhered to, especially the precept concerning T shirts.  The rule being  rigorously enforced, the school code providing that T-shirts could only be worn under a button shirt or pullover sweater.  The students abdicating the rule the minute they were off the school grounds,  it was off with the button shirt,  and behold,  Levi’s and T shirts prevailed.


his well ordained tradition coming to an abrupt end when the  enviable happened,  summer vacation, and the fall semester finding a  new clothing sensation having been marketed.   Ivy League Denims were in, the new clothing sensation taking the school by storm,  pastel colors, button down collar shirts, and denim pants with a decorative belt in the back.   It was a welcome change to some, but others remaining faithful to Levi Strauss.   It didn’t  stop with pants and shirts, a new adage was adopted, wingtip shoes,  and with them,  came the reverbing  sound of horseshoe taps echoing in the school corridors.

Besides the advent of wingtips,  the junior high boys sported a new version of necktie, it was called tennis shoes.  In junior high the boys didn’t dress for gym except for shoes, it was soon realized that the best way to carry your tennis shoes  from your school locker to  gym class,  was with laces tied together and the shoes slung around your neck,  not surprising, the inventiveness of the student body was limitless.   The only apparel that for a time seemed to remain the same was the denim jacket,  and soon it would be altered.    It was officially known as a Varsity Letterman Jacket,  but it was better known on the school grounds as a forty niner jacket,  named  for the San Francisco NFL team.  It was a wool jacket with leather arms, and unfortunately price prohibitive for Gary until a pseudo brand was finally manufactured.  The school environment was transforming,   shirt,  pants,  shoes,  jacket,  hair style,  a teenage mechanism was in development.

Gary reasoned, status was never endowed, only acquired,  and junior high awakened him to a new social perspective. A question remained, did he want to be ushered into this rapidly filling communal,  only time would tell



2 Responses to “Teenage Mechanism………….#34 (the 50’s)”

  1. trumny Says:

    That is interesting point of view

    • gwillson7 Says:

      Thank you for your comment. My point of view was germane then and possibly today. I hope you enjoy all my youthful decries on Inquisitive Quest……Gary

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