I've been invited to a '50s party, so I've been putting together period costumes for myself and my husband - rolled up blue jeans, bobby socks, neck scarves. It's been fun, and the process has triggered a lot of nostalgia. I remember the '50s, vaguely, and the '60s vividly.
I remember poodle skirts. My mother made me a red one with a gray poodle on it and she made a matching one for my sister. Leita got a 50-yard sweep (can-can slip) for her birthday that year. I got one with an inflatable hoop that worked even better than a sweep. We barely fit through the front door, and we were the envy of the neighborhood.
I remember 1958 when Elvis Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Our whole family watched it along with my 17-year-old cousin, Ruth Ann, who was living with us at the time. She practically swooned and my mother was totally aghast.
I was smitten. Ever after, though I had pictures in my room of Fabian, Frankie Avalon, the Beatles, and others, no one held a candle to Elvis.
I remember when the hula hoop came out. I just had to have one. I remember practicing with my hoop (not to be confused with the hoop slip) by the hour and laughing at my dad trying it out. He never quite got the hang of it.
In the '60s, there were so many things that played a big part in our lives that teens today have no acquaintance with, like drive-in movies. What fun we had packing eight or 10 kids in one vehicle on the special once-a-month night when you could get a whole carload in for $5. Once inside, we'd all pile out and sit on top of the car, or we'd spend the whole time running around to other cars to see how many of our friends were there. At intermission we'd buy huge dill pickles, Smithfield barbecue sandwiches, and Cokes at the concession stand.
I'll never forget one night especially. My brother started up the car after the movie and drove off with the speaker still attached to the window. The cord snapped and we all laughed our heads off. We had to pool our money to pay for it before the theater manager would let us leave.
I remember roller rinks. The third Thursday of every month was skate night for all the area youth groups. We'd meet at our church and carpool 26 miles to the rink. We learned to skate backwards. We did the grand march and the whiplash, which scared the daylights out of me. I remember the dimmed lights and swirling colored spotlights when the announcer called "Couples only." Some '60s music still brings back the feel of swaying around the rink, hoping that special someone (a different someone every year) would ask me to skate with him.
I remember hayrides - 20 or 30 kids piled into one farm wagon loaded with loose hay. I don't know why it was so much fun just to sit there while a John Deere pulled us around in the dark at a snail's pace, but it was a blast. We'd sing silly songs, throw hay at each other, and occasionally steal a kiss or two. Sometimes a few of the older boys would hide along the route and jump out to scare us.
One time the tractor broke down and we all had to wait for the driver to hike home and come back with another one. We passed the time telling scary stories and laughing ourselves sick.
I'm not sure there's a point to all this except that it's a sign I'm getting old. Still, it's fun to reminisce about an era and a culture long gone. That was clear recently when I watched the American Idol contestants try to sing '60s Motown music. It was both funny and sad. Though some of them did a fair job of it, you could see that they really just didn't "get" the music.
Guess the '60s was one of those times when you just had to be there.