I Had to Graduate in a Dress

Looking back to high school I remember it as being so serious and repressed. Teachers were stern and quick to let the students know that they might let us have a little fun but we were really “under their thumbs.” My high school years were 1966 – 1969, grades 10, 11 and 12. As a girl dresses or skirts were expected for all thirteen years. Only a year later I was a student at Kent State University. In the fall of 1969 I felt as if I landed in a different world. Jeans and overalls dominated. I arrived on a campus that had 24 hour visitation privileges from day one. The drug culture was everywhere. I let my hair grow and grow. Such freedom! My best friend from high school who was attending Ashland College sent me a memorable book called Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn which I loved. It was reissued in April of 2009. For the times this was a scandalous book because the main characters were an interracial couple. The song Society’s Child by Janis Ian addressed the same issue and it also caused a ruckus. Both titles were released in 1966.

When you look at the years of my high school education, a lot was going on: The Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Woodstock, the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Prague Spring, Black Power and a resurgence of the Women’s Movement. However, in Hamilton, Ohio everything was still under control. Our parents sent us off to college and we were innocent children. We had never been allowed to grow up.

Several months later in the spring of 1970, antiwar protests lead to the deaths of four students on the grounds of Kent State University. The remnants of our innocence were gone. I don’t believe there is a definitive book for the Kent State shootings. However, bibliographies can be consulted.

Other books from this time were Listen to the Warm (1967) by Rod McKuen, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) by Richard Bach and Love Story (1970) by Erich Segal. It’s hard to believe these books were phenomenal at the time. Perhaps their appeal was their simplicity because they certainly were published in a tumultuous time.

P.S. In 1968 I was seventeen. When my son turned seventeen the book 1968:the year that rocked the world by Mark Kurlansky was published. I gave it to him and said, “When I was seventeen, this is what was going on in the world.”

 — Janet

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