I’ve covered 1950s life on the farm and at country school, now I’ll delve into the high school days at Neligh, Nebraska. Once I got over the shock and stigma of coming straight off the farm, I was bouncy and friendly to everyone. Inside, I was insecure and self-conscious and often felt out of place. It was hard to figure out who I was. Looking back, I’m guessing other teens saw me as friendly, flirty, nice, and big-chested. Everyone knew I loved to sing.
I realized it was a time of gaining independence without financial responsibilities, so I resolved to have fun with a capital F.
As freshmen we wore maroon and white beanies for six weeks of initiation into the Warriorettes. A girl was not “in” if she didn’t belong to the pep club to support football, basketball, and wrestling events. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the team! Team! Team! We’re gonna getcha if ‘y don’t watch out. A, B, C, and D. we’re gonna win this game, you’ll see. Double X, Y, and Z. It’s as easy as your ABCs.
Sporting events drew teens for most of our get-togethers. I never witnessed a fistfight, or saw a catfight—what was known as girls fighting. Somehow I remained sheltered, maybe just oblivious, of a lot that took place around me.
I’m sure I waded through horrendous-to-experience-at-the-time personal episodes that the years have erased. One catastrophe took place when an upperclassman whispered to me in the hall, “where’s your girdle today?” Why high school girls needed girdles is way beyond me now.
I often felt uncomfortable. I had no idea how to act in social situations. I felt different or out of place, and admit I dealt with many physical complexes that I covered up with a smile. As most teens, I focused on what was wrong in a mirrored image. My shoulders were too broad. My breasts too large. Crooked bangs covered my forehead, since like cutting a cake, Mom’s scissors went askew. I suffered through my share of pimples, but I socialized to forget all my private misgivings.
We girls wore pastel baby doll pajamas, and cleaned our faces with Noxsema cold cream. I loved spending the night at different girlfriends’ homes, both in town and in the country. I never asked them to my home, not because I was embarrassed, but because there was no room. On occasion I invited a friend to stay at Grandma Reikofski’s in town with me, where we slept in my mom’s old bed. The next morning, if it was a Saturday, we laid on the bed to zip up our tight jeans—which wouldn’t go on if we didn’t “suck it in.”
I described boys or objects as “sharp” or “tough.” I passed flowery, dramatic, even mysterious notes to my girlfriends across the aisles in class and study hall. I wrote to my friend Linda, one of the many Lindas of the time, and told her “I baked Dad a cake from a mix for his 40th birthday,” and in the next sentence “I can’t believe that Mom is going to another baby.” Of course, once my youngest brother arrived, I was overjoyed.