I recently visited a place from my past. It was a small, parochial, all-girls' high school when I attended my freshman and sophomore years there in the 1960’s, and it’s just a little bit bigger now.
Then, as now, religious education and womanly values were emphasized.
We wore navy blue blazers and skirts over white short-sleeved peter pan collared blouses. If you don’t know what peter pan collars are, I will tell you that they were designed in 1905 for the first staging of the musical Peter Pan. If you want to know more, I urge you to use google.
Our skirts were required to be of modest, below the knee length. In the tradition of girls in girls’ schools everywhere, we rolled the waistbands, making our skirts much, much shorter on the way to and from school.
Another tradition was to have the youngest freshman light candles on the Advent wreath each week during the period leading to Christmas. The entire school gathered round to view the lighting and recite prayers.
I was indeed the youngest freshman, and at my debut candle lighting, discovered that my inexperienced fingers couldn't seem to light a match from the flimsy, cardboard matchbook provided without assistance. The following week one of the sisters made sure there was a sturdy box of wooden matches available, which led to a more successful (and faster) candle lighting.
I remember being in the biology lab when a fellow student flashed a 45-record with a cover featuring a photo of four mop-headed boys, and thus I had my first glimpse of the Beatles. I wasn’t sure at first what to think about all that hair, but grew to love the Beatles, a band that still plays together and never broke up, in my world anyway.
I was again in biology class early on a Friday afternoon in November when a stunning announcement came over the PA. President Kennedy had been shot. Many of us started to cry. Our teacher, Mrs. G., told us to stop crying, because crying meant that we were feeling sorry for ourselves. Grief-counseling was quite different back then.
Later, while in French class, the gentle voice of our principal informed us that the president had died. She led us in prayer, and we were dismissed for the day. We didn’t know it then, but we would not feel quite the same when we returned to our classes the following week.
Touring the school, outside the door of the biology lab, I cried a little bit. For the president, and maybe for the Beatles, and for the girls who were told not to cry on that day so many years ago.