Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two Proms and One Prom Dress

In 1966 and 1967 the president was Lyndon B. Johnson and the VP was Hubert Humphrey. A loaf of bread cost 22 cents, a gallon of gas 28 cents, a new auto $2,425, a new home $40,000 in New Jersey and probably $12,000 in Chelsea. The average income was $6,120. So in short the cost of a prom dress was of utmost relevance to a working class youth making 50 cents an hour plus tips. My way of cutting the cost was to wear the gown two years in a row, to both my Junior and Senior Proms. Being a thrifty skin flint I had no shame. Going with a different boyfriend each year perhaps helped make it less embarrassing, not that guys cared less about a twice worn prom dress.

My dress was bought in Tulsa a few weeks before my Junior Prom in April 1966. My Grandfather Robert took me and a couple of my friends 50 miles south for a day of shopping at Tulsa’s new Southland mall. We girls found our dresses while Grandpa waited patiently in the car smoking his Swisher Sweet cigars while we shopped the day away. On the way home we all stopped and ate our first ever pizza at Tulsa’s new Shakey Pizza Parlor. Again Grandpa opted to stay in the car and smoke and we brought him  a slice to go. Grandpa was special, a true work of art.

My first prom, the Junior Prom was held at Alvin Gledit’s Café on Highway 66 in Chelsea. As Juniors it was our mission to prepare the prom for the senior class of 1966. We earned the class money throughout the year washing cars among other typical activities to put on the prom and put on the prom we did. We decorated the event with a Roman theme in purple and gold, complete with columns and a mini fountain. Gledit’s Café was familiar stomping grounds for me. It was the home of my first job as a waitress a year before where I earned a whopping $3 plus tips for an 8 hour shift until lucking out and getting a better job of $4 plus tips for 8 hours at Marie‘s Café. At any rate the menu at our Junior Prom was fried chicken with mashed potatoes, etc. It was messy as all get out to eat, especially with all of us teens dressed in our Sunday plus best “go to meeting” type clothes, but we survived. Ironically a couple of years later the dark dreary Gledit’s Café was converted into a funeral home. What significance that has God only knows.

At our Junior prom there was a local band that played some of the popular songs of 1966 that included: “Good Lovin” performed by The Young Rascals; “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones; “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles; “When a Man Loves a Woman” by P. Sledge; and the ever popular “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes. In 1967 the hot songs of the day that we would hear and dance to were “Daydream Believer” performed by The Monkeys; “Happy Together” by the Turtles; “Light My Fire” sung by The Doors; “Penny Lane” by The Beatles; “Respect” by Aretha Franklin; and the ever popular “The Letter” by The Box Tops.

 Our Senior Prom was held at the McIntosh Grade School cafeteria. It seemed to be a bit more enjoyable than the first, perhaps because we were the invitees and had nothing to do but be there, see and be seen and enjoy the party. However as Juniors it was rewarding being able to get out of class to decorate the dreary Gledit’s Café and future funeral parlor site. That preparation for the prom between buying a dress and decorating is what remains most memorable.

Memoir - Mary Alta Phillips Buckingham, 4/25/2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Practice Teaching Jesus Christ, Superstar, Easter 1971

In the spring of 1971 as I neared completion of my degree from Oklahoma State in Stillwater to teach secondary Social Sciences and Spanish, I began the final leg of requirements with eight weeks of practice teaching. This two month practicum began near the week of Easter in the Bible Belt and oil producing town of Cushing, Oklahoma. Having no car of my own, I rode in a car pool to the school from my Stillwater dorm room 18 miles away with 3 other practice teachers. My supervising teacher, Mr. Turner, when not employed as a high school history teacher was also a Baptist preacher. To say we were a match made in Hades is probably an understatement. For one thing at that time, I had never attended a Baptist Church. Now, this is not to say Mr. Turner was a bad person, but he was an inept teacher of teachers. He offered no guidance in the teaching profession that I recall. He just seemed happy to have a replacement in the classroom so he could escape.

During the late sixties I was schooled in the education theory of making history relevant. That is what I tried to do during that Easter season 1971 at Cushing High. My lesson plan was to ask my history classes to look at Jesus as a political radical and I introduced them to the music of Jesus Christ Superstar simultaneously. I might as well told them to get naked and roll in the snow when it fell. Everything about this approach to Jesus was foreign to them. My supervising teacher was not impressed, however the university education professor was from Slovakia was totally impressed. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of serious doubts about my chosen profession. If I’d only stuck with a major in math, at least the subject wouldn’t be controversial. In math there is just one answer and usually no one gets it right and most everybody hates math which is a comfort to one who enjoys being the “devil‘s advocate“ so to speak.

There were other problems in the spring of ’71 with teaching at Cushing High School, in particular that of classroom respect and discipline. There was none and as a rule in the many public U.S. classrooms there is none. Students are and were in school because they had to be. Many would rather be elsewhere sweeping a floor or peeling potatoes.

My history classes that spring were large with over 40 students plus there were racial problems galore between the Whites and Blacks not only in Cushing, but nationwide. The first time I had current events day, one Black gal give a 40 minute tirade on Angela Davis, the Black revolutionary of those days. The student raged on well over half the class period. Not being much older than the girl and not near as big, I was reluctant to tell her to sit down and shut up, although I clearly thought, enough already! I would eventually learn this teaching method, but not there. Also while at Cushing I had the joy of being threatened with a switchblade by another Black male student. The angry young man didn‘t bother to use it on me, but threw it at a circle he had drawn on his school desk. This knife incident occurred after I banned coin flipping in class. That taught me things can always get worse.

Upon completion of practice teaching I discovered too late that many young people could care less about getting an education to make something of themselves although there were and are exceptions (having been one). The profession frequently seemed not much more than a high paid baby sitting job that even Jesus Christ Superstar would abandon and I did eventually after working in the field ten long years.