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1960s: When the World Was Young and Simple

Dixie Diner

by Brenda K Oswalt

Remember when the whole world was beautiful and sparkling, like the unscratched paint and the gleaming chrome on a new car in a dealer’s showroom?

Yessiree, back in the early 60s, life was carefree, clean cut, and much simpler. Right? Well, what was it really like to be a teen-angel in Mansfield, Ohio before the world was corrupted by rap music and single parent families?

Bad Kids in High School

It was 1964.  I remember the crunchy leaves that lined my path as I walked to Madison Senior High on a crisp Midwestern morning.  Oh, the world was bright and shiny and full of exuberant promise for all of us girls in our new saddle shoes.  It was Indian Summer and school was starting once again.

There were, however, “incidents” at our senior high that had the new students wondering what kind of school they were walking into.  No one ever explained why Mr. Conner, the principal, ended the practice of having "Class Day” at Madison High, but two possible reasons were being widely circulated.  My friend, Bobby, had heard rumors about some kids smuggling a Volkswagen Beetle up the freight elevator and running it down the eighth floor during the previous year.  And, there was another rumor that bikini-clad girls and bras had been spray painted on top of the roof.

Jim and the Bar Across the Street

Across the street from the high school, stood a local watering hole called “The Relief Pitcher”.  Joe Masters, the bartender and owner of the joint, had lots of baseball memorabilia on the walls, like signed jerseys, bats, and balls.  One day, the principal, Mr. Conner, walked into the bar and asked Joe for some change so he could get something from the candy machine.  (Back in the early sixties, people could actually buy things for a nickel or a dime.)  Mr. Conner bought a pack of gum and started to walk out the door.

A Bar Next to Madison High School?

Suddenly, Conner stopped and retraced his steps, moving toward the end of the bar where a tall young man sat with his head down, contemplating the beer mug in front of him.

“What are you doing here, Jim?” Mr. Conner asked.

“Uh, I was, uh, well you see…”  Jim sputtered for a while and finally managed to come up with, “I didn’t have time for lunch, Principal Conner.”

Then, the principal turned to Joe, the owner, and said, “This boy is a sophomore from the high school across the street.  He’s 15 and you should not be serving minors here.”

Joe Masters looked startled, and wiped his hand on the bar towel, as he fired back, “You gotta’ be kidding me, Conner.   Jim here has been one of my best customers for over 3 years now.  Look at him…he’s 6’ 5” tall…big enough to eat hay and live in a barn.”

Dejectedly, Jim slid off the stool and made his way to the door, shuffling across the street, to follow Mr. Conner to the principal’s office.  Busted at The Pitcher.


Drag Racing and the Town Square

In the center of our town, there squatted a huge square, with a gazebo on one corner and a giant goldfish pond on another. And, every Saturday night, Mansfield’s luckiest teenagers, those who were able to scrounge up a set of wheels, spent hours and hours driving around the square, waving to the other kids, and squaring off to pair up.  You could always tell who was with whom by seeing whose car was left parked on the square.

Macho Men and Muscle Cars

The guys in Pontiac GTOs, Plymouth Barracudas, and other muscle cars would rev their engines and pretend to be prancing stallions, ready for the race.  And, race they did.  The Motorheads picked their challengers on the square and headed outside the city limits for a little action.

Rich Kid Plays the Fool

All kinds of kids came from neighboring towns to join the scene, and one Saturday night, it didn’t make a pretty picture.  Some smartass kid from a nearby town had been given a brand new car by his fat-cat daddy and he didn’t know how to drive it.

Richie Richboy raced from light to light around the square, thinking he was totally hottshit.  But, somehow he lost control and landed smack dab in the middle of the huge goldfish pond, leaving crumpled concrete all over the grass and spraying dinner-sized orange carp onto the road in his wake.  It's hard to play the hotshot glamour-boy when mommy has to swing by and pick you up.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/42353480@N02/5581656838/Sandy’s Beehive Hairdo

Boys weren’t the only creatures who wanted to make a real splash at Mansfield Square.  Sandy was 16, drove a one-eyed Corvette convertible, and had a beehive hairdo that rivaled anything worn by the B-52s.  Sandy was her own girl and she was, certainly, no shrinking violet.

I’m sure Sandy’s hair stood up over the top of her head a good foot and, no, it wasn’t a wig.

Her “do” had a hole through the middle where she kept her manicure comb (the kind with the long pointy handle).  Ms Bighair needed to have her comb nearby, as she used it to scratch her head between hair jobs, because she kept her “do” stiffened up with boatloads of hairspray.  That way her hair didn’t get messed up when she drove with the top down, and she drove with the top down most of the time because putting the hardtop back on the Corvette would mash her hair down flat.  Sexy image, huh?

Sandy was a big gal and was not very happy on bad hair days.  During the winter, you could see Sandy tooling around town with her fur coat and fuzzy gloves.  The top was down but there was not a hair out of place, even at 40 mph.

Green Hair in the 1960s

Let me explain the early 60s to you.  Almost no one wanted to
be “different” because it was a societal curse.  Most women wanted to be cute and effervescent like Sandra Dee or Annette Funicello.  And, that’s why Sandy was so unique.

One day, Ms Bighair got real feisty and decided to color her hair green for St. Patrick’s Day.  Well, she dressed in a green polka dot dress, green leotards, and 2-inch dangling green earrings.  She liked the attention so much; she kept her hair green throughout spring.

Now Sandy was big, and when you saw this “Green Monster” rolling toward you, well, you just had to get out of her way.  Finally, the school board decided that Sandy had to get rid of her green hair. She threw a fit but, at the threat of expulsion, she caved in.  However, it didn’t work, so she just shaved her head.

So, whenever you hear about the good old days during the 50s and 60s, when teenagers always listened to their parents, consistently used pleasant manners, and unfailingly outperformed their hippie-style cousins, just remember the kid who killed all the goldfish and the girl who made her hair go green.

Brenda's Website: DixieDiner.com

Listen to Little GTO by Ronnie & The Daytonas

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Brenda Oswalt is a French-trained cook, writer, businesswoman and inventor who holds several medical patents.

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