Lost and Feeling Alone on the Streets of Big D.
November 11, 2013
A young teenager’s bittersweet tale of new-girl-it is, as she arrives transplanted to the Dallas area during the era of the Kennedy Assassination.
This four-part story temporarily replaces my Monday mystery blog.
NERD ON CLOUD NINE
I was still working on decorating my bedroom. I followed the directions in the pamphlet put out by the Scott Paper Company. It was for young girls and titled “Off to a Beautiful Start.” It explained how to make a dressing table out of a piece of plywood, so I did. I sanded it lightly, and painted it peacock green.
The pamphlet also suggested that you could turn yourself into a Dream Girl within five years if you applied certain principles. I decided I would follow these directions faithfully.
I was so down in the dumps over my nerdiness. When I wasn’t begging my parents for a wicker peacock chair to also paint peacock green, I was begging for contact lenses to replace my cat’s eye glasses.
I had not learned to like my environment yet, but I was taking it all in. Angus Wynne’s Six Flags over Texas was a fairly new amusement park, the first of the franchise, and Neiman Marcus fashions and goods were all the rage. Friday night football games in Texas were never bigger events than they were during those years I attended high school. Some of my teachers were football coaches and their class lectures were often peppered with the phrase, “the whole shootin’ match,” or “you dropped the ball on that one, try again.”
One of these coaches gave a ten-question quiz every Friday, and question number ten was always, “Who’s gonna win this game tonight?” To get it right, you had to put our home team, the Tigers. Decals signifying favorite high school and college football teams started to appear in the rear windows of most automobiles. It was a fad that lasted over twenty years.
At Homecoming games, ladies, young and old, wore nubby wool or tweed suits that seemed to sprout giant beribboned mums from the jackets. It was customary at the time for a girl to walk her favorite football player off the field after a game. I never will forget my anguish when I headed for a guy to do just that. As I nervously approached the football jersey with the selected number, I noticed another girl heading in the same direction. I thought it was a mistake. It was pre-arranged (with him) for me to walk him off, yet she was soon arm-in-arm with the young linebacker. I slinked away.
Texas was providing opportunities that my Ozarks Mountain heritage had not provided: taking painting classes at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts with instructor Roger Winter, and going to see the Dallas Summer Musicals were two such advantages. “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Calamity Jane” were my favorites, with Carol Burnett. She was not yet a huge star.
One of the Dallas Summer musicals starred a young woman who was barely pregnant. The choreographer was accommodating her rumored delicate condition, with the dance routines, for one of the musicals she appeared in there.
We had to get bottled water because the tap water was pew-eeee, as my mother called it, but we were soon making iced tea and lemonade in the southern tradition to drink with meals and in between. Mother was growing a spearmint crop in the back yard for garnishes.
Farmland in the lower county still had fields of cotton growing and the south side of Dallas was brimming with cotton gins. Burl Ives’ song “The Boll Weevil” often blared with synchronicity from one of the McLendon stations as we cruised teenage hot spots, and you could see the poorer farmers driving mule or horse-drawn wagons piled high with the fluffy stuff. The twenty-foot long trailers headed for the gins had upright supports all around, the sides covered with chicken wire.
Sometimes I grew frightened by events going on in Dallas County. There were pockets of racial unrest sprinkled about. The KKK was rumored to be operating big-time and the John Birch Society had a faction in the area. What would the mandated de-segregation process bring along with it, my little ol’ teenage mind wondered? I escaped into the world of television programs that summer to avoid thinking too much about any of it.
I was addicted to watching the Steve Allen Show. It came on after the ten p.m. news and I viewed it as an educational tool. Steve was so intelligent and creative and I was mesmerized by his antics and unusual guests like “The Garlic Man” and Gypsy Boots, just as I was mesmerized when he suspended himself in a vat of Jell-o over the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. Then, there were his Man on the Street interviews.
I also watched the Dialing for Dollars movie at three thirty on the local ABC station and Weird Movies on the weekend. A local woman named Bobbie Wygant had a noon show for housewives with recipes and tips that I sometimes watched. The Fort Worth independent station provided a local talent who called himself Icky Twerp that hosted the Slam Bang Theater. This, in reality, was Bill Camfield, a comedian, who wore a type of fright wig with a hat on top of it. He appeared as a campy monster character to host scary movies on the same station. There was a man on a local used car spot that seemed to look an awfully lot like Icky Twerp without his theatrical make-up. Wreck after wreck would roll by in the background as this fellow yelled, “I want to sell YOU a car!” He would point to one of the cars going by in the background and say, “Only two hundred dollars and you can drive it away, today!” Then sometimes he would take a sledgehammer and bash in the door. “One hundred dollars! You can now have it for only one hundred dollars!” I was wrong to deduce he was Icky Twerp. Art Grindle himself was doing the car commercials.
To be continued. Part Three will appear this coming Monday, and the first installment is archived, if you missed it.