Boomer Blog: Of dungarees and record hops


Another one of those photos recently came up on Facebook – the kind that shows an item from the past, with instructions to “share” upon recognition. Although I did not share, I immediately recognized the coal bucket pictured. One stood beside our coal stove in the kitchen on River Road.

Members of the Boomer group as well as generations just before and just after seem fond of reminiscing with such photos. It also happens just as often that some “retro” word or phrase evokes similar reactions.

Some time ago, the daughter of a friend did not understand my reference to a “disc jockey.” During our multigenerational discussion – with her mother translating – the teen and I learned that a disc jockey is now called a “DJ” or “deejay.”

Seldom during my teen years did a disc jockey or a deejay provide music for any of our school dances. One expenditure for the junior-senior prom back then was incurred for a live band. The freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes took care of supplying music for most other social events held in the gym.

By the way, those events were often referred to as “sock hops” or “record hops,” as we called them at Graham. In my later teaching years at GHS, there were few dances beyond Homecoming, Prom, and an occasional Christmas or Sadie Hawkins dance.

But there was a record hop after almost every home game in the 1960’s. We piled into the gym from the football field or waited in the hall while the custodian swept the gym floor after a Friday or Saturday night basketball game. One class would bring a record player of some kind and a stack of records, and everyone danced for an hour or so. There were usually lots of girls on the floor during the “fast” songs, but the population and mood changed as couples danced to the “slow” ones.

Along with disc jockeys and record hops, I think many current school kids would not necessarily recognize the term “train case” either. I am not sure I even had a train case until one was part of the luggage set I received for high school graduation.

The small, boxlike suitcase usually used for toiletries represented to me a certain level of status. Girls on my bus who were invited to stay overnight at a friend’s house would set their train cases at the front of the bus near the driver. So chic!

Probably packed away in those train cases were hair styling aids of some sort. But I also remember a couple of products that found shelf space in our home, a house full of girls with heads of hair.

Most girls today use conditioner for various reasons as they straighten their curly hair, curl their straight hair, or just pull it all back in a ponytail. We used Tame Crème Rinse, a detangler that allowed Mother to comb right through our freshly-washed hair without tears or shrieks – on either side of the comb.

Mother once gave my sister a perm, and the brand might very well have been a Toni Home Perm. My hair was much too thick for a permanent back then; Mother would have been rolling my tresses for hours.

However, I remember that at least one Miss America in the early 60’s was featured in Toni commercials, an impressive product endorsement for me. Every September I watched – and still watch – fifty state winners strut their stuff in swimsuits, evening gowns, and talent outfits until Bert Parks serenaded with “There She Is” while the new pageant winner walked the runway with her crown, her scepter, her sash, her cape, and her flowers.

When I recently heard “dungarees,” a pair of jeans came to mind. Although every modern kid owns multiple pairs of jeans, I imagine most would be surprised to hear their denim ancestors referred to as “dungarees.” Imagine my surprise when I found on Google Images under “dungarees” photo after photo of very modern ladies’ bib overalls.

A similar experience occurred when a young man wearing a stocking cap in the middle of this summer’s heatwave – a fashion trend I have never remotely understood – referred to his hat as a “beanie.”

Now in my day, a “beanie” took the shape of a ball cap. I know there were brimless beanies with panels of alternating colors, sometimes with a propeller-thingie on top – like Spanky of Little Rascals fame wore.

But my beanie was the one required of me as a freshman at Otterbein. It sported the school colors of tan and cardinal, and we attached our name tags to the back. As was traditional, the frosh donned this identifying headwear until they beat the sophomores on Scrap Day or until the last home football game. I can envision few current college freshmen participating in such an innocent form of initiation/hazing, but we accepted the tradition without question.

As happens with the living, active nature of language, meanings and visualizations change and will continue to change. To be sure, “hootenanny,” “mothball,” “carbon paper,” and “running board” have slipped from our daily vocabularies.

However, the day will come when scarcely anyone will be able to recall “flip flops” and “cassette tapes” or “Pac-Man” and “Pokemon Go,” and anything starting with “I” – iPad, iPhone, Instagram – will have gone the way of “dungarees” and “record hops.”

By Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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