Tag Archive | Ridgeroad Junior HIgh

This is a good street

When we first moved in at 6324 Blackhawk Road

6324 Blackhawk Road

in late spring of 1966, the lay of the land was like this, facing our house from the street: to the immediate right, next door, were the Crownovers. Four kids, Andrea, Alan, Garth and little Gwen.

To the right of the Crownovers, the Werners, with five kids, including a set of fraternal twins. To the right of the Werners, the Steinbaughs, two kids, Keith and Karen, if I’m not mistaken. To their right, the Fisher clan – Johnny, Lindy and their brood, John Paul, Chuck, Vicki and Rob.

To their right, the Conways, two kids, Julie and Luke.

Across the street from the Crownovers were the Jennings family with two little girls, Connie and Judy.

In June, Pam moved in directly across the street from us, next to the Jennings, and the Barnetts (two kids, Beth and Buddy) arrived on the corner, all the way from Texas, two houses down from us on the left. In between were the Wilkins, the kindly older couple that every neighborhood seemed to have.

Way down on the other end of the street, my good friend Michelle Casey and her sister Celeste from our old neighborhood had moved in just before us, but they didn’t get down our way much. I spent quite a bit of time at their house for a while, though.

It was kid heaven.

(I went up to the attic to pull out some pictures from those glory days that I took with my Polaroid Swinger, but they were too faded to scan.  Sad. Lots of kids in goofy poses. You can probably imagine.)

I was 10 and in the last stretch of fifth grade. Cathy was 7. The Young Rascals’ “Good Lovin’” was just giving way at the No. 1 spot on KAAY-AM, 1090 on Your Dial, to “Monday, Monday” by the Mamas and the Papas. It was a spring of good music and good times.

Cathy, Connie, Buddy and Rob were all the same grade. Pam, John Paul, Michelle and I were all in the same grade, and most of the other kids were within a couple of years in either direction. We were all friends and all played together.

But we didn’t all go to school together – Indian Hills was so new that the elementary school wasn’t built yet, so we had total school choice. Cathy and I stayed on at North Heights, even though it wasn’t the closest school, so I could finish out my elementary years there.

People could send their kids to whatever school was convenient, so kids on our street went all over the place. The Fishers were at Pike View, I think, and Pam went to Park Hill because it was close to her mother’s work. The Werners were Catholic and went to Immaculate Conception, just a quick walk through the woods away.

Because of that close proximity, many of our neighbors in Indian Hills were Catholic and never went to school with us, but we still bonded in the street and at the pool.

(By the year Pam and I started seventh grade together at Ridgeroad Junior High, IH had its own elementary, where Cathy, Connie, Buddy and Rob became classmates.)

So many people from the old neighborhood picked up and moved to Indian Hills in that time that Cathy and I had new neighbors/classmates who were old neighbors/classmates. Indian Hills was a hot tamale, a going concern.

We were also an upstart, renegade neighborhood, challenging Lakewood – long the supreme NLR ‘burb – for ultimate suburb rights. Since Indian Hills literally butted up to the city limits at the time and had nothing but woods before and behind it for years (barring a piece of Sherwood connectivity), we won those rights easily.

But we were like wild Indians in the eyes of the Lakewoodites. Since Indian Hills opened its doors to anyone, we were interlopers, woods-dwellers, second-tier suburbanites.

That’s how Pam and I felt at times in junior high, anyway. But we didn’t care. We loved those woods and the total middle-classness of it all and made them our own.

I’m a believer

In the seventh grade, I was still being forced (much against my will) to go to Ridgeroad Junior High makeup free. It was mortifying. All the cool girls at least got to wear their prescription liquid base from the dermatologist. Since I had maybe one pimple a month, I wasn’t even allowed that treasure, no matter how much I begged.

In between classes, it was a status symbol to pull out your prescription bottle of chalky liquid and apply liberally, all the while talking about what the doctor said during your last appointment. Alas, all I could do was glance in the mirror – and possibly use the restroom, if you get my drift. I was a blemish-free ’script wannabe.

Yardley keychain lipstick

But things began to change after Mother slipped an ever-so-cool Yardley of London three-lipstick set in my Christmas stocking. She was a pretty cool mom – totally straight moms didn’t give their daughters frosted white, frosted orange and frosted olive green lipstick. But mine did.

After that, it was Katie-bar-the-door, for a while, anyway. I mean, you can’t wear lipstick without mascara, right? And mascara is just a skip away from eyeliner, which leads to eyeshadow.

By eighth grade, I was in eye-makeup heaven. (But not base. Mother never gave in on that, and she must have known what she was doing, because I made it through high school with my one prominent zit a month.) Still don’t wear base to this day.

Pattie Boyd guided me through the prepubescent years, fashionwise, but in junior high, it was British supermodelJean Shrimpton all the way. She was glorious. She was beautiful. She was hip. She was a Yardley girl.

Pam and I began experimenting with makeup. Yardley of London was our main brand, and the summer between seventh and eighth or eighth and ninth grade – I just can’t remember after all these years – we did it all. Tiny flower-covered eyelids, little fake bottom lashes, a single heart below one eye. The coolest was covering our eyelids from lash to brow with black-and-white checks. And the coolest-coolest thing was the effect we didn’t anticipate – with eyes open, the checkerboard made a groovy optical illusion.

Very Peter Max.  I used Peter Max notebooks, by the way. Groovy.

Rosie Vela

(Side note: My 10th-grade Spanish teacher’s daughter Rosie Vela became a Revlon model and lived with Peter Max for a while. I met her at her mom’s second wedding, to which I was invited. The bride wore a micro-mini. Dig it.)

Pot o' Glimmerick

I spent a year wearing black liquid eyeliner, topped by white Glimmerick eyeliner, topped by olive green eyeliner to match my eyes. Yes, I was a triple threat.

Shortly after that, I was over it. Makeup takes too much time. By junior year, it was just black mascara (Revlon metal-wand only) and ‘30s-style plucked eyebrows.

(Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert

The incredible Garbo

ring a bell? Greta [I vant to be alone] Garbo? Their eyebrows had nothing on mine.)

I remain a makeup minimalist, and my eyebrows tend to fend for themselves these days. (Can’t see up-close well enough to do too much about them anyway, but after extreme plucking for years, they just get occasional strays anyway.)

But I do miss the merry mod days of old. I’m still a believer.

For what it’s worth …

John F. Kennedy came across my radar twice yesterday – once at the Peter Mars lecture at the Clinton School of Public Service at noon (he was incorporated into a piece of pop art) and the second time at the Riverdale 10, when some girlfriends and I watched The Help. JFK’s picture was on the wall of one of the maids in the movie and unforgettable footage of his funeral was shown on an old television in another part.

But the Kennedy who’s been on my mind lately – all summer, really – is Bobby.

Bobby Kennedy captured my heart and hopes.

RFK was the great hope, the dreamboat civil rights activist who was going to lead our country to greatness, someone I was excited about campaigning for, even though at 12 I was much too young to vote. I’m sure I was idealistic, but Bobby seemed heart-driven, not ambition-driven, and heart-felt in his passions about equal rights.

The night he was killed is indelible in my memory. Had I been at home, I’m sure I’d have been sound asleep, since the shooting happened just after midnight, California time. But it was the summer of ’68, back in the days when school was long out by June 5, and I was spending the night with my classmate and Indian Hills friend Debbie Rivers (and her sister Kim, who was a year younger than us), and we were up late horsing around in their den in the basement.

Our mothers were friends and our younger siblings were very close (my Cathy, Debbie’s twin sibs Robin and Rusty), but Debbie and I were still really getting acquainted. I remember that Kim was jumping on what we used to call a hassock and we were all in general acting like idiot kids when the news broke in – I can’t even imagine what would have been on at that time of night in the pre-cable days. There in “living color” (we only had black-and-white TV at home) was Bobby Kennedy on the floor amid pandemonium.

It was horrifying, heart-wrenching and frightening. I think we might have gotten Pat (their mother) up. I remember wanting to call my mother, but she tells me I didn’t, and it would have been the middle of the night.

My youthful political activism died the next morning with RFK. I switched my loyalties to Hubert Horatio Humphrey (such a nice little man) and was as excited as I could muster about the Happy Warrior.

HHH, the Happy Warrior, was slaughtered by Tricky Dick Nixon in the 1968 election.

Richard Nixon gave me goose pimples of revulsion, and I remember a screaming match at Ridgeroad Junior High right after my 13th birthday that fall with a boy in an army jacket covered with Nixon buttons. (I think surely it must have just felt like screaming or we’d have been hauled into the principal’s office. Mr. Miller did not mess around.)

I don’t remember his name or exactly what I said to him (or what names I called him), but I remember his freckles, his stocky build, his buzz cut and his increasingly redder face the longer we argued. Nobody won; we just both walked away and voted our consciences in the school mock elections.

I haven’t quite figured out why Bobby’s been so much on my mind, except perhaps because of all the political ugliness of late.

As for Debbie and me, though we were always friendly, we never became besties. But we’re forever bonded, in my mind, at least, by a great tragedy. She’s part of my life for that. And Bobby Kennedy is captured in time forever as the young knight of civil rights who should have been president.

Innocence died with RFK.

I miss him.

Laugh, laugh, I thought I’d die, it seemed so funny to me*

Pam and I walked the two miles home from Ridgeroad Junior High every day. The city bus which took us all the way out to the edge of town to Indian Hills came so late that we could easily beat it home, even when we stopped for ice cream at the ice cream parlor or for cherry Dr Peppers and taco-flavored Doritos at Hansen’s Drive-in.

(Mr. Hansen, whom we called Sgt. Carter because of his resemblance to the gruff character on Gomer Pyle, USMC, told us every time that our order was a good choice because it “would put hair on our chests.” We thought it was funny every time.)

Kelly, on the other hand, never walked. Her mother strictly forbade her to walk anywhere that could be dangerous. On this day, however, with her mother attending a late class at UCA in Conway, Kelly decided it was safe to buck the rules and join us.

JFK past McCain in those days was Highway 107, a two-lane stretch lined with stately homes, then woods, until you got to our suburb. We walked in grass, since there were no sidewalks and no shoulders to speak of, and felt perfectly safe. On lucky days, we were given rides by the high school boys who passed by — a practice strictly forbidden by my own mother.

I can’t remember what made Kelly decide to walk that day, but I know it’s a walk I’ll never forget. It started out uneventfully enough.

We stopped for ice cream (at what later became a strip mall that has housed Jim Bottin’s Fitness Center and Blockbuster Video), jaywalked across 107 and began trekking homeward. Of course Pam and I were always aware that we were on display as we walked down a busy highway, so we always behaved appropriately — sometimes we walked with limps, sometimes we conversed in “sign language.” You understand the logic: If you’re acting stupid on purpose, you can’t get embarrassed if you accidentally do something stupid.

But this day we were just walking and jabbering away, as 13-year-old girls do. We hadn’t gotten very far (I know this because we had barely made a dent in our ice cream cones) when it happened. In one of those gracious front lawns lay a smallish, but foot-deep, hole. Of course we weren’t looking down, so one of us had to step in it. Kelly was the unlucky one.

I’ll never forget the freeze-frame action of her fall: She thunked into the hole up to her knee, then her knee slammed into the edge of the hole, which in turn propelled her body forward. Her entire body hit the ground, and as she tried to salvage the cone, her right elbow struck the ground with such force that the ice cream shot straight up into the air, did a few graceful turns and landed solidly on the back of her head.

Pam and I began laughing hysterically and helplessly. The power of speech left us, and we literally laughed until we cried. Poor Kelly. In her embarrassment, she started yelling at us. “It’s not funny!! Stop laughing! Stop laughing now!” When that tactic didn’t work, she switched gears to distract us.

“Where’s my ice cream?” she demanded. “Where did it go?”

Our laughter doubled, then tripled at the sight of her looking all around, then deep into her sugar cone for her scoop of vanilla, which was perched perkily on the back of her head. it was even beginning to run in little rivulets down her shiny black hair. All we could do was point, then cry, then point again, then fall down. The communication process took a few moments, but she finally got the point. Poor horrified Kelly.

By this time, Pam and I had almost wet our pants. We knew we’d never make the next mile and a half, so after we regained our voices, we decided we’d ask to use someone’s restroom to clean Kelly’s head. Kelly was mortified, but we were desperate. So Kelly gamely played her part. We had to recross 107 to find someone at home, and we were by then running late getting home.

But at least the excitement was over — or so we thought.]

We made it almost to Pontiac, where Kelly who was barely speaking to us by this point, would turn left to go home. At least no high school boys had come by to see her misery or our hysteria. We were so close, when the unmistakable chugging of a Volkswagen behind us became the unmistakable sound of a stopped Volkswagen idling. Just as we turned to look back, an equally unmistakable voice barked, “Get in the car, girls.”

Who else but Kelly’s mother, who for some reason had gotten back from Conway early. Kelly forlornly got in the front seat, and Pam and I climbed, still snickering, into the back.  “What do you think you were doing walking down 107? You know your’e not allowed to walk home! Just because Laura’s and Pam’s mothers let them walk down such a dangerous road doesn’t mean I let you ….”

And on and on. Then, suddenly, “And look at your hair! What on earth have you been doing?”

Pam and I melted into little puddles in the backseat as Kelly began her tale of woe.

*Footnote 1: Kelly, you know I love you. Don’t kill me.

*Footnote 2: I originally wrote this years ago in my 30s when teaching my creative writing students at NLRHS about memoir writing.