The Go-Go Boots-Mill HIll Girl
Stories from Mill Hill Girl
The stories from “Mill Hill Girl” are of life growing up in a small southern town. Most are humorous, while some reflect a hint of melancholy of a simple mid-century childhood. If you choose to read my stories, I think you will find a little of yourself in the pages. Some of the stories are factual, while others due to my lack of recall and imagination may be only as I thought they were. To which is fact or fiction, I cannot tell, for I have slept too many nights since then. I hope you will enjoy all the stories from “Mill Hill Girl” on my website.
The Go-Go Boots
In my youth, elementary school was first through sixth grades, and for many children the fourth grade is the hardest year. I had always looked forward to starting back to school and shopping for school supplies. I think the hardest decision of all was what notebook to select.
My father dropped me off that first morning, and I walked across the breezeway and into the school building. I felt the confidence of my previous three years of scholarly experience, and I knew my way around.
The principal’s portrait hung proudly in the hall, the floors were newly polished, and the walls freshly painted. The old janitor was still milling around in the hall as the kids rushed in, he looked up as if he was thinking, “All this work. Just a waste of my time. After today, the walls will be marked up, the floors scuffed, and this place will smell of a hundred sweaty kids.”
My assigned teacher was Miss Hoover and with little effort I found her room. I walked in and was happy to see some familiar faces. In good spirits I approached my new teacher. She looked up at me through her dark rimmed glasses and barked out, “Name please?”
I was taken aback by her harsh tone, and I hesitated to answer. This time with obvious irritation she asked again, “What is your name child?I muttered my name softly and she checked my
name off her list. Then without a smile, she addressed me by my last name and commanded me to the third desk on the second row.
I watched as she gave the same treatment to all the new students. I could not help but compare her to my third-grade teacher who had been pretty and pleasant.
As far as I could see there was nothing attractive about Miss Hoover. She was tall as a man and dully dressed in a pilgrim style dress. Her hair was arranged on her head like a black plastic cap and her face was long and square. When she talked her mouth moved up and down like a puppet and her tiny wide-spaced eyes practically sat on the side of her head. Suddenly it occurred to me she looked like a big whale. I whispered my observations to my classmates sitting next to me.
This of course caused a roar of laughter. Miss Hoover immediately stood to her feet and slapped a ruler on her desk. Some of the kids dropped their heads, but a few of us were still snickering.
“Children, this is not kindergarten! You are now fourth graders! By now you are expected to know how to behave in this learning facility. I will not tolerate nonsense and foolish shenanigans in my classroom! I ask that you take your studies seriously. Do I make myself clear?”
The class responded with, “Yes Miss Hoover,” but I sat silently. I decided that day I did not like her, and time would prove the feeling was mutual. In fact, she was not overly found of children in general, especially talkative inquisitive ones like me.
She was just a bitter old maid who should have never been a teacher in the first place, and my father was the one that told her just that. But this story is not about Miss Hoover, so let’s end her story here.
Up until then school had been easy enough. The things we learned such as reading, writing and arithmetic had opened the world to bigger and greater things. Now there was this new math, multiplication tables and long division. Yes, the fourth grade was getting serious.
When the bell rang for recess—you went out. It did not matter if you had to put on a snow suit—you went out to play. First through third grade you ran out the door like a wild banshee, but by the fourth grade you were not sure what to do. Part of you wanted to hover up in social groups like fifth and sixth graders, but the other part of you still wanted to jump rope, play jack rocks, and perform endless flips on the monkey bars.
In many ways those mid-century playgrounds were war zones. By today’s standard the games we were forced to play would be considered unsafe, toxic, and even politically incorrect.
Dodge ball was really a cruel game, especially to those of us who were athletically challenged. I can still remember the sting of that big red rubber ball on my bare legs, falling to my knees and trips to the nurse to pick the gravel out and douse the wound with mercurochrome. Not only did that stuff burn like fire, but it also contained mercury! Maybe that explains why some of us baby boomers are a little mad hatter.
Then there was tetherball. Which was something akin to a hard soccer ball attached to a tall pole. The objective was to hit the ball back and forth from one victim to the other, each risking breaking a hand on the send-off or being smashed in the face or head on the return. Sounds like fun!
Then there were the respectful games like Red Rover. You waited with bated breath for your name to be called. Now you had the opportunity to run across the field as fast as you were able. Then, with all your might you tried to break through the chain of hand-holding kids on the other end. If they were strong enough to resist you, then it resulted in being punched in the gut, if you broke through you landed on the ground face down. That was the fun as the runner, but fun was had on the other side, when a kid twice your size nearly breaks your wrist coming through.
Let us not forget tug of war. Now that was a grand game. A line of kids marring their shoes in the mud, holding on a rope as the kids on the end try to pull them into the sand pit. Have you ever had rope burns?
Lastly, the playground equipment. There was enough metal and iron in that old equipment to outfit a small army. There was the mega high tin slide with the steep steps, the teeth cracking teeter totters and sea saws, the dizzy merry-go-rounds, heavy chained link swings, and monkey bars. One good thing about the monkey bars is after a while the blisters turned into calluses.
We recovered from the bruises and emotional traumas from those days. But this story is not about playgrounds or games. So, let’s leave it at that. This story is about a girl named Sylvia.
Most all the families vacationed at Myrtle Beach or perhaps they went to Tweetsie Railroad over the 4thof July. That was about the extent of it and the only celebrities I had ever met were Fred Kirby and Joey the Clown.
It was the sixties and to say the least, the families of Mill Hill were not worldly folks. We were not mod, nor did we know anyone in real life that would be considered groovy. We did listen to the radio, go to Elvis movies, read Tiger Beat magazines, and watched TV. I practically grew up watching Laugh-in and the Ed Sullivan show.
Twiggy was my idol. I loved the Beetles, Herman Hermits, and the Monkeys. We watched the Saturday morning dance shows. In the privacy of our living rooms, we turned up our radios, rolled up our skirts, let our hair down and practiced doing the swim, the pony, and the twist.
However, on Monday morning with our hair pulled back and clothed in our little dresses we went back to school. Girls were only allowed to wear pants under their dresses on very cold days. We never gave it a second thought until the new girl came. Sylvia was from the north, she did not talk like us, act like us, and most importantly she did not dress like us.
She may have felt out of place in her miniskirts, sweaters, colored tights, and white go-go boots, but to the rest of us she was a real live twist and turn Barbie. Sylvia was groovy, and clearly, we were not. I wonder if she knew the influence she had on a small class of southern little girls. We tried parting our hair in the middle and begged our mothers to let us wear short skirts.
It was the white go-go boots that I admired the most. I tried my best to convince my mother I needed a pair. She was firmly against it. She insisted that knee socks and lace up shoes were what fourth-grade girls should wear. She was probably right, but my daddy never liked to see me unhappy. So, one day after school he took me to the shoe store and bought me a pair of those white go-go boots.
I was so pleased that I wore them home from the store. I can still recall the look on my mother’s face when I pranced in the front door, singing: “These boots are made for walking.”
If my mother and father had words over this, I never knew. My mother gave in, and I was allowed to wear the boots to school. I must have looked ridiculous in my dresses, knee socks and go-go boots, but in my mind, I was MOD! Thank you, Daddy.
My father has long been gone. I often wish I had saved those little white go-go boots as a tribute to his understanding and love.
“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15