The "Gold Dust Twins" was what they called us. Which is pretty funny since I was five feet four and Joannie was at least five eight. I had straight, short, blond hair; Joannie's was long and dark. Twins? Not so much. But we were inseparable. When you attend an all-girl high school you make some serious friendships.
It was 1964-68. Everyone thinks of this as the Beatles', flower-power hippy generation. If you were living it, that isn't exactly correct. The 1960's started with Kennedy in the White House; the first Catholic president with a young family and glamorous wife. Hippies didn't come into the '60's until much later. Jackie Kennedy set the fashion trend with bouffant hair-do's, pill-box hats and suits. The stage play, Camelot was on Broadway and it seemed, in the White House. The Kennedys' hosted state dinners featuring luminaries of the screen, Nobel Prize winners, musicians and writers. The only way to follow these events was Life Magazine. Each issue featured the young family as they played on the White House lawn or in the Oval Office. Until November 22, 1963. It ended.
Jeremiah Lynch came running into our Eight Grade classroom and announced the president had been shot. Jeremiah was one of the class clowns, so no one believed him. Until the principal announced the news over the PA system. Since this was a Catholic school on the north side of Chicago, we all were ushered into to church to pray. Over 800 students, teachers and nuns. Not a sound, except for the occasional sound of crying, filled the silence. We were dismissed and walked home in silence. It was a Friday and the rest of the week-end was spent around (mostly) black-and-white TV's or with newspapers. We watched Walter Cronkite cry. We saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot. We saw the cortege, funeral procession and John-John saluting the casket. When most people think of the '60's that is not what they picture. Instead they see psychedelic album covers and girls dancing in granny-dresses with flowers in their hair.
Even though 1964 started with the Beatles invading the United States, everything changed for us that November. The wold seemed more somber as we started high school nearly one year later. Joannie and I met on the first day of school at Resurrection High School. We wore uniforms; not a granny dress in sight. The uniform consisted of a wool skirt, jacket (Freshman and sophomores uniforms jackets; the junior and senior uniform had blazers.), white blouse and crepe-soled shoes that hardly made a sound. If it was really hot, we could ask for permission to remove our jackets; but if we had to leave the classroom, we had to put them back on. In gym class we got to wear gym suits: bloomer/jumpsuits in blue with our names in white over the pocket. This is when Joanie and I became real friends. We thought the gym suits were hilarious. Every Monday we would line up for inspection; our white Keds were expected to be scuff-free and our gym suits ironed with a crease. Joannie and I figured out all sorts of creative ways to get around this. My favorite was keeping baby powder in my gym locker to dust on my shoes. It covered up the scuffs, but created a bit of a cloud when I ran. We figured that made us look more holy.
One of the activities that cemented our friendship was being involved in the plays. Joannie was artistic, so she was always on the set crew or she drew the posters and designed the programs. I was the actress. Or, so I thought; never the lead but never in the background either. Because we had to practice after school we spent many hours hitting the candy machines during a break or sneaking through the darkened corridors. During practice in 1967 we emerged from the theatre to discover almost a foot of snow on the ground and more falling. There was no way home. The buses had stopped running, so we were forced to send the night in the convent. Joannie and I kept the young novices and postulants up most of the night telling stories of the 'outside world'. I can't help but wonder how many of those girls stayed in the convent.
Those four years, 1964-1968, were life-altering, but somehow, two naive girls from the north side of Chicago were somehow insulated from the chaos. When we graduated in 1968, we went different ways. During college, we did try to stay in contact, but time and distance got in the way. Joannie met and married a boy she met in college. He joined the service and was sent to Japan. She sent back wedding pictures of her in a white mini-dress with flowers in her hair. I started my career teaching speech and directing the high school plays. There were no cell phones or Facebook pages to keep in touch. By this time the world had changed. Camelot was gone; Viet Nam was on TV every night. There were demonstrations in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention. Students were protesting against the war. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed weeks apart in 1968. During those short four years our world was turned up-side down. The music, art, theatre, movies all reflected a change that our parents couldn't accept.
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