Saturday, September 06, 2014

Teen Town, 'Tween Town

A couple of years ago my cousin Karen sent me a manila envelope full of letters I'd written to her between 1955 and 1957. Deep down I'd always known I was a geeky, awkward adolescent, not one of the cool kids, and any shred of doubt I might have had about that was erased when I read those letters nearly sixty years after I wrote them. This one, dated Jan. 15, 1957, is a good example:

At my current age I don't have the patience to turn that letter upside down and all around to read what I wrote back then, although the straightforward, left-to-right section in the bottom left-hand corner jumps out at me: "You bet I saw Elvis on T.V. the other night. I wouldn't have missed it for anything."

I was not alone in the geeky department. Karen wrote back to me in invisible ink, as evidenced by my next letter to her, dated January 24, 1957:

See how I oh-so-cleverly replaced all the punctuation marks with the spelled-out names of the punctuation marks? Gah!

Anyway, here's a translation of the second paragraph of the second letter: "I guess I haven't told you about Springfield's new Teen Town, have I? I really like it! We have dancing, ping pong, and bowling. There is also a television set. It is open on Friday and Saturday nights from seven to eleven o'clock. Most of the time we use the juke box for music, but once a month we will have a dance band. There is a snack bar where we can get hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, candy bars, ice cream, et cetera. We can also get almost any flavor of pop for a nickel. The first night of Teen Town they had free cokes and potato chips. Tommy [my ninth-grade boyfriend] drank nine cokes that night. It opened January fifth and I have gone one night each weekend since then. I sure do hope it succeeds."

The letters may be those of a silly little girl, but it was the budding young woman inside her who showed up regularly at Teen Town. What I've remembered all these years isn't the junk food or the ping pong or the bowling. On the rare occasions when Teen Town has crossed my mind since the last time I was there, what I've remembered is slow-dancing with Tommy to this song:

The song is "Gone," by Ferlin Husky.
Thanks to Michael Daigle for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

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