Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Seventeen Summer

No matter what age I was, all my summers were Seventeen Summers.  They were filled with the glories depicted in what I consider Seventeen Magazine's golden years (1960's - 1970's).  Neither cell phones nor iTunes were part of my Seventeen Summers.  We had small transistor radios to listen to the Top 40 but with the sound kept to a respectable neighborly level.  There was no such thing as a designer handbag with a dangling fur-ball charm or must-have designer sneakers.  If we wore sneakers, they were a simple pair of Ked's fetched out of a bin at a sneaker barn near Boston for less than five dollars.  Handbags were small and ladylike and gifted to us by grandmothers to be used and loved for years.

The playing field was level because no one in my hometown could afford designer clothing and that's if we even knew what designer clothing was.  If we didn't sew our own summer clothes and many of us did, we bought them in the same small clothing shops on Main Street or at Filene's, Jordan Marsh or Sears, just like everybody else.  Those stores are where we would find all the pretty clothes we saw in Seventeen.  The simply daisy-printed shift, the cute little short set, or the nautical skirt - all accessible straight from the page.  There were no $7000 dresses in Seventeen Magazine.

And yet, somehow we all looked adorable.  Maybe it was the inexpensive cosmetics, like Yardley's Pot-o-Gloss or the grass-green bottles of Herbal Essence shampoo, all as close as a stroll to the local Rexall.  We didn't need to wander around a big box store to get our beauty stuff.  If Rexall didn't have, we didn't need it.  Maybe it was because we followed Seventeen's monthly beauty column that told us we could make ourselves lovely in the comfort of our very own teenaged bedrooms that we decorated ourselves.  There were no nail salons for mani/pedi's on each and every corner.  Or waxing and threading spas.  We plucked.  Using slanted steel Tweezerman's - the same kind Grandmother used - while peering into the True-To-Light magnifying mirrors we got for Christmas.  Our Saturdays were not devoted to facials, tanning, and massages. Seventeen days were meant for meaningful pursuits.

Such as reading a big fat book lying on a blanket in the backyard.  Or seeing who could find the best rock for our parents to set the picnic table with to keep the paper plates and napkins from blowing down the street on the 4th of July.  Sometimes we were told to corral the little kids at the barbeque and play games with them so the adults could talk.  It was expected that we were participating members of a different kind of gang - The Family.  Maybe we babysat neighborhood children for 50 cents an hour.  Some of us taught crafts at the Recreation Department's day camp where we would instruct elementary children in lanyard making or gum wrapper chains.  Some of us were lifeguards at the town's wading pools or we manned the concession stand at the beach. Others supervised at Vacation Bible School or volunteered at the hospital as Candy Stripers. Everyone walked everywhere or rode bikes.  Mother's gardening time was never disturbed for just a ride because it was perfectly safe and healthy to walk a couple of miles a day if we had to get somewhere.  No one had a car of their own but almost everyone had a friend to walk and chat with once they met up at the corner.  Arrangements for meet-ups were organized by using the one family telephone that hung on the kitchen wall with an extended chord.  That is, if somebody else wasn't yapping on it first.

If we were older, our Seventeen Summer may have included tennis court dances and dates to the local hot-dog stand at the edge of town.  We went to the drive-in in groups or we cozied up at beach bonfires and concerts.  If we had saved money from our varied jobs, there may have been a late summer bus ride with a chum to the city for back-to-school togs and school supplies. Whatever we bought, I guarantee it was culled from Seventeen.

Despite all this activity, there was still time to noodle through Wuthering Heights or to get an early start on required summer reading lists.  Long hours of lollygagging prepared us for the upcoming rigors of high school and we better be ready for it.  We kept diaries, sent postcards, played cards, ...vegetated...talked.  And we attracted boys with lively conversation and sandwiches like Boy Trap #51.  No twerking involved.

There wasn't much drama in a Seventeen Summer.  Life was simple and we knew our place. Seventeen Magazine just assumed we wanted to volunteer, help out, expand our minds all the while having fun without the narcissism that plagues so many young people today.  We wanted to look good but we didn't obsess about it.  We used our natural beauty and enhanced it with a few well-chosen affordable cosmetics.  And then we forgot about it.  Which made room for rewarding connections, stewardship, laughter...

...and more than a few dreams.


  1. Hi Donna, Love this post. It brought back so many memmories of being a kid. Talking on the phone, walking to a friends house to see if they can play and just spending time outsdoors. Reading has always been a great pleasure of mine, but these days it seems novel to most kids. ;-*

  2. Seventeen summer...Beautiful memories...

  3. PERFECTION!!!! I intend to get in a LOT of lollygagging myself this summer, inspired by this marvelous, beautifully written post. I LOVE this one, Donna. This is one of your absolute finest...I'm printing this one off and cherishing it. And making plans for my own Seventeen Forever summer! Wonderful work, dear Donna!!! XOOOO

  4. I'm sure that this will strike a chord for many, and a lot of it did for me. There is always nostalgia for the innocence of years past, but we really were innocent in many ways. That didn't stop us from being responsible though, and that is a gift of which many seventeen year olds now are robbed. Lovely post.

  5. This sounds so much like my summers up in Montana in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I loved Seventeen. It was my window to the outside world. Wonderful post!

  6. Oh Remember Bonnie Bell Blish in a tube ? Lip smackers anybody ?

    Pierced Ears would change my Life !! If Only my parents would let me !!!

    45 records- 8 Track tapes and staying up late for Don Kershioners Rock Concert 💗

  7. I never paid much attention to Seventeen or any teen magazine, but my summers were just as you described. We had it so good! Very thankful that I grew up when I did, and not now. I've loved every era of my life, and do not mean to imply criticism of today; I'm just glad that to have known grown up in the years I did. :-)

  8. Hi Donna, thank you for sharing your beautiful reflections. I found your blog today through Fiona Ferris's blog ... shall be back. :-)

  9. I also had Seventeen Summers. They were as you described except in Texas, we swam in rice wells, hung out at the Dairy Queen and when older, caravaned to Galveston. My senior year ( 1979) a poem of mine was published in Seventeen and one of my friends, Sarah Forrestal smiled on the cover of their September issue. I mourn the state of the magazine today. Love your beautifully written blog!