Seeing the green and beige shoes displayed next to the mannequin the store window,with the blue and beige pair behind, instantly threw me back to the first day of 8th grade.
The year was 1966. Lyndon Johnson was president. Rock and Roll was here to stay. Marie and I stood giggling outside Lafayette Junior High School on Monroe Avenue in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Deep in discussion, without doubt, while sizing up the boys, we were wondering which teachers we would have and if we were scheduled to be in any classes together.
Anxiously awaiting the bell to signal the start of school, our long coiffed hair “just so”, we were overwhelmingly excited to be wearing our thickly striped, double-knit polyester dresses. The trendy garb was newly purchased from Robert Hall Clothiers on Sherman Avenue in Elizabeth. The store, geared to the working class,was right next to the Twin City Roller Rink, where we spent weekend afternoons during the school year rolling in rental skates. We aimlessly circled the rink trying our best not to fall on the hard wooden floor, only to come up laughing when we did.
Marie loved the color blue, so she bought the blue and beige dress with the horizontal stripes. Those colors didn’t do it for me as much as the green and beige combination. We must have looked as though we had been to a fire sale. Seeing the shoes to match in 2015, in an enclosed suburban shopping mall, I just had to talk to Marie. I snapped a photograph with my iPhone and immediately sent it to her in a text message. Seconds later a ‘bing’ announced her reply. Lots of LOLs were included. We spoke for over half an hour. Nowadays, even the laughter is in writing, but I still could hear it loud and clear.
Hasn’t life gotten strange? Neither one of us pressed the phone button. We just kept talking and laughing with our thumbs. We’re still friends after all these years and we can pick up where we left off at any time. She told me all about the new job she landed and I gave her a summary of what was happening at mine, while power walking past the other shops.
Talking about fashion again, I wore that same dress on one of my early dates with my husband in the fall of 1969. Two men had landed on the moon for the first time that summer and school was back in session just weeks after the Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York. We double-dated and went to a dance with Arnee’s buddy Alan and my friend Karen.
Before my boyfriend came to pick me up, lessons from the sewing segment of Home Economics, learned the prior year at Lafayette, were quickly put to use. However, shortening the dress to make it more up-to-date and fashionable turned out to be a waste of time.
My dreams were dashed after running downstairs to get the door, when my mother had me pull out the hem. She insisted that lifting my arms to dance, the dress would hike up so that my underwear would show. Too bad we don’t have pictures of the outfits; it would be great to know what shoes we did wear. For sure, Alan was wearing some that would have matched; he was the only man I ever knew who dared to don shoes in every color.
Back at the upscale mall, I checked the price of those fine leather shoes that perfectly matched the blue/beige and green/beige striped dresses at $359 a pair …wow, how times have changed.
We probably could have bought dresses for our entire graduating class at the cost of one pair of pricey shoes today. Forget about those days of party lines, friends making out in the back seat of the car, and cheap fabrics.
Shoes to match…almost 50 years later
If you really want to know how times have changed, Karen got pregnant in college and married a policeman. We stayed friends for a while after school and Arnee and I visited them at their house when the baby arrived. Some time later -or was it before?- we attended their wedding. Then, seeing her at our 40th high school reunion, we learned that she and that cop had another child, later divorced, and now she is married to a woman. But, do they have matching dresses and shoes?