What if California Went to War With U.S.?
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 8-14-2005.
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I know summer is just about over when the "back to school" ads in my paper and the mailbox start to fill the trash can daily.
We didn't have that many ads way back when. Or maybe we did, but the routine was always the same. A few days before Labor Day my mother would take me to the J.C. Penney's store in San Fernando and to Losier's men's store in Newhall and I would get my school fashions for the year. It was that simple.
As time went on and money became more plentiful, I went to the Broadway at the Sun Valley mall. I just had to have that perfect shirt and pants to impress that perfect girl I hoped would be in one of my classes. Not that anyone at Hart High in the mid-1960s made any sort of fashion statement.
The last weeks of the 1966 school year were really difficult for me. I was in a wheelchair and all my pants had the left leg cut off or were otherwise modified to fit over the cast. I did think that at least I was getting away with breaking one of the rules; shorts were not allowed and I had a half pair on.
Don't tell me that it is allowed now because on the hot SCV days it keeps you cooler. We didn't have any air conditioning in the older Hart classrooms.
The grooming standards of the day were rather strict, but we actually liked many of them. If you were in sports, the boys had to wear slacks, shirt and tie along with the team jacket on game day. Girls usually wore a dress or skirt and blouse with a sweater or jacket. Skirt length was measured in gym class. Girls had to kneel on a chair, and if the skirt didn't touch the chair, it was too short.
Most of us guys liked the shorter skirts the girls wore. You might see where the stockings connected to the garter. Now that was a thrill.
Hair length wasn't optional. It might have been the beginning of the hippie era, but all the barbers in the SCV cut hair only one way short and well trimmed around the ears. There were still a few flattops and butch cuts.
All in all, we looked like the young adults the school and our parents wanted us to be. Too bad we didn't always act like that. But we weren't that bad.
So now I'm looking at the various advertisements that deluge my mailbox each day and wonder just what the parents of today are thinking. Skirts so short, nothing is left to imagine. Tight, too. T-shirts for boys. Our shirts had to have a collar and be tucked in.
Is it just me, or do all the clothes the kids are getting look like they've been washed at least 100 times before you buy them? And what is with those pants that boys wear, with the crotch down near the knees? I know that particular style is fading fast, but I still see it.
It isn't that I don't understand "freedom of expression," but having to pull up your pants every few steps is really stupid. Not an opinion. Just a fact.
The dress-code rules were not there to oppress us. They were another learning tool. We were learning how to exist in society so we could become useful, productive citizens. It wasn't any big deal. We even used to have days when we could "dress down." Sort of like any school day at Hart now.
Not very long ago we were taught to "dress for success." In my previous line of work, I observed and conducted many interviews of young engineers and technicians who never learned that simple axiom. They never got a job at anyplace I worked, either. They never learned that how you dress is a reflection of how you'll work. Not an opinion. Just a fact.
Many of those "rejects" had excellent grades in school but just didn't look like the type of folks we would hire.
I didn't care if, after they were hired and had a proven, successful work record, the manner of dress they chose was a little different. That was expected. But you had to prove yourself first, and then you could be a character all you wanted within reason, of course.
You won't see someone like Will Smith, Bill Cosby, even Brad Pitt, in clothes that are ill-fitting and uncomfortable to wear. Successful women don't look like they should be standing on street corners asking for dates, either. Outside of Hollywood luminaries, you have only to look at folks who are driving the expensive cars and living in the multi-million-dollar homes and see how they dress. None looks like he just stepped out of a thrift store.
Those folks worked hard for that success. Unless born into money, we all have to do some hard work to enjoy such fruits of our labor.
We started learning that at Hart High back then through a simple dress code. No big deal. Like the Nike ad says, "Just do it."
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.