It was the summer of 1958 in Torrance, Calif. I had just hit the magical age of 13 years old and had lots of friends in the neighborhood. It was a fairly new neighborhood, and most of the kids in it were about the same age. My sister Carole was one year younger. We would go everywhere together. We had our first boyfriends and the first heartaches of our childhood.
We lived in a small ranch-style home that my father took much pride in, putting in the flower boxes, fences, and a dichondra lawn in the front yard. Carole and I would lie out on it and look at the stars at night and make plans for our future and also discuss important things — like who is cuter, Elvis Presley or Ricky Nelson? This is when I began to realize that my sister was a real person and not just a pesty baby sister.
It was 50 cents per carload to go to the drive-in theater, so we would all pile into one car and go to the movies. Our friend Kenny had an old Ford roadster. It didn’t matter that the brakes weren’t good and the car was barely running, it was still fun to run around in. After the movie, we would park and look at the ocean. It was so pretty at night especially, when the red tide came in. The waves would glow at night from the organisms in the water that would glow like fluorescent lights.
The ocean was close to where we lived, so we were able to go to the beach several times during the summer. I loved sitting on the sand and watching the fog roll in at about 5 o’clock. We had warm days and cool nights. It was perfect weather — what we called sweater weather, because after the sun went down, we’d just need light jackets or sweaters.
We had a next-door neighbor, Mrs. Largent, who was strange and different from the people we were used to. This was not good for her. We didn’t like the way she would water the grass between our houses every day, just to spy on us kids when our parents were at work. We were so rude to her. We would blast the radio, and we would say things that were mean about her, knowing she could hear everything. She was so nosy.
It was fun to have parties with our friends. We would have dances at our house and invite all our friends, and we would dance the bop and cha-cha and slow dance to the Platters. It was so much fun playing spin the bottle, and it was magical to be young. My mother would go to bed at 9 o’clock, and as soon as we heard her snoring, we knew the coast was clear to take off. Dad was working swing shift and so we knew he wouldn’t be home before midnight. He never checked to see if we were home and in bed when he got home, so we just made sure we were not near the house when he came home.
It was fun just goofing off. We did do some mischief, too.
This was a time when it was really cool to have fancy hub caps on your car. Our friend Kenny was always thinking of funny things to do — like finding an old car ready for a junk yard and putting new hub caps on it! We went through the neighborhood and found a car with some really nice hub caps. Not thinking this was stealing, our little gang took the nice hub caps off the nice car and put them on the old junk car. We took the hub caps off the junk car and put them on the nice car. This created a lot of noise, and we were afraid we would get caught — which added to the fun. Then Kenny wrote a note telling them Merry Christmas. We thought this was so funny.
As we were running around the neighborhood at night, we noticed a lot of For Sale signs on various lawns. Kenny said, “Let’s take all the For Sale signs over and plant them on Mrs. Largent’s yard to let her know we want her to move.” So we went around the neighborhood and gathered up all the signs and planted them in her yard. Poor Mrs. Largent — if I could, I would apologize to her now.
The summer went by fast, and soon it was over. I will never forget the fun I had, the friends I had and the wonderful way it felt to be a kid without any cares. After this, we had to grow up fast. My parents divorced, and we moved away and our friends went their way. Carole and I are closer than ever now, and we talk daily on the phone. She went to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. a few years ago and found the name of our friend Kenny.
Growing up was tough, but we have wonderful memories of the summer of 1958 — the magical summer of our youth.
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