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Friday, December 15, 2017

The Summer of Shove

by Lynn Downey (writer), Sonoma, July 19, 2007

July of 1967 might be “The Summer of Love” to everybody else in the world, but to me it will always be “The Summer of Shove.”

I was twelve-almost-thirteen and living in the suburb of Marinwood, just north of San Francisco, and I couldn’t help being aware of what was going on over the Golden Gate Bridge. But I was just a bit too young to participate, and anyway, I had puberty to worry about, which was like being put in a blender with somebody else in charge of the buttons. Of the many responses I could have chosen to deal with the turmoil - taking drugs, starting a band or developing an eating disorder – I chose to just check out of life and check into my bedroom. It wasn’t unusual for teenaged girls to spend hours in their rooms, even in the 1960s when a lot of us didn’t even have our own phones. But I went overboard.

I just disappeared.

And why shouldn’t I? My room had everything I needed: a radio, a record player, recordings of Mendelsohn, Grieg, Ravel, and the Smithsonian’s collection of folk songs, linens and embroidery thread, thirty stuffed animals, forty china animals, my calico cat Queenie and about fifty books. And I had a plan: I’d only come out for meals, school and family gatherings. Then I’d go to college.

I didn’t think this would be a problem, because I certainly wouldn’t be any trouble to my parents. But that was the problem. They wanted me to be a young woman, and I just wanted to be a girl, but it seemed once teenagerhood loomed that was no longer an option.

So, when seventh grade was over in June of 1967, The Summer of Shove began: the three months my parents spent shoving me out of my room and, for a while, out of the house completely, so that I would have some social interaction and maybe even a few dates someday.

My cousin Shannon and I finished the seventh grade at the beginning of June and our mothers decided it would be a grand idea to send us to visit relatives in San Bernardino for awhile. We took the Greyhound bus out of Oakland and spent the entire trip annoying the other passengers by sticking our feet on the seats in front of us, hanging out the windows, and giggling incessantly.

There was nothing like a long bus trip in 1967. For one thing, it was a scenic tour of some of the most unsavory landscape in California, and I don’t just mean the bus stations. And San Bernardino was culturally about as far from Golden Gate Park as you could get without giving up your California driver’s license.

Our aunt and uncle indulged us, and called us “yucky kids” with a grin in their voices as we careened all over Disneyland, had our pictures taken with Frankenstein at the Movieland Wax Museum, stayed up late watching Johnny Carson and eating ice cream until we were ready to puke. Days were spent slathering baby oil on ourselves and lying in the sun at the local pool, discussing in gruesome detail the shocking death of Jayne Mansfield and what it must have felt like to have her head sliced off in that car accident.

I was more outgoing down south than I ever was at home. Well, it was an artificial situation, and no one wanted me to be anything other than what I was: a yucky kid. However, once I got home later that summer I curled myself into my room again and the shoving recommenced.

My parents next signed me up for a nature photography course which I wish I could remember more clearly, because it was taught by David Cavagnaro, who went on to become a famous photographer. I left the house a couple of times a week to get into a van with a bunch of other kids and go out to Samuel P. Taylor State Park in West Marin to take pictures of poison oak leaves with my new Kodak Instamatic camera. It was fun, and I had a big crush on one of the boys in the class, but it didn’t do for me what my parents hoped (though I still have my Instamatic).

In between trips in the van and trips to the local pool, my mother took me to her hairdresser to get the popular “mod” cut, as worn by Twiggy on her many magazine covers. I didn’t mind this too much, as it was easier to take care of, but that wasn’t quite the point. It just meant I spent less time grooming in a public area like the bathroom, and more time on my bed with my nose in a book.

By the end of the summer my parents realized that none of their shoving was really paying off. As fall began they enrolled me in Cotillion, so I could learn the fox trot and the cha-cha (hoping I might go to a few dances someday), but all that did was irritate me, as the classes were held the same night that “Star Trek” was on. My friend Kay really wanted to take Cotillion and wasn't a "Star Trek" fan, and it just galled me to think that I could have been at her house watching my favorite TV show, and she could have been learning to dance, and who knows how different our lives might have been?

Anyway, my parents were making these futile efforts for a very simple reason. By the mid-1960s traditional images of teenaged girls were being completely upended, especially on television, and especially during the summer of 1967. Wholesome future homemakers were being replaced by mod things wearing fishnet stockings, white lipstick and very short haircuts (not to be confused with the girls in flowing tie-dye with flowers in their long hair). Some parents thought these changes deplorable, but not where I lived. Marinwood prided itself on its sophistication and the way everyone kept up with social trends, and the hallways of Miller Creek Junior High School were awash in psychedelic-colored mini dresses and Carnaby Street lapels.

My parents desperately wanted me to enter into the spirit of the age and experience the social life they had lost during the years of the Depression and World War II. And after making so many sacrifices, they found it impossible to understand that I didn’t want what they never had.

So, at twelve-almost-thirteen, in the midst of a cultural upheaval that was all about peace and love, I had no choice but to endure the Summer of Shove, grabbing onto the frame of my bedroom doorway to hold on to girlhood just a little while longer.


About the Writer

Lynn Downey is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on The Summer of Shove

Log In To Vote   Score: 6
By Charles, Jr on December 04, 2007 at 10:16 pm
I'm finishing up high school and being pushed into college. Not that I don't want to go to college. It's just that I'm not yet done with the fun of boyhood. So I related to your wonderful story.
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Log In To Vote   Score: 5
By Kent J. on December 05, 2007 at 12:45 am
I enjoyed reading this story.
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