A young (now mid-age) couple will either be very miffed or overly delighted that I decided to share some excerpts of their ultra-private love letters to each other. It seems Tom left them folded inside a Wild World of Corvettes magazine I bought at a swap meet.
No doubt he read about “plastic fantastic” and the letters from his main squeeze, Helene, during his sacred study halls. So, for a few days, dating from September 12 to 16, 1975, I can give you a glimpse of what was happening between two teenagers on their arrival back to high school after summer break. All of the hand-written notes were from Helene to Tom.
Were things very different or difficult 43 years ago? Or do the basic ingredients remain the same in a young relationship in a town only two hours southwest from here? Try to imagine yourself in their place and time.
9-12-75: “Dear Tom, so how’s your day been? I bet you’re not even awake yet. I was up at 5! I bet you’ll work harder though. I’m in Latin now. I just answered a question! What is an indirect object? This class makes me laugh!”
Let me interrupt. Latin is rarely taught anymore. And an indirect object? This young lady is the object of Tom’s desire! Up at 5 a.m.? No doubt perking and priming herself for an action-packed day of gossip and galore at school. Did she take the bus?
“Lori Bender is in my gym class. She couldn’t believe what she heard from Doug. It was that you and I were seeing each other. I told her “going together,” and she almost passed out. Now, I can’t understand their disbelief.”
G note: Loose lips sink ships! Keep things under cover guys. When people make your business their business, it’s usually not good business.
“I think we really need (well, I do) to talk about a few things. Especially about what went on in the basement last night. Let me be sorta short about the whole thing on my mind! I love you, yes I do, but if it’s going to last, we’ve got to do some serious thinking about the moves we’re going to make with our relationship. I’m mainly afraid that you’ll have enough from me and then go on to someone else.”
Pause button: Obvious Helene doesn’t want to lose her man. And the basement action? Tom, let’s hope you finished your business in a finished basement! That means carpeting and couches and perhaps a stereo and television set. I like her open communication and commonsense approach to things at hand before they get out of hand. She’s also a frisky lass!
“I know that we haven’t done much, but I know we will. Maybe I shouldn’t assume so much, but you must know as well as I do if we even had more than two hours to ourselves — I don’t care about that. Sex doesn’t overly concern me. What is said is when people break up, and what usually happens to them after they go too far. I’m hoping that it wouldn’t happen to us.”
9-13-75: “Well it’s been a while since I’ve seen you. Can you believe I miss you? I really do! I’m in Mr. Guigan’s class right now. Got to take notes now. See ya later, love ya, Helene.”
It’s quite evident hand-written notes are MORE effective than current love texts. First off, the element of disguise. A student can be “taking notes” when they are actually penning a juicy note to their significant other. Also, question marks, explanation points, and small animal or smiley faces are more potent when done by hand on paper. Not screen.
9-16-75: “Dear Tom, well you said to print. This is my fast print. Hope you can read it! Well, my dear, I’ve just come back from trying out for chorus. I made it, but I thought I sounded terrible. Maybe I thought so because I did. You should see me. I got all dressed up today. Some kids in my classes were starting to get the impression that I was a dirtball, so I put some decent clothes on.”
Let’s analyze this. Did the other kids “bully” or tease this girl into believing she didn’t look acceptable? By the way, when was the last time you heard the term “dirtball” used? Crisp, and to the point. Oh, congrats on making chorus!
“What are we doing tonight, sweetheart? As if I’m not able to guess.” Yes my friends, Turbo Tommy certainly had other things on his young mind other than curvaceous Corvettes. After the football game, I am surmising this lad will not only score big but cover the point spread. That is, if you’re a betting man.
In a twist, someone else’s writing on the one note: “Hey Tom, this is #1 writing to you from the big room on the first floor, otherwise known as the cafe. The food is bad, but the company is great. Helene is studying for a French test, she might pass, you’ll have to ask her about it. Well, the lunch is over, this is Grave Digger out.”
Hmmm. Not sure what this was all about. An intercepted extra note with some jive from one of his buddies. High school food? Must be poor the world over — back to Helene at the helm.
“I’m in French now. I’ve had a test, I’m about sure I got 100. The teacher is not too crazy over me especially since I don’t act too enthusiastic.”
Helene goes on to mention that people “take themselves too seriously,” and that “Altoona seems to be the center of their lives.” Playing detective, I am betting these two lovebirds were sophomores or juniors (if seniors they would talk of escaping this joint forever) and, of course, from the Altoona school district.
It appears then, not much has changed on the high school frontier. Except that cell phones have replaced ink and paper when it comes to thought sharing. And no mention from these two regarding school violence or world terrorism. How refreshing.
If anyone recollects Tom and Helene, I would be happy to return their handwritten, heartfelt thoughts back to them. It’s only proper. I bought the old magazine for $1.00, but the “surprise” inside was priceless. Mainly because most of us who grew up at that time did the same things.
Did I find anything else in the other magazines from the same batch? It seems Tom got more naughty as time went on. In another ‘Vette magazine, dated 1977, I found an unused, in the wrapper, well, use your imagination. No, it wasn’t a stick of gum. I also didn’t keep it.
So, did Tom eventually buy a Corvette? Did he marry his school sweetheart Helene? Did both of them escape the confines of Altoona? I gently tucked the carefully folded notes back into the pages of the yellowed magazine. Part of me guilty for reading them, part happy I could share them with you.
Lastly, did Tom and Helene know Brenda and Eddie from the summer of ’75? Because according to Billy Joel, being a prom king or queen assures you nothing later on in life.