hippie clothes

April 28, 1968

April 28, 1968

My nuclear family circa 1968
My nuclear family circa 1968

It’s difficult if not impossible to convey what life was really like in 1968 to people who weren’t even born then. IMHO, most films set in the sixties are cliched embarrassments. The best was “The Big Chill” but even that was nothing like my reality.

I never considered running away. My father made a concerted effort to stay close. He would sit beside me and listen attentively to both sides of a new Beatles album – not to censor my music but to stay connected to my world. He took me – my opinions, my passions – seriously. Since I was still a self-involved child, it never occurred to me to exhibit similar interest in his music. My loss.

My father and I on my Confirmation Day.
My father and I on my Confirmation Day.

Baby boomers like me – teenagers in the late sixties – weren’t all about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll although “revolution” was in the air. My friend JoAnn, an aspiring model, had been obsessed with appearances – her personal revolution was reflected in a new craving for more authentic relationships.

My friend JoAnn
My friend JoAnn

The times exerted a powerful effect on Tal Pomeroy, who drew a high number in the draft lottery. One of the smartest boys at Wilcox, he was successfully challenged in his efforts to help me grasp the periodic table of the elements.  He didn’t take a traditional route to his eventual M.D. like he might’ve in the fifties. Instead, he criss-crossed the US, worked all manner of jobs and got to know all kinds of people. Along the way, he handwrote long beautiful letters which could never be condensed to a text or tweet.

Tal Pomeroy
Tal Pomeroy

I’m grateful I came of age in the sixties. Were they better or worse than other times? I don’t know – but I doubt any other era could be as interesting.

Coming of age in the sixties

October 10, 2014


the-trouble-with-trouble My absolute all-time favorite game growing up was dress-up (today, it’s called role-play but it’s the same thing.)  I was up for a part in any fantasy – princess, boarding school, teen-ager, Rapunzel and Bonanza were perennial favorites. The only role I couldn’t relate to was horsy. Then as now, the appeal of prancing around pretending to be a palomino eluded me. For starters, playing horsy pretty much precludes costumes unless you count tucking a fake tail in the rear of your pedal-pushers (I don’t).these-bitches-need-some-class

I have only two requirements for a good game of dress-up.

  1. I play a human (no horsys!)
  2. I wear a costume – and hopefully a wig.

Beyond that, anything goes.

shopping-for-more-useless-stuffIt’s a shame that dress-up tends to be cast aside before adolescence. It’s all but forgotten by the time we’re adults. IMHO, this is a real shame. Luckily, like riding a bike, the requisite skills reside inside you, ready to resume active duty if called. If you can get past your self-consciousness for a  trip into fun and silliness, dress up is even more fun to play as a grown-up.


Technically, each of us gets only one life to live. Dress up role play lets you dabble in as many lives as you can make up. If – like me – sometimes you get sick of being yourself, take a break. Cut loose and be somebody else – someone without a mortgage, congested kids, or pets pooping on the rug. All you’ve got to lose is your dignity. Isn’t it about time?


If you’re over 18 or past the age of consent: Dress-up role-play is unlikely to be hazardous to your sex life, if you get my drift. Enough said.


September 30, 1965

September 30, 1965

To my mind, the Wilcox High cafeteria operated like a caste system. The highest caste – cheerleaders, athletes, homecoming queens and student government honchos – held court on the kidney-shaped Senior Lawn, an area so sacrosanct even their fellow seniors dared not sidle onto the hallowed grass unless expressly invited.

CASTE SYSTEMDescending castes fanned out from the metal tables under the cafeteria’s fluorescent lights to the picnic tables and benches surrounding the snack bar in the quad.

Inside the cafeteria, you could spot the brains by the books piled beside their trays. The low-riders laughed louder and indulged in more food fights. The hippies preferred the lesser lawn outside where they could skip in circles and blow bubbles. The surfers sunned themselves at the picnic tables.

Sandra re-enacts buying a sandwich in the snack bar line.
Sandra re-enacts buying a sandwich in the snack bar line.

The Untouchables were marooned between the Special Needs table and the line of trash cans between the boys and girls bathrooms. They were the lowest caste, miserable souls yoked together by nothing more than the fact no one else wanted them.

Sandra finds a sign suggesting life will improve after high school.
Sandra finds a sign suggesting life will improve after high school.

Anybody and everybody could gauge your caste in a glance based on where you ate lunch. Once assigned to a caste, it was almost impossible to move up. Moving down was not such a problem.

Kathy re-enacts the loneliness of the Untouchables
Kathy re-enacts the loneliness of the Untouchables

Sandy and I flirted with the fringes of various castes without adhering to any for long. Something about the group dynamic just didn’t work for us. This was surprising, since my Scandinavian forebears are famous for their community-minded  club and choir culture. A chorus of perfectly blended voices, none of which stand out or call undue attention to themselves, is the Danish ideal. Their sense of group unity is one of the reasons Denmark is ranked the happiest country on earth.

The Scandinavian joiner gene lies dormant in me. I’m acutely uncomfortable in any group larger than three and I far prefer one-on-one.  That said, it’s easier to be an outsider if you’re lucky enough to find a fellow solitary soul with a huge imagination and quirky sense of humor – someone like Sandy. The truth is, we had a blast being outsiders together.

Brilliant Decision

Changing my schedule in my sophomore year was a brilliant decision I’ve never regretted.

Besides, I was a dunce in geometry.


September 18, 1971


September 18, 1971


The universe as charted in Lloyd's mind.
The universe as charted in Lloyd’s mind.

Ensenada 1

Lloyd (not his real name) told me he had psychiatric problems when we met. Because of this, he claimed he could never have a romantic or sexual relationship with any girl. I didn’t want one with him so that came as a relief. Even though we didn’t live far apart, we started our friendship as pen pals.


His voluminous letters were the first warning sign. Ten hand-written pages a day were typical. A tiny warning light flicked on when he pointed out that the stamps on the envelopes his letters arrived in were never cancelled. In other words, he drove them to my mailbox himself late at night.

He loved photography and wanted me to model for him. He took the photos featured here on one of our two photo sessions.  As a vain, shallow adolescent, I lapped this up – but not for long. His criticisms of me were scathing and increasingly frequent. In retrospect, I think one of the reasons I hung around was to win his admiration back. The desire to recapture something I thought lost kept me in a lot of relationships in those days. For that matter, it’s one of the reasons I kept a diary.

Ensenada 3

That’s why I can’t deny I saw Lloyd’s red flags long before our trip to Ensenada; I just didn’t heed them. There was that trip to San Francisco, when he threatened to swerve into oncoming traffic and kill us both. The fact that he didn’t follow through on that threat doesn’t negate it as a red flag.

I’d be crazed with fear if my daughter was dating a guy who displayed Lloyd’s character traits but for some reason I failed to fear for myself.  Like other young, dumb adolescents, I believed I’d live forever. I didn’t end the relationship with Lloyd because I was afraid but because I was exasperated.

I didn't focus on fear for myself.
I didn’t focus on fear for myself.



May 10, 1969

May 10 1969















I’m not sure if I’m revealing myself (and – guilting my best friend Sandy Hegwood Walker by association) as a typical high-spirited high-school girl or a pathological liar. In our defense, we didn’t distort the truth for an unfair advantage – we just couldn’t resist any opportunity to try on a new identity. An only child, Sandy’s fantasy life and active imagination meshed perfectly with mine. We were naturals when it came to playing off each other and improvising.  We had our own secret language for awhile, but that was kids stuff. When we matured, so to speak, pretending to be aspiring rock stars was one of our favorite gambits. When we really got it going, we could go into elaborate detail about our set list and who sang lead on what song. I’m surprised we never got around to printing up band cards. (But what if somebody wanted to book us?)

This fantasy sounded so cool Sandy and I struggled through a few guitar lessons  before we realized our talents were better suited to shopping for dramatic stage costumes, not learning to play an instrument. Years of piano lessons, during which I fell progressively further behind my younger sisters, had alerted me keyboards might not be my forte. My next hint I might be musically challenged came when our church choir director eliminated my half of an upcoming duet with the lame excuse a Natalie Nilsen solo served the music better. I told myself she just didn’t want to show preferential treatment to the pastor’s daughter but I was devastated. While I didn’t want to “toot my own horn,” I didn’t want to hide my light under a bushel either.

I took my case to my father. “I have a beautiful voice, don’t I?” I asked.

He paused and said, “Kathleen, we all have different gifts.”

Even I couldn’t spin this response. So what if I’d never be a real life rock’n’roll icon? Thanks to Sandy’s and my living theater, I knew how it felt to strut the stage and blast away on my Stratocaster. Just to prove that sometimes fantasies do come true, Sandy’s parents bought her a drum kit which she housed in a black light room. It didn’t get much better than that.

If you’re worried about all the gullible people we deceived, rest easy – I don’t think we fooled anyone.


May 8, 1968


May 8 1968

Girls Swimming

I’m not sure today’s millennials could survive the sixties high school experience. While searching for a photo of the frigid Wilcox High swimming pool, I unearthed an impressive array of “Mermen” shots – but this was the sole illustration of girls in the water. (I’m so disappointed I couldn’t show you the hideous dark green maillots we wore.)  In fact, this was the only photo I found depicting girls in any athletic endeavor. Based on my Wilcox yearbooks, athletics and team sports were a “Men Only” preserve – not that my consciousness was high enough to perceive this slight at the time. Until I sought a photo for this blog, I never noticed the omission. Although Friedan’s Feminine Mystique was  published in 1963, feminism wasn’t on my radar.

In addition to an outdoor pool in the dead of winter, the class of ’69 was the last to be subjected to a dress code – which meant girls wore dresses every day. If your hem failed to skim the floor when a teacher ordered you to kneel, you were sent home to change. Once a year – on “Grub Day” – girls were allowed to wear pants to school. The top photo of me with the rest of the Literary Magazine staff illustrates typical Wilcox style. For the epitome of high school fashion, see the photo below of the pair my class voted “Best Dressed”.

Best Dressed

High school has loomed large in my writing career and I will revisit aspects of my experience in future diary-blogs. If you recognize yourself in a photo, please tag it!

Class Picture


Feeling Fat? Don a Poncho!

Kathy in Poncho

Sadly, I felt fat A LOT because this brown and white poncho is featured in numerous photos from the mid-sixties (b/w photos) until the mid-seventies (the sole color photograph, with college boyfriend Tom, in suede jacket.) Truth is, I might still have that old wool poncho, although I haven’t worn it in a decade (which is not to say that I haven’t felt fat. Just not fat enough to don the poncho.) As you can see, it conveniently conceals the entire mid-section and – at the time – I truly believed it epitomized hip.  Is the poncho due for a fashion comeback?


It’s Not Too Late to be a Model in my Sixties Fashion Gallery!



As part of a reference/research project for my novel, I’m assembling a gallery of sixties fashions. Rather than reproduce the same old iconic sixties fashion shots we’ve all seen a million times, I want to feature real life baby boomers in the real sixties ensembles we all actually wore. I’m not too proud to post my own humiliating fashion faux pas, so why not join me? I’ll post your name and any comments you offer with your photo if you like, or you can be anonymous. You can send sixties photos of yourself to me at my domain – kathleenrowell.com (where you can also view the galleries as they grow) or you can email them to kathleenkrowell@aol.com.  MALE AND FEMALE FASHION PHOTOS WANTED!!!


I’ve broken the gallery into three sections – early sixties (roughly up until the Beatles), mid-sixties (Beatlemania until ’68-69), and late sixties, which in my opinion extends until 1973 fashion-wise, so please note where you think your fashion photo should fall (if you don’t, I’ll take my best guess). Right now, almost all the photos in the gallery are of yours truly, so please save me from my narcissism and send some of yourself in your sixties glory. (And truthfully, is there a baby boomer alive who doesn’t wish that you looked as good now as you did then? Show off your former self! Release your inner model!) Thanks in advance to any and all responders.