When I was a young lass, we had something in Fairview (before the Heights) called "Teen Town." I imagined my older brothers going to a little village set up just for teenagers. They'd have a street where the teens, in their letter jackets and Brylcreemed hair; poodle skirts and ponytails, would hang out. They'd have a soda fountain and play "Rock Around the Clock." There'd be dancing, hand-holding, and, gosh Beaver, a "keen" time.
Finally, just when I got to eighth grade and I was a certified “eligible” teenager, rumors of the evils of "Teen Town" ran rampant. Sister Mary Anthony (aka Tony the Tiger) took it upon herself to warn the girls. So, into church we marched one day and she read us the riot act. We were putting ourselves in "the near occasion of sin" category, if we so much as thought of going to that din of Sodom of Gomorrah. Why there were boys there who went to (horrors!)...public high school. (gasp)
Then the rumor mill grist turned ugly. Some of the eight grade girls had indeed lent a deaf ear to the good Sister's warning and actually went to Teen Town. I can still see "Tony" standing in front of our class, her long Adorer's of the Precious Blood habit billowing from the heat radiating from her soul saying, "It saddens me to hear that some of the girls in this class went to…Teen Town. (spit erupted from her teeth as she punctuated the last two words). Put your heads down on your desk and cover them with your arms. Now, every girl that has gone to Teen Town...stand up!"
I had my head down on my desk, but I was peeking through the cracks in my arms. I hadn't gone to Teen Town, but I wanted to know who had dared to go where no "good" Catholic girl had gone before. Oh, there were the loose girls to be sure, but the true pained expression came when she discovered that several of the goodie-two-shoes had gone. What shame! They had let the Blessed Virgin Mary down. They weren’t stamping out the serpent but letting it in! (In?…in where? I was rather naive, to say the least) Their souls were in mortal danger of eternal damnation….
The next week I went to Teen Town! I couldn’t wait to see what all the hoopla was about. You can't imagine my dismay. Teen Town: boys on one side of the gym - the girls on the other. Somebody played 45’s on a small record player. For the most part, the girls danced with girls during the fast numbers. Then, the occasional slow tune came on, and a few of the boys shyly amble over to the girls' side and asked for a dance. I longed for one of the "cool" guys to come over ask me to dance, to let me know that I was sooooo cool, but I was such a nerd. No one ever asked me to dance except Dennis. He was a neighborhood playmate that was also considered a fellow nerd. So, we often paired up for the last dance. They always played that sad tune “Teen Angel.” Promptly at 9:00 it was over. Oh yeah, it was a scene right out of "Streetcar Named Desire" ( a “C” rated picture by the Catholic Legion of Decency).
When I was a freshman (now at an all girls Catholic High school), I went to Teen Town's Halloween Dance. I loved dressing up and especially for Halloween. And, I usually went as a hobo or ghost. But, this year I decided to go as a "vamp." I found a long, slinky black dress, wore a long black wig and had a see-through plastic mask that distorted my face. I carried around a lantern to give me a "mysterious" look. Eat your heart out, Elvira! Nobody knew who I was. I got some rather provocative looks from the boys. It was great. There were a few others dressed in the usual garb, but one teen dressed up as a scarecrow. He had completely obliterated his face with a burlap bag and no one knew who he was. The awards were given out at the end. It was decided the two winners, the Vamp and the Scarecrow, would dance the last dance and take off their masks. Perhaps, this was my coming out party. Now, I'd be dancing with the coolest, the hippest teen. There we were waltzing around to “Teen Angel” and we took off our masks. It was Dennis!! I guess it was destiny.
However, Dennis was a "public" and after a brief romance of holding hands, we went our separate ways. I ended up marrying a good Catholic boy, Larry, and lost track of my old childhood friend.
Several years ago I happened to see his obituary in the local paper. He had moved to San Francisco and was in the Navy. A pang of sadness entered my heart. I thought of Dennis and me waltzing around to “Teen Angel” at that Halloween dance. What had he thought, when I took off my mask? Was he expecting to see the coolest, the hottest teenage girl? Was he disappointed or happy to see his neighborhood sweetheart? I guess I'll never know. But I bet he remembered that special moment when we both wore masks and we both were accepted by the others as we won first place. And, now, even though much time has passed, every time I hear “Teen Angel” on the oldies but goodies channel, I think of Dennis, and how he will always hold a first place in my heart.
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