Saturday, April 29, 2017

Having Too Much Fun, Nancy (Nearly) Skips Senior Sorrow

Early summer of 1969 I was changing bedrooms again. My family was hosting an exchange student, Elina Salmi from Finland. We girls would have the two upstairs bedrooms.
My senior picture
Having a sister was a new experience. By the end of the year we were really acting like siblings. I wasn't jealous of all the attention Mom gave Elina, helping her to adjust to an American school, learning English, and dealing with homesickness. I was too busy.
Elina Salmi, my Finnish exchange student sister. October 1969.
Me, October 1969

Our family was never more active. Mom kept us on the go. She also kept a diary of everything we did this year. Several years before his death Dad compiled an album of photos about Elina. So with my diaries and scrapbook the year is well documented!

On August 22 at 2 am Elina Salmi arrived at Metro Detroit airport from Finland. My family was excited and talkative, unaware that Elina knew English but we were speaking too fast. She was tired and overwhelmed.

Elina was from Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. She had never seen anything like the expressway with so many lanes and bridges, Detroit's skyscrapers, or the endless city that extended down Woodward Ave into Royal Oak. It was overwhelming to her.

My family kept her on the go those first weeks. I took Elina to the outdoor dance at the ice rink. We went to Stony Creek and went swimming. We dined with my Ramer grandparents. Elina, Tom, and Dad went fishing one morning and we all went to Belle Isle in the afternoon. We had a party for Elina to meet my friends. We went to the Detroit Zoo.

On Labor Day my family held a BBQ picnic in the back yard with burgers and hot dogs, potato salad, and corn on the cob. Elina was baffled by the corn, she later told us. All she knew was that Donald Duck's nephews fed corn on the cob to pigs! She thought we were feeding her pig food!

We went to the movies at the Main Street Theater, to see a ball game at Tiger Stadium, and bought cider at Yates Cider Mill. There was a block party and I lost a contact in the grass.What a whirlwind of activity!

Herald article on the exchange students. I wrote about Elina.
I became friends with the other exchange students that year: Uta Schnubbe from Hanover, Germany; Toshihiko Fukuyama from Mikata-Gun Hyogo-ken, Japan; and Mirna Guerra from Punta Arenas, Chile.

Tosh and Uta, 1970 Lancer photo
Tosh taught us to enjoy rice crackers with seaweed. He missed his Saki. Mirna discovered she had TB and spent much her year in a sanitarium in Pontiac. Uta's father was pastor of a large Lutheran church. She became a judge and in 1975 she and her husband returned for a visit and we met up at my folk's house.
Me and Uta in 1975.  The photo is very faded.
I was wearing a bright green outfit I'd sewn.
Over the summer I had been still grieving over the breakup with my boyfriend but I was determined to push forward. In the fall I saw him at an event with his girlfriend and I realized I was over him. I had my crushes over the year, but at this point, I was enjoying friendships and flirtations with boys without feeling bad about not having a boyfriend.

Me, Dad and Tom at my Ramer Grandparent's house

My friends were applying to college and I realized if I really wanted to go to college I had better do something about it. I told my mom and she talked to my dad. Although Dad did not see the point of a girl having a college education, and Mom only had wanted to be a wife and mother, they agreed to support me.

On September 24 I talked to my counselor Mr. Stafford about going to college. He thought Oakland Community College was my only option because of my grades. But he worked hard on my behalf.

In September I went to a football game on a date. My little brother went with the Stephens--the Kimball Principal's family! October 9 I took my brother and Elina to the Kimball-Dondero bonfire and we went to Pasquale's for pizza afterward.

For Senior Halloween Day I wore a pilgrim dress made by our neighbor and Elina wore her Finnish traditional costume.
Elina in her Finnish dress, Joe the cat, and me as a Pilgrim
The last football game of the year was a blast, with a party afterward at Tosh's host family's home, but I was sad knowing I would never attend another Kimball football game.

Dad would sometimes pick me up at school in his old red pickup truck. Frankly, I was embarrassed as no one else had a dad with a red pickup truck coming to get them. One day some boys asked if he would help them move the Kimball Rock! I wrote that he'd broken his finger and didn't help.

October 15 was the nationwide Moratorium protesting the Vietnam War with a demonstration at Memorial Park in Royal Oak.
Herald front page article on the anti-war protest at Memorial Park, RO

Me, Grandpa Ramer, and Elina in Gramps basement
On October 22 my Grandfather Ramer was hospitalized after his first heart attack. I visited him in the hospital. He was strangely quiet and internal. I was afraid he was going to die. There was so much I wanted to know. I was thinking about becoming a teacher. He had taught high school and currently was teaching at Lawrence Tech. Gramps survived, gave up smoking, and started walking to the Berkley post office to mail the numerous letters he sent all over the country.
official rules of PAC
On October 29 PAC (Political Action Club) had a meet the candidate night. Dad and Elina came with me.
Tribune article on the PAC Meet the Candidate night
My folks had a costume Halloween party. Mom loved a party.
Actually a 1967 photo of me with dad dressed
for Halloween as a blond 'Castro' 
On Nov. 26 at 6:30 we left for a trip to Tonawanda. We visited with Grama Gochenour and Uncle Ken and Aunt Alice Ennis; Skip and Katie Marvin; and our old neighbors John and Lucille Kuhn and Alma Ensminger.

On Thanksgiving Day we went to Niagara Falls then the entire family gathered for dinner that evening. The next day we visited mom's lifelong friend Doris Waterson and her family and Dad's uncle Lee Becker and his family including my cousin Debbie. Uncle Lee was a volunteer fireman and he took us for a ride on the Grand Island fire truck.

The following day we drove to Allegheny and visited Putt's farm and my Guenther cousins and their parents who had built a cabin there.

We left Buffalo in a blizzard but drove out of bad weather after three hours. We came through the Detroit Tunnel and drove around downtown Detroit to see the Christmas lights.

I was proud to have been accepted into the A Capella Choir. The choir photo was taken on December 2. I wrote, "A- choir pic today: on stage we had to change some robes around for length. We broke out into a chorus of “The Stripper” and about 5 boys came running to the auditorium door to see what was going on."
A Capella Choir. I am in the second row, five from the right.
December 19 was my last Holiday Concert followed by an A Capella party. It had been a highlight of my year and I looked forward to the multi-choir piece and the moving concert final piece O Holy Night.

In the spring the choir sang popular songs: San Antone Rose, Blue World, and Cecelia. During the year we also sang Black is the Color of my True Love’s Hair, the Cornish folk song I Love My Love, and “Hospdi Paolime, a Russian Chant."

My senior photos were taken on Dec. 15, the day my brother's American anole died. He had bought it at the circus. "It was a dreadful procedure. Tom and I pushing it toward life all the way. But it was past all help. Shriveled, splotchy coloring, weak—suddenly it was motionless, its convulsive breathing stopped, its eyes glassy and staring." It used to sleep on my shoulder under my long hair. One night it curled up in my scarf and I didn't remember it until bedtime.

On December 27 we had a party with the exchange students.
Dad and Tosh, Elina, me at the piano with Mirna

Mirna from Chile turning the page as I played Christmas Carols 
I realized high school would soon be over and I cherished every moment. I wrote," It’s all so sad—the beauty found in the littlest things—like singing a song in the cafeteria with the jukebox. Everyone sang. Everyone."


I continued, "I’ll find sorrow in the beauty of parting, for I have been in the process of parting since I came here. And it is all so sad to know that soon I’ll have lost the greatest beauty I have ever known—this life, this school—the singing of songs, and the clapping of hands, the worn books, the every crevice of this building—I will lose it."

I got my driver's license in December and started driving to school. I had to fill the gas tank half full in return for using Mom's car. That took a good chunk out of my $2 a week allowance!

My typical comp grade!
On winter morning Mom asked me to drive Tom and the neighbor boys to Northwood Elementary. It was icy and I fishtailed, scaring the boys and myself.

I was in Composition. On August 12 Miss Young asked who my favorite writers were and I answered J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Thomas Hardy, and Thomas Wolfe. She often liked my content, but I consistently received a lower grade because of my bad spelling.

1969-70 Herald Staff, Lancer photo. I am in the first row, far right.
I was writing poetry and sharing it in composition class and in the Herald. My girlfriend even sent some of my poetry to her boyfriend at college. It was pretty awful, derivative stuff.

Poetry page in the Herald. I was still imitating Stephen Crane.
Another of my Herald poems
In speech class, I discovered I could keep my composure while giving a speech, but once I sat down I shook with nerves. Government class with Mr. Meraw and Mr. Poppovitch ended the year with a mock campaign and election. We had a blast.

my government class photo from the Lancer yearbook
I had Novel class and read a lot of contemporary fiction for young adults. And World Lit with Mr. Botens. He handed out excerpts printed on mimeograph paper. I would go to the library and get the book the selections--Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, Candide by Voltaire--and read the originals. I wrote, "I’ve been reading Pascal and Schopenhaur.  And Dante & Gogol (Russian, Dead Souls)" On January 23 I wrote, "Mr. B gave a great lecture. Mike M., Cindy, Diane B. and I stayed after to tell him how great his course was. I nearly cried."

I enjoyed Physical Geography with Mr. Wall. Grampa Ramer was always talking about geography and geology and oceanography. We would take a trip through the Irish Hills and he would point out the kettles and moraines left by glaciers. In the early 60s, Gramps was interested in 'the next ice age' and even had a local television channel air him talking about his theory of diverting the Gulf Stream away from the Arctic to prevent the melting of the ice.

I tried Music Theory but quickly changed to Music Appreciation. That course and Art Appreciation were a breeze. To this day I can tell the composer of a symphonic work or the artists of a painting right off.

I was reading about 10 books a month. In my diary I mention reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, The Web and the Rock by Thomas Wolfe, Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon by Marjorie Kellogg, and John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat. I wrote, "Ever read Frank Yerby?  Try his Odor of Sanctity, –I think you’ll like it, because it bears a resemblance to Avalon. Just as exciting, moving and unbelievable!"

I surprised myself by doing well on the ACT and SAT. But, I had been turned down by Alma, Central, and Albion. My counselor kept trying.

In February I learned that Adrian College had accepted me, along with my friends Nancy B., whose dad worked with my dad at Chrysler, and Lynn Martin, my friend since 8th grade. Adrian is a United Methodist college that still specializes in students who are the first in their family to go to college.

On February 26 the Political Action Club took a trip to Lansing. We had a tour of the museum and the Capital, visiting the beautiful Senate room.

In March my first boyfriend came to visit and took me to see his folks. It was the last time I would ever see him.

Also in March, The A Capella Choir went to Walled Lake for a Festival where we had to sight-read before judges.We scored top on all events!

I went on a date to the National Honor Society Hootenanny, flew kites with my Herald staff friend (and fellow New Yorker) Margie B., and visited my Girl's Choir friend Carol F. at her Oakland University dorm for a weekend. 

In April, Elina and I went to the All School Party, to the school play with a trip to Pasquale's after, and I went to the cast party after the last play. I also bought the Modern Library volume of Pascal's Pensees.
Me, Elina, and Mom at Adrian College, April 1970
On April 24 I visited Adrian along with my parents and Elina. I saw Estes Hall, my future dorm. 

May was eventful.

There was an Environmental Teach-In with tables in the glass hallway with information about ENACT,  Environmental Action for Survival, out of the University of Michigan. I bought a pin reading Give Earth a Change. I've been an environmentalist ever since.Read about the history of ENACT and the first Earth Day here.

On May 7 Kimball students gathered in the courtyard to attempt to lower the flag in protest of Kent State and the U.S. entrance into Cambodia.
Herald photo of student protest in courtyard

Also in May my wallet was stolen from my purse in the girl's lavatory. She took my parking tickets, Modern Dance Show tickets, and driver's license.

The Herald staff celebrated Mr Rosen's birthday with a party; we gave him a monogrammed wallet.


I went to the spring orchestra concert. When the Kimball Symphony Orchestra played music from Carousel, I sang along with “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” A boy I knew from choir jumped up from his seat, came back & said “Mr. L would be proud of you—that was great tone—I could hear you all the way from my chair—“  I stopped singing then.

Our Senior Trip was to Washington D.C. Mom warned me to be good. The sister of a classmate told me to "live it up!" Waiting to leave a boy put his hand through the door.
Waiting for the bus for Washington DC
We arrived in D.C. on May 22. I joined some of my friends in skipping breakfast to see the town. I had never stayed in a hotel before and thought it was pretty fancy. "There were three beds and four girls in our hotel room," I wrote.
On the hotel balcony, Elia in her Marimekko dress.
Shirley, my friend since junior high next to her.

OMG I slept in those? Hanging out in the motel room.
Uta and John Speer living it up
I have no idea what Happyland is, but I wrote that a bunch of us "went thru Happyland & rode on three rides together then came back on the Potomac River, on top of the boat in the damp night air."
Tosh and Shirley during our bus tour of Washington

The next day we toured the city. A group of us girls ate lunch in a restaurant near by because "the All States [cafeteria] was overflowing with kids." We sat at an outdoor table and I had crab cakes and iced coffee. I had enjoyed both when I visited Uncle Dave Ramer and family when I was fourteen. We later heard that some kids got food poisoning at the All States!

Then we went to a used bookstore where I bought Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel. I really wanted the first edition of You Can't Go Home Again but I didn't have the $15. As it was I had spent most of my money eating with friends at local restaurants instead of the paid meals at the cafeteria, plus we needed to pay for our own lunch at Gettysburg on the way home. Mr. Wall told me he would have bought the book and skipped eating. 

Elina with the camera she bought in America
We stopped at Gettysburg on the way home.
Herald Staffer Martha S. was one of a group wearing a special outfit.
I first met her when we were walking to junior high
and she introduced herself to me.
The trip was fun and educational.

On May 28 my Grandmother Ramer was in the hospital in a lot of pain. This may be when she had her gall bladder operation.
My Ramer grandparents
I picked up my Senior gifts from local retailers, including a “key” necklace from Dobie Jewelers, a key chain from Meyer Jewelers (which fell apart), and a mini cedar chest- from Charles Furniture, which I still have.
We paid 50 cents to wear shorts to school!
Convocation was held on June 2. I received a Herald award based on column inches written.
My contact case, Herald and Choir pins, a Chile pin from Mirna,
Journalism award, and charm bracelet including aKimball high charm and one from Washington D.C.
I was proud to have my name read at Convocation for having been awarded a grant to attend a Michigan private college, based on my ACT score. It covered a quarter of the yearly cost! And, Elina singled me out in her speech, giving me the title of 'the best sister she could have had.'

Elina dressed for the prom
her dress fabric by Finnish designer Marimekko
June 5 was the Prom but I didn't have a date. Elina went with a nice boy on a double date. After I put makeup on Elina and saw her off I went to my friend Julie's house for a sleep over party. We went to Realtor's Park in the night and played on the playground. Years later when I saw teenagers horsing around on a playground I understood why. It was their last hurrah.

June 14 was graduation. When the choir sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” I cried. Then came all the graduation parties. We had one, too. This year I had made new friends, and kept the old.

Elina, Me and Tom
A few weeks later Elina returned to Finland. We'd had a great year. I was sad to lose my one and only sister. In his late teens my brother went to Finland to visit Elina and her family. When Elina married she brought her husband to visit us in the States. And when Elina's daughter was a senior in high school we hosted her as our exchange student daughter!

My diary for the year ended,
"It is over.
The biggest show on earth
finished."
My room. 
I had a lot to look forward to. I was going to be the first female, and only the second person in my family, to attend college. I couldn't wait.


June 1970 Herald cover