Recalling our past in the present

The small postcard announced the 50th reunion for Colonie Central High School’s class of 1972. Should I go? Rummaging through a pile of books in a closet, I found the yearbook. Looking at the bouffant hairdos and ’70s fashions, I was overcome by memories and dragged out my photo albums with the yellowing, poorly lit Kodak photos and started my trip down Memory Lane. 

Denby's - Albany I got my first pair of bell bottoms at Denby’s on State Street in Albany in 1966. The British invasion was in full swing. Twiggy was on the cover of Vogue, and miniskirts with go-go boots were all the rage. In home ec. class, we made miniskirts that measured 15 inches from waist to hem while we learned how to install a zipper. I was Team Paul: Beatlemania had me swooning over the long-haired quartet who were irreverent and shocking to my parents, which made them even more attractive. I loved recreating Beatles’ harmonies as I sang along on my 8-transistor portable radio until the 9-volt battery wore out.

To set the mood, I set my Pandora station to “’60s classics” and flipped through the photo album pages, humming along to The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, Tom Jones and Lulu. I recalled using my weekly allowance at Grant’s Department Store in Albany to buy the latest 45s of the Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love” and the Four Seasons’ “Rag Doll.” Leslie Gore tapped into young love angst with “It’s My Party” and its follow-up teen revenge tune “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” The Beach Boys galvanized my imagination with their West Coast surfer vibe. 

Funny how I can remember these lyrics without even thinking, yet I can’t remember what I did yesterday unless I look at my datebook.

Back then I looked forward to Saturday night dances at Pine Grove Methodist Church. Circling the dance floor until the music started and we could pair up, these events were precursors to future mating rituals. Squeaky cold metal folding chairs lined the walls of the church’s community room, the polished linoleum floor gleaming in the dim lights. Wearing Yardley pearlescent lipstick and Windsong perfume, I suited up for dancing to Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe in Magic?” and Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.”

A few photo album pages later, I am in my hippie days, with embroidered peace signs on my frayed hip-hugger jeans, a fringed suede jacket, tie-dyed henley shirt and Frye boots. The proliferation of singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Bob Dylan inspired me to get a guitar and start writing songs. Yeah, I wanted to be cool, Flower Power and all that. I begged my mother to let me go to the hip counterculture extravaganza that was Woodstock but was secretly glad when she said no. All that mud. 

After high school I took off for art school in Boston for a brief stint before realizing tuition and art supplies were a luxury trumped by rent and groceries. Dropping out, my idealism was crowded out by pragmatism, evolving with my paycheck and “grown-up” concerns, along with my style.

A few pages further in the photo album, I see the more sophisticated mid-’70s styles: flared pants so long they covered my platform shoes, Diane Von Furstenberg’s iconic knitted jersey wrap dress, paisley and flame-stitch prints and lots of no-iron polyester. By the end of decade, disco had turned everything upside-down and the Bee Gees’ “Saturday Night Fever” spawned the catchy “Stayin’ Alive” and John Travolta’s white three-piece suit. My long straight hair was tortured into curly perms. 

On a mission to streamline “stuff,” I’m condensing all of these photos into one concise album showing the timeline of these changes. It’s true what they say about everything coming back around. I’m wearing bell bottoms and listening to the soundtrack of my youth as I sift through them.

And on the night of the reunion, I took my time gussying up, shaving my legs (why? no one would see them), carefully applying makeup and styling my hair. I was ready for my close-up. 

I even sprayed on some Windsong perfume.

Dancing figures illustration:

Other Articles You Might Enjoy: