Xenia High School in the 1960’s


Going to high school in the 60s was exciting. Because of the newly minted anti-establishment revolution almost all of my classmates were of the opinion that while they might not all like each other we certainly liked each other more than we liked any adult. There was a continual loosely agreed upon conspiracy to do things we thought were right to do whether the teachers and administrators and parents thought so or not.

As a matter of fact, the more they disliked it the more attractive it was. This was not normal generational perception differences, this was organized disobedience. It manifested itself in many ways, in dress and grooming to name two major ones. In breaking social mores was another.

When I was a sophomore girls were required to kneel at the request of the counselors to check the length of their skirts. If the skirt did not touch the floor the girl was sent home to change clothes, or her mother was called to bring her something more appropriate to wear. By the time I was a senior girls routinely kept a belt in their lockers, the purpose of which was to provide a method for rolling up your skirt to mid-thigh, the belt would hold the extra fabric you rolled up in place. By the time I went back to do student teaching four years after I graduated there was no dress code at all and I turned into a shocked prude.

Hair was a real issue for us. It had to be long and straight or short and cut funky. Even the white girls ironed their hair to straighten it. Since my hair was long and wavy I mainly wore it in two braids. Style was the issue with females, but the length was the issue with males. This was the era of the Afro and some of my classmates sported some impressive almost shoulder to shoulder creations. The rules of the school, written before integration, said that you hair could not touch your collar. It did not say anything about length. That meant that the black boys could have ten inches of hair because it was going to stand up and not touch their collars, while the white boys would quickly be in violation of the policy with much less hair. To their credit most of the white boys did not hold it against the black boys, they simply violated the policy and complained if they got caught . They eventually organized to get the rule slapped down. We were good at protests.

In the area of social mores, interracial dating was one of the primary ways some of my classmates bucked the system. For some reason this was mainly manifested with white girls and black boys. The girls would sneak into the East End to parties or go to the drive-in, ducking down in the seat until it was full dark.. There were a few white boy-black girl liaisons but they tended to be fewer. I am not sure why, certainly white boys were attracted to black girls. In those days it was socially acceptable for males to let you know if you made their liver quiver so to speak and they certainly were not shy about expressing their admiration.

One of the characters that taught at XHS was Olive Houston, who at one time was also the Mayor of Xenia. Tall, thin, very pale, wrinkled and wearing way too much make-up, she taught classes like speech and deportment. She was famous for calling students out for public displays of affection. Do not let Ms. Houston catch you holding hands or she would lope up ( later she had an injury and would limp up) and chastise you loudly.” Young lady, decent girls do not indulge in displays of public affection, it simply is not done!”

Times were definitely different.


By Cookie Newsom

Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.

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