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Sleepless in Vincennes

Did you go to slumber parties when you were a kid? They were the bedrock of 1950’s teen social life in middle America. While I attended some, I hosted many more on New Year’s Eves and other nights. Besides being fun, they were a barometer of your standing in the group. An invitation meant you were still “in.” Exclusion was social Siberia.

After the guests arrived with their sleeping bags, first came the ever-popular prank calls. Believe it or not, there was a family in town whose last name was Pancake. (They have since left, probably to avoid our calls.) We’d ask after Aunt Jemima. We were quite concerned, you see, that they hadn’t let her out of the cupboard. We needn’t have worried; political correctness would free her in the future.

Or we’d call a store: “Do you have Prince Albert (tobacco) in a can? You do? Well, let him out!” Cue hysterical laughing in the background. One girl, who was especially popular on the slumber party circuit, did a fabulous phone rendition of a woman giving birth.

After we got bored with the calls, we’d put on our baby doll pajamas. We all brought snazzy, never-before-worn ones; call it Slumber Party as Fashion Show

That’s when the eating began. Mountains of potato chips and gallons of Pepsi washed down tuna or ham salad sandwiches on white bread. Ah, for the metabolism of youth!

After stuffing ourselves, the talking started. The subjects: gossip (about whoever wasn’t there,) boys and sex in that order. The last topic was the shortest; most of us had limited information to contribute.

Soon afterward, the lights went out and it was ghost story time. We didn’t have a campfire, but the storyteller held a flashlight under her face. The speaker didn’t know the main character of course, but she knew someone who knew someone who did.

After midnight, we’d start dropping like flies as we surrendered to sleep. It was a source of pride to be the last one awake. “I didn’t go to sleep till 3 am” was the brag.

The next morning, my sleep-deprived parents would swing into action: Dad to work, and Mom to the bakery. She’d buy two or three dozen donuts, wolfed down before the guests left.

In retrospect, it all seems innocent, but we thought it the height of excitement at the time. It took so little to amuse us Old School types.


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