Childhood Friends – Part Two

Childhood Friends
~ Part Two ~
February 28, 2023

My son signed me up for Storyworth. Using their inspiring prompts, you write your life story one week at a time, then eventually get them printed in a hardcover book.
So far, like my latest book, I am way behind. I also have a blog, but hardly ever blog, which is ironic considering I write The Murder Blog Mysteries. So, I’m posting my stories as blog posts too.

~  The Prompts  ~

#1: Are you still friends with any of your friends from high school?
#2: How have they changed since then?

I’m fortunate to have two dear friends
that go back even further than my
high school days. Elaine and Nina.
The first story was about Elaine.
Now it’s Nina’s turn.

~ Nina ~

The first time I saw Nina, it was “friends at first sight,” although I don’t think she noticed me. It was the beginning of a new school year, September 1963, and we were sitting at tables in Mr. Canberra’s (he was so cute!) seventh-grade art class at Goodwin Junior High School in Redwood City, CA. She was at another table wearing her signature blue corduroy coat. I thought, “She looks like a nice person.” It wasn’t long before we were officially best friends.

Every weekend we would rotate whose house we spent the night at. We were learning to play guitar and soon became a songwriting team. She’d go in one room and write the lyrics, and I’d be in another, creating the melody. Then we’d put the song together, practice it a few times, and then perform for her mother, Leah. She would always exclaim that we should be on the Ed Sullivan Show. Our biggest hits were “A New Feeling” and “Silent City Lights.” I can still sing them, and you know what? They are pretty good!

Folk songs were very popular back then. Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Buffy-Sainte Marie, Joni Mitchell, Peter, Paul, and Mary … And we sang all their songs. Another reason Nina’s mom thought we should be on the Ed Sullivan Show. Yes, we were that good —according to her. I sure do miss her!

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I loved my weekends at Nina’s because her parents didn’t care how much noise we made or how late we stayed up. Plus, she lived close to Woodside Plaza, so we often strolled around, acting like cool wanna-be teenagers.

One day when we were maybe 14 years-old, we were walking to the plaza, smoking cigarettes and thinking we looked cool and sophisticated. Then a carload of cute guys pulled up to the curb and told us how stupid we looked. Talk about mortification!

Late at night, at Nina’s house, we’d lie in bed in the dark singing hit songs like The Marvelettes —“Please Mr. Postman.” The Shirelles—“Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” and The Dixie Cups—“Going to the Chapel.”

A typical dinner at my house would be mashed potatoes, meatloaf, canned green beans, cottage cheese with peaches, and a glass of milk. If it was close to payday and money was tight, we’d have creamed eggs or creamed hotdogs on Wonder Bread toast. I’ve had colitis since elementary school and ate bland food back then. Now I’m vegan, but definitely not bland!

A typical dinner at Nina’s would be orange Jello, spaghetti (made with Campbell’s Tomato Soup), a chicken leg, and Hi-C. Her mom would pile my plate while scolding me that I was too skinny. The Jello always melted into the rest of the dinner. Not good.

Nina’s father, Sid, would eat in the living room and watch sports while the rest of us ate in the kitchen. At some point, her little brother, Kenny, would start belching. He was very talented. After several good ones and no end of his stellar performance in sight, I would ask him to stop and he wouldn’t, so Leah would scream at Sid to make Kenny stop. 

Sid would exclaim that he was “Going to get his belt!” Then Kenny would run into his room, slam the door and lean against it, while his father stood in the hall, belt in hand, yelling at him to come out. Of course, he didn’t and nothing happened, but Nina and I would giggle so hard our sides would ache. 

My parents loved Nina, and her parents loved me. And both our households were challenging — but in very different ways. Nina’s mom seemed to always be in a good mood, while my mom had a personality disorder and took a lot of Valiums. You never knew if she was going to be pleasant or vicious. It was hard, and only a couple of friends knew how it was at my house. Nina and Elaine.

But we had good times with my folks, too. At my house, Nina learned her table manners and other rules of etiquette. To entertain us, she used to slide down in her chair to halfway under the table. We all thought she was funny!

And she went everywhere with us. Even a family vacation. For several years, my folks rented a rustic cabin at Lower Blue Lake in Northern California. Nina and I had matching “surfer” two-piece swimming suits. Back then, Nina was a cookie monster (still is), so Mom made sure we were well-stocked with Oreos, Fig Newtons, and Vanilla Wafers. Also, Nina was prone to get carsick, so she rode in the front with Dad for the three-hour trip. Mom, me, and our chihuahua, Bambi, sat in the back.

A Day We Will Never Forget

On Friday, November 22, 1963, we were in Mr. Norton’s seventh-grade science class when President Kennedy’s assassination was announced over the intercom. Our usually amiable teacher broke into tears while we kids sat frozen, trying to understand what we’d just heard. 

Two days later, on Sunday morning, November 24, I was alone in the kitchen watching the never-ending live news reports on our little black and white portable TV. Detectives were escorting Lee Harvey Oswald, who had murdered our president, through the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters. At 9:21 a.m. PT, Jack Ruby approached Oswald from the crowd and shot him in the abdomen at close range. I was twelve years old and had just witnessed a murder. I stood there screaming for my parents, who had been getting ready for church.

They renamed Goodwin Junior High to
Kennedy Middle School in 1964.

The Beatles hit the US in 1964 with their big hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and the entire country, including Nina and me, got swept up into the British Mod Invasion. On February 9, 1964, 73 million Americans watched the Beatles sing “All My Loving” on The Ed Sullivan Show.  

We were sprawled on the living room floor, my parents were on the couch. Nina and I were super excited. Mr. Sullivan introduced the Beatles to an audience full of giddy teenage girls, and the screaming commenced. It was crazy and awesome!! Six months later, in August 1964, the Fab Four traveled to California to perform at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. It was the opening night of their first concert tour of North America. 

One year later, they did their last concert of the tour back at the Cow Palace. Nina attended with another friend because I couldn’t afford the seven-dollar ticket* ($67 in today’s economy). But she was a bigger fan than me, and I was happy for her. She came home with an orange jellybean that had ricocheted off Paul McCartney (the Beatles were pelted with jellybeans throughout the concert because George Harrison said it was the band’s favorite candy) and set it in her bedroom Beatles shrine. To annoy my friend, I hung photos of “The Dave Clark Five” on my bedroom walls. 

The mail order form for the Beatle’s tickets.

*Money was often tight, but I wasn’t underprivileged –my parents were paying for riding lessons and, unbeknownst to me, saving to get me a horse if I stuck with it. And I got my horse, “Glory Be,” when I was fourteen. 

Nina and I went to see A Hard Days Night
at the Laurel Theatre in San Carlos, CA. 
The theatre was packed with crazy,
screaming girls. What a blast it was!
Nina saved her ticket to every concert she
attended. I wish I had done the same!
The theatre, built in 1949, has been replaced
with an apartment building. 

Wanna hear the song?

First Dance: It was a school dance at the Redwood City rec center. My dad dropped us off, and the minute he got home, Mom told him I had called and wanted to come home.

Here’s what happened: Nina and I had walked into the big multi-use room, and some kids hollered, “Ooo. Dave. Pam’s here.”

Dave was my sort-of crush. He liked me, and I sort of liked him. He was cute and popular. I was sort of cute but not popular, so it was cool that he liked me. However, at that moment, Dave was in a dark corner making out with another girl. Heck, we had never “made out,” let alone kissed.

I turned around and stomped out, with Nina trailing behind me to the payphone outside. I was crushed and mortified, but to be honest, I was also relieved to have an excuse not to stay at the dance! Plus, Nina and I were not ready for “making out” at dances. I dropped my dime in the phone and called mom. She was very sympathetic. At school on Monday, I got lots of sympathy about that rat, Dave.

First official dance we didn’t leave: The Jewish Temple. 8th grade, I think. We actually danced with boys at that dance. But I can’t say that we enjoyed the event—especially Nina, who was stuck dancing several times with a creepy boy with over-active hormones and garlic breath. On the upside, we had cute new dresses and matching short heels.

After middle school, Nina and I moved on to different high schools. I went to San Carlos High School, and she went to Woodside. But our friendship never wavered. I had a horse that kept me pretty busy after school and weekend-days. And she got involved in drama and had the lead in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was so good! Mom and I went to see the play, and I broke out in an itchy rash while watching. No, not nerves — German measles. But every weekend, we had our sleepovers and she often went to the stables with me. 

Monterey International Pop Festival

In June 1967, we went to the Monterey International Pop Festival. It was a three-day event, and we had tickets for the Saturday afternoon concert. Nina’s dad drove us the ninety-five miles to the show, dropped us off, and returned at the end of the day. We’d never seen “hippies” before, and strange new aromas were wafting around us. Weed and Patchouli oil. The concert was amazing! There were many great bands of the day there, but when “Big Brother and the Holding Company” took the stage and Janis Joplin started belting “Ball and Chain,” we were on our feet and out of our minds. We knew a star had been born. I still get chills watching her — 56 years later at this writing.

Crank up the volume!

We saw “The Who” smash their guitars at the end of their set
and were shocked. How could they destroy their beautiful guitars?


And Jimi Hendrix. He even played the guitar with his teeth,
and to outdo The Who, he set his guitar on fire!



How have they changed since then?

We grew up. Like anyone; it was a bumpy ride for both of us. That story would make a good book! We got married and had kids. We both had two boys who grew up to be good people and marry awesome women. Over the last sixty years, we’ve had tragedies, illnesses, divorces, losses, and letdowns. But we’ve weathered it all, and our friendship is stronger than ever. And these days, we still morph into twelve-year-olds when together — giggles and all.

Now we’re gorgeous seventy-something sister-grandmas sharing photos and stories about our adorable perfect grandchildren.

Nina just texted that she’s disappointed
we didn’t see the Rolling Stones back in the
’60s at the Cow Palace.

I told her it was not too late!
They’re still touring! 

Pam and Nina

I’ll be writing a post soon about another
dear friend.
 Jeri and I don’t date back to
school days, but we’ve been close
for close to forty years. I’m so fortunate and
thankful to have 
these three incredible
women in my life!

I’d love to hear a favorite childhood friend
memory from you. If you want to share,
please leave your story in the comments.


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