A Series of Vignettes: Being 15

Because my mother had me at the same age I had my daughter, I find myself comparing the changes in many aspects of our personalities, outlooks, culture and relationships. In doing this assignment for Writing 101, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the differences in being 15 through the ages.


1946 Image

                    Stylish 40’s

1945 – My mother turned 15 at the end of 1945, in the aftermath of World War II. She told me a few bits and pieces about her childhood, but nothing in great detail. I can only imagine what it was like to be 15 in those days. People made do with what they had because of scarcities of things like scrap metal, butter, gasoline, and shoes. Rationing didn’t stop until 1946 and I know it was because of her memories of rations that she learned to not take things for granted. My mother was the youngest of 5 children and her older siblings made sure she got through school. As a teenager, my mother’s education was most likely geared towards life as a stay-at-home mom. She was lucky enough to finish school; many people in those days did not because they had to work to help support their families. Because my grandmother was an active member of her church for most of her life, she made sure my mother and her siblings attended church every Sunday.  The fashion in those days consisted of simple dresses/skirts {due to shortages in material} and penny loafers. Popular music in 1946 included songs by “crooners” ~ Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, The Andrews Sisters, Dinah Shore. Teens usually went with their friends to malt shops or to someone’s house for dance parties. One of the most popular dances of that era was the Jitterbug. At 15, my mother barely had time to grow up before she got married 3 years later.


Beatles image

                            Beatlemania

1964 – My sister turned 15 at the end of 1964, exactly a week after I was born. Because I was the “new kid on the block”, my sister had to help my mom take care of me. She spent a lot of time with her friends at our house so we always had a house full of people. In those days, families spent a lot of time together, sitting around the dinner table, talking for hours after dinner was over. We were always going to a relative’s or a family friend’s house for gatherings, where there was enough food for an army. If anyone showed up unannounced, they only had to grab a plate and pull up a chair; everyone was welcomed, as part of the family. We didn’t have to keep our doors locked all the time. Everyone watched out for each other and all the kids in the neighborhood. The fashion style was mostly “mod” {groovy!} and “cat-eye” glasses were all the rage, as were bouffant/beehive hairstyles. Watching TV was totally “in the moment” since there were no re-runs or VCRs. Missing a show really meant missing a show. Nobody had their own phones because there was only ever one phone in the house, in a common area. No such thing as a private conversation, either. Party lines {shared by more than one household} were in use and telephone numbers began with 2 letters {called “exchanges”, depending on where we lived in the city}. Beatlemania was still very much in full-swing so their music featured heavily in our house back then. My sister also listened to The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Moody Blues, The Guess Who, among others. The 60’s were a time of “flower power”, “hippy-dom”, love-ins, illicit drug experimentation, the sexual revolution, and giving peace a chance. One of the most popular sayings of the decade: “If you remember the 60’s, you weren’t there.”


Note Image

Texting” in 1980

1979 – I turned 15 at the end of 1979, just after the release of some of the biggest movies around that time: Grease, Saturday Night Fever {which started the disco craze} and Star Wars. The bell-bottom jeans that were so popular in the 70’s were replaced by Levi’s “straight-leg” jeans and Earth shoes or clogs. The hair trend at the time was “feathered” bangs; we carried big combs in our purses to make sure the feathering stayed in place. We didn’t have computers or cell phones so we spent a lot of time outside. Socially, we hung out with our friends at the shopping mall, the video game arcades or skating rinks. If one of our friends drove, we’d go out to the Lakefront or spend the day at Pontchartrain Beach {famous amusement park that “ain’t dere no more”}. If we wanted to go to the beach, our parents drove to Gulfport or Biloxi for the weekend. Stores were closed on Sunday because it was considered a day of rest or visiting relatives. We “texted” our friends by passing notes written on paper. {The notes in the pictures are the ones I saved from correspondence between myself and one of my best friends.} Homework took up a huge part of my days and if I needed to do research, my mom drove me to the library {our set of encyclopedias was outdated!}. By now, TV-wise, we had re-runs, but it would be a while before we had a VCR. I remember my sister and her husband having a Betamax, but those weren’t as widely used as VHS-based players which would eventually make Betamax players obsolete. Music-wise, I was still listening to classic rock and some “new wave” bands like The Police, U2, Tears For Fears, Thompson Twins, Men At Work, The Fixx. When we wanted to add music to our collection, we had to go out and buy records. If we wanted to listen to all of our favorite songs, we made mixed tapes {difficult to do and poor quality without access to a dual cassette player}. The Sony Walkmans of the day were bulky because they played cassettes and, if we didn’t have mixed tapes, we had to carry a bunch of cassettes around. It made “mobile music” cumbersome, to say the least. Most of the time, I just left everything home and listened to the radio since most of the stations I listened to played my favorites anyway. M-TV revolutionized how we discovered new bands and music videos gave us a chance to see the bands behind the music…and dress like them, too! It was an incredible time to grow up.


Being 15 image

                  #Age of the Hashtag

2013 – My daughter turned 15 in mid-2013 and times certainly changed in 30+ years. Social media, cell phones, the Internet have all changed the way we do things. As “globalized” as we are now, I find that we’re more isolated than ever. People hardly interact face-to-face; everything is about texting or using social media to interact. From where I stand, from what I see, there’s more depression, anxiety and use of anti-depressants today than I remember or knew about when I was the same age. Bullying happens in cyberspace, making it inescapable. The generation gap seems wider now than ever before because it seems more difficult for teens and parents to relate now. Today’s teens wear leggings or skinny jeans, athletic shoes, t-shirts, and shorts. With all the gadgets and other things available to style hair, bad hair days are a thing of the past. Between curling gadgets, straightening irons, hair extensions, dye techniques, keratin treatments, teens can achieve pretty much any look they want. Popular music is a mix of Rap, Hip-hop, Indie, R & B. YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and access to global radio stations have made it possible to access any song without hassle. Smartphones have features and apps that can identify any song playing, followed by the option to buy it. Some apps even show the lyrics so we can sing along if we so choose. Popular shows involve reality TV which allow pretty much anyone to be on TV; today’s shows entertain audiences by shocking. VHS tapes are a thing of the past, replaced by DVR technology. We can access any show we want through streaming services and we don’t even have to be home to watch. If we have a phone or tablet with a WiFi connection, we can watch from anywhere at all. Instant gratification and all that. It makes me wonder how things will be 5, 10, 15 years from now. Will we benefit from further advances? Only time will tell.


Reading back over my post, I think it’s really interesting to see the differences within a 68-year span. Did I miss anything? Do you have comparisons of a certain age to share? What are some of the memories of the years I mentioned?  If you have anything to add to my post, I would love to hear from you.

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17 thoughts on “A Series of Vignettes: Being 15

  1. Great post Carol! You’re just a little younger than me. I turned 15 in Oct of 78, and I remember many of the same things, especially those big combs. I often carried mine in my back pocket, just like my step brother did. His hair was “prettier” than mine! 🙂

    My daughter is fifteen now. Looking at the differences, we seem like light-years apart.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: A Series of Vignetts: Being 15 | Maria Holm

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