Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Magic of Rye Playland

I smile when youngsters of family and friends mention school graduation trips to places like Europe, the Mediterranean, and yes, Australia! Surely these are wonderful places to visit, and I'm happy for the kids that they have this opportunity. No kid in the 1950's dreamed of traveling to such places. I can remember just one excursion we were permitted to take, and that came in eighth grade. Our destination was Rye Playland in Rye, New York, where we would take a boat ride on Long Island Sound. This may sound pretty tame compared to today's junkets, but we were thrilled. Most of us had never traveled outside the boundaries of New York City, so Westchester County seemed like an exotic destination that promised action and adventure.

Our Lady of Lourdes secured a bus for the trip. If you can imagine this, for a bunch of city kids, even a bus ride was something to look forward to. What made this outing special was that boys and girls would be on the same bus. Again, not a big deal today, but back in the dark days of strict separation of the sexes in Catholic school, it was as if the inmates of the friary were let loose in the convent yard. There was a palpable buzz in the air as the sound of crackling testosterone and hormones filled the air. Brothers and nuns chaperoned, and the look of grim determination on their faces told the world that they knew the mission before them would not be easy. Whiffs of Brylcreme and Old Spice were carried on the breeze, further evidence that the boys on this trip were in full makeout mode.

Another plus was that students were not required to wear school uniforms on the trip. This was probably due less to the school's willingness to relax the rules than it was to preventing the Rye police from quickly identifying any boy who might be arrested. A six-page set of dress guidelines was issued by the school, and as all eighth graders will, we pushed the envelope hard. The guys wore pegged pants, pointy-toed shoes and shirts with flared collars (a sure sign of a future in and out of prison for the wearer). The girls wore dangerously short skirts, Mom's Jean Nate perfume, and yes, lipstick...all clearly meant to inflame boys who were already lusting in their hearts and elsewhere.

The screws managed to keep the throng in check while we were on the bus, but when we arrived at Rye Beach and prepared to board the boat, the wheels began to come off. The boat was a large one and once aboard, we scattered like bugs when the lights went on. Girls broke out the forbidden high heels that were secreted in their bags, and guys whipped out their combs and defiantly swept the backs of their hair into the dreaded D.A. (duck's ass) style that was cause for 10 whacks if you wore it within five blocks of school. Couples began pairing off as if by prearranged signal. Any hidden alcove on the boat became a place to make out. The screws did their best, but they were no match for young love. By the time we got back to the dock, the girls' lipstick was gone and the guys' flare-collared shirts were blotched with Maybelline Plum Perfect.

The return trip on the bus was a subdued one. The chaperones sulked, knowing how miserably they had failed to halt nature's course. Girls wore guys' jackets, as if in open defiance of the "no fraternization" rules. Hands were surreptitiously held across the bus aisle, and even the nuns, God's guardians of feminine chastity, were too tired to rap their knuckles on unsuspecting skulls. It was a liberation of sorts for us kids. It seemed to me that the nuns and brothers treated eighth graders a little differently after the trip. Maybe they set up the whole thing as a kind of rite of passage, kind of like the prison guard who goes out for a cigarette during a conjugal visit.

It may not have been a trip to Europe, but in some way that trip to Rye Playland was special. A bus load of children left in the morning, but a bus full of young adults returned at night.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

So tell me, was the beginning?
Buddy Holley