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The high school and college years of a 60s kid

The high school and college years of a 60s kid

An interview with Valerie Payne - a student from the 1960s

The 60s was the time of the Vietnam and the Cold Wars; it was also the time of change. Valerie Payne, a 1960s American high school and college student, sat down with the Oracle to share her experiences and stories of the decade.

Valerie Payne, someone who went through high school and college in the 60s, said students embraced a lot of things and were more aware of what was going on around them and what the government was doing.

Going to high school in Torrance, California, Valerie remembers being able to see fires in Los Angeles from her house where the Watts riots took place. During the 60s many blacks fought for equal rights and justice and riots ensued.  She shares high school didn’t have any people of color in her high school and she said, at the time, she had not fully known what was going on and didn’t pay much attention to the LA fires and riots.  

She recalls a specific seemingly, normal day of high school, where everyone was eating lunch when an announcement came over the speakers saying that Kennedy had been killed. Specifically, Valerie  recalls everyone starting to cry. 

But beyond the major events of the 60s, Rock and Roll seemed to dominate. But as she started college, Valerie noted that the Vietnam War was also starting and many people were beginning to protest it. From here, folk songs protesting the war became the popular music. Guys would purposely flunk IQ test and maim themselves to avoid being drafted and having to fight in the war. She said her husband even knew someone who pretended to be homosexual to not be drafted.

Another protest to the war included burning draft cards. Valerie herself even participated in many peace marches. She said while she didn’t do drugs, many people smoked marijuana as a protest of the government. Rebelling against a lot of traditions and really wanting everyone to be happy and comfortable was the goal of a lot of young people in the 1960s.

Valerie recalls if people had extra money, they would donate it to the poor. She said there was a lower crime rate and people walked every where, including to and from school, and there was never any fear of a creep coming up to you. Friends went everywhere together and oftentimes hung out after school. They went and played four square, basketball, and baseball. She remembers people played sports all the time and it was never really organized. Girls athletics were looked down on and the only girls team her school had was a softball team. Families also did a lot more together, they would go to the park, play games, and go on picnics. She thinks part of the reason people spent more time together back then was because the technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today.

Every family had one TV and one car. There were only a few channels on the television and there weren’t any cell phones. If you wanted to listen to music you had to play records on a phonograph. In recollection, Valerie Payne also said they didn’t have vaccination for whooping cough treatments yet and only just came out with the polio vaccine. They didn’t have MRI machines, just old fashioned x-ray machines.

She remembers girls wore a lot of beads and wore flowers in their hair, which is why they’re known as “Flower children”. There was a surfing rage as well, and Valerie said they lived near the beach and everyone wanted blonde hair. There was also a bunch of guys that wore leather jackets and rode motorcycles. Valerie Payne’s high school also had a strict dress code; no open toed shoes, no sleeveless shirts, and girls had to wear skirts everyday except for Fridays. Most people didn’t have a lot of money, so girls made their own clothes. People didn’t really have tattoos or piercings either.

In the end, Valerie Payne loved her generation, saying it was a time where everyone wanted peace and an end to war. It was a time where everyone cared and helped each other. She also said the cars from the 60s were really cool.


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