I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill… so sang Fats Domino. If you were local in my teens, that would have been Armour Hill, one of the quaint drumlins that form the geological framework of Peterborough. Armour Hill was THE hill, the wink-wink-nudge-nudge local hill where cars parked in the evenings likely had steamy windows and the inhabitants of the vehicle were not there to see the view. It’s the other meaning for the term “parking”.
I don’t know why Armour Hill came into my mind. Well, I do, actually and that is the problem. It’s the thing I don’t really want to think about. It came into my mind because my youngest daughter was out on a date with someone whose name we had not heard and his car battery died, that was why she was late. It put me in mind of all those teen movies where the excuse to the dad was, flat tire, ran out of gas, make a list. Now there are daughters, and then there are youngest daughters. You would have to be there to know it, dad anxiety.
It’s not that I am naive, or that I don’t know times have changed, but I guess it is natural to feel protective of your daughters. Once they are of a certain age, you worry about them, not exactly from the advances of young men, but because your daughters might be complicit.
Times have changed since Armour Hill. Such a venue used to exist because teens wanted to fool around and test the boundaries, and all of society was standing against them. There were barriers. The policeman with the flashlight who would knock on the windshield of the car, the censure of the public for things like unplanned teen pregnancies, and those nasty slides they showed you with pictures of gonorrhea sores in health class.
Now they are handing out condoms in class and telling kids to be “safe” whatever that means. I understand from my older daughters that “sleepovers” are something that is quite normal for their friends from school. The parents let their semi-adult children shack up under their roof and have over nighters. That is supposed to be a nod to reality, but it is a bit more than I can muster. I don’t really know how we got from the point of a lot of societal restraints in one generation to a free-for-all in the next. It makes me feel like Sheriff Bell in No Country for Old Men, who ruminates over a quaint list of problems kids would catch trouble for in the last generation, things like chewing gum in school. He compared it with the ramped up list of ills that inflict society today and wondered like me, if the world is going to Hell in a handcart, and fast.
I did catch some action on Armour Hill, of a different variety. I egged Armour Hill on a bet with some friends. The premise of course, is that people might not be disposed to chase you down after, because they were caught with their pants down, (so to speak). We went up with two dozen eggs, fired off the lot, and high tailed it down the side of the hill to where our vehicle was parked at the bottom. Although there was a lot of shouting and bustle up above no one managed to catch us.
I heard from my friends, all about getting to first base, second base etc with their girlfriends. That was really a thing back then. To get a home run (so to speak) was considered unusual, and something to be frowned upon even among teens. There were of course a few people in high school who wound up with shotgun weddings, and their circumstances were high up on the gossip mill and low down on the ladder of respect. There were those unexplained nine month holidays where girls went to stay with an elderly aunt out of town.
My parents didn’t have to worry about me, because I had the difficulty of being painfully shy with women, so it would be hard to get past my own awkwardness as first barrier. At all the high school proms, I was the photographer. It was an easy way to get around the problem of asking someone out on a date. Still, I can recall going out on a date with a girl whose name I shall not mention for obvious reasons. The word was she liked me. She SERIOUSLY liked me. If I was smart I would take her on a date, my friends advised me. It would automatically mean that she was game and I could roam the bases freely.
We went to a spaghetti restaurant and I remember because I wore a turtleneck and trying to be polite and cut my meatballs, I sent one skittering off my plate and on to the floor. I was nervous. It wasn’t the date as much as the issue of whether the girl was going to kiss you or not. Nice girls didn’t kiss on the first date, and what happened at the door was a litmus test for whether the relationship would advance since girls seem biologically to be the gate keepers of such things. At the door, my date surprised me. She suddenly turned into octopus girl, all roving arms, and most alarming of all, she jammed her tongue down my throat. This did not have the desired effect. I was stuck somewhere between panic and choking on her tongue… a most uncomfortable scenario. Let us just say that I retained my single status for a while yet.
All these ruminations are quaint now that we are in the age of sleepovers, it would seem. I just remind my kids that while it may be 2020 out there, it is still 1960 in my house. But there is that issue of the car battery dying, or was it running out of gas? I can’t quite remember, but it doesn’t settle my dad anxiety any less.
I imagine Armour Hill is a thing long gone, at least in the context I remember. There would be no use for a necking hill in today’s scenario. Kids would not need to look far for a place to fool around, because society poses no restraints it would seem. Suddenly, in ways that never occurred to me before, restraint is a really great idea as is the idea of being “properly ashamed” depending on the circumstances. “Properly ashamed” is something my mother thought people should be… properly ashamed of themselves when called for. Guess what mom.. there ain’t nobody ashamed of anything anymore, and I don’t know if I would call it progress.