ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"Unbound", a story by Lois Greene Stone

Glossy large-size pages appeared untouched by time.  Two years before my yearbook was printed, the Korean War had ended. The textured hardcover noted four dates that didn’t seem so long ago but were during the “Silent Generation” era.  Why was that time-period so labeled?  I Googled it: “remaining silent so as to not cause trouble”.  I wasn’t silent when something seemed ‘wrong’; I was a founder of one of the very first non-sectarian, interracial sororities in America.  All a co-ed had to do to become a member was promise to accept and respect, as a ‘sister’, one of any faith, background, or race.  This was radical, not ‘silent’!  There were no humiliating rituals, nor rejection letters after smiling through a social rush-week.

Sports were not big-business, the mascot was a real Husky dog, vendors sold pom-pom flowers –chrysanthemums– that men bought for their dates to pin to woolen jumpers; we sat on concrete benches in outdoor football stadiums. Curfews existed for girls.  Most co-eds had hair styles that slightly turned under, moved gently, and were managed with hair rollers; the pom-pom flowers added to the wholesome look.

Each page seemed to bear witness to a society that no longer exists.  Even the clothing, girls in long skirts, many with crinolines beneath to fluff out the waist to hemline, and fitted bodices, are more for the TV show about Mrs. Maisel than what’s real now.

I found photos of time-place; I pulled a few from the tight binding and placed them on the kitchen table.  Seeing a caption for the new auditorium, that had just opened for commencement, exposed a pain that didn’t heal with time.  My dad was dead, at age 45, end of my junior year, and my widowed mother traveled alone to bear witness to my earning a degree.  At the time, I was too into myself and my own happy/grieving to be grateful for my mother’s taking a long trip to attend, sitting alone, showing nothing but her joy for me.  If I could only let her know now...

Big bands came, with musicians who played in a gym transformed into a ballroom; males wore white dinner jackets and brought corsages for their dates.  A female vocalist sang romantic ballads, and tiny books fastened by a string hung from girls’ wrists; these were called Dance Cards.  If a boy wanted to dance with a co-ed, his name was written on the card.  I would string my Dance Cards on a wall near my dorm-bed for decorations and memories.

A few more pages were pulled from the binding yet the pile on the kitchen table didn’t get as large as it might have years ago; however, years ago the university would have taken my piece of history for its collection.  Now they’ve a digitized copy; tangible isn’t wanted.

The plastic garbage-tote, propped on sturdy wheels, accepted the donation. The thud seemed to be screaming out ‘save me’, as I’d done for so very many decades.  I thought of the hills and man-made lakes that added to the beauty of the small campus. I didn’t try to imagine today when even the football team plays in another city’s huge stadium. 

Google’s site continued: “The Silent Generation is respectful”.  “They did this by keeping their heads down and working hard, thus earning themselves the "silent" label.”  We did initiate change, but not via loud protests and fighting, we didn’t need to bare our bodies to have people notice us, and we didn’t need to embrace the offensive words so commonly spewed today that one has almost lost its negative effect.

I touched my cellphone that lay near the few helpless pages from what was once a firmly bound piece of my life, remembering the one telephone for 66 girls on the ground floor of each walk-up dormitory. I’d like to tell my parents they gave me gifts of knowledge, enthusiasm for learning, opportunity to develop into ‘me’, awareness of culture, appreciation for nature, enduring relationships, but I’d only be whispering to the silence. 


Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Her poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies.  Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.  The Smithsonian selected only her photo to represent all teens from the 1950's; a large showcase in its National Museum of American History featured her photo. hand-designed clothing, and her costume sketches. ‘Girlhood’ exhibit opened 10-2020 and began touring Jan. 2023.

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