The year is 1953 and I’m about ready to graduate from Palo Alto High School. So let me tell you a little bit about my class. The class of 1952 was an athletic juggernaut of the San Francisco Bay Area now known as Silicon Valley. Upon the graduation of the Class of 52 they handed my class their athletic ball to carry on with their winning way. Ah but we fooled them. We literally dropped the ball In all sports much to the distress of those that measured a classes success by a win, lost scorecard. But at the time little did we know that our class was holding the winning hand in “smarts”. It would take decades to show that success on the athletic field is fleeting and that in the long run being smart has the legs to lead the way to a more satisfied mind.
Our class of about 300 upon graduation sent 52 to Stanford and to my other classmates they scattered out to attend the many other fine universities throughout the then 48 states. As for me I graduated with a diploma in “having fun”, so I went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, where at the time, if you were standing up right, heart beating and a “C” average you were in. Today there are still about half of our class among the living which beats the average life span by about 7 or 8 years and I’m sure we could rustle up a team that would wow you at Trivial Pursuit. But our crowning achievement is how we have all kept our whereabouts known to a dedicated group of classmates that know where each member lives so that a most amazing newsletter is mailed or e-mailed out each and every month by a handful of dedicated class members.
The May edition has just entered itself into my e-mail account and there is an article dealing with Dating Terminology. This look at one of the more important issues of the day (kissing) fits right into what the history books had to say about our decade of the 50s. The Korean War was winding down and everybody seemed to be getting their fair share of American Pie. We weren’t marching in the streets or burning the town down when we didn’t get things exactly our way. The police were our friends and the U.S. house and senate had a knack for practicing “give and take”. So to today’s historians I think your idea of a noteworthy event must have turmoil attached and there’s never enough blood on the ground to satiate the need to keep your ratings at the top of the journalistic heap. So we of the 50s decade have been relegated to a “slow news day”, a “do nothing decade”, which I will embrace gladly compared to our present strident decade.
I’ve asked the editor of our Class of '53 newsletter if I can copy one article verbatim because I think we are all in need of a good laugh and a helping of nostalgia for the “decade of the 50s”
It started when George was reviewing Linda’s article where she wrote “we were necking in the back of the bus”. George suggested substituting “making out” for “necking". Linda was puzzled by the difference, but George suggested that “necking” implies a specific region and maybe it should more accurately be called “kissing”. Val suggested that “making out" expanded the region involved compared to “necking" suggesting more freedom. She further added “I’d have to go to Confession if I were making out” but not for “necking", so I prefer the word “necking".
Linda was getting uneasy with the subject and wanted to move on, but wondered where "petting" fit into the terminology then promptly admonished us not to answer saying "it’s just a comment actually", George ignored Linda’s discomfort and admitted that "petting" is a far more specific term than either "necking" or “making out”, and also much more daring. Val suggested that "petting" was a topographical consideration
George didn’t think that any of us questioned our definitions of "necking" and "petting" but “making out" was still elusive, so he Googled some of these words to see what Wikipedia had to say about them.
Hanky Panky — improper behavior, but not seriously so.
Necking — refers to “kissing, including extended French kissing or heavy kissing of the neck” George— maybe “the latter is what we used to call “monkey bites”
Making Out — A term of American origin dating back at least to 1949, used to refer to kissing, including extended French kissing or heavy kissing of the neck called “necking" or to acts of non- penetration sex such as heavy “petting".
Val went on to say “l can’t believe we’re having this conversation about dating escapades that occurred almost 70 years ago. But here we are. I see it all as a matter of topography and geography. Necking involves activities above the shoulders. Petting is mostly from the shoulders to the waist and “making out” includes a larger, more diverse landscape. I guess kids don’t use these terms anymore, but I do think they’re rather sweet.
So a salute to those first wobbly steps into the world of petting et al and “To all, I hope things are going well, if not I believe there’s still time to regroup."