Summers with my transistor

by Carol A Westbrook

In the summer of 1961, my dad gave me a little transistor radio. My older sister, Lynn, showed me how to tune it to WLS and WCFL, the stations that played music that all the teens listened to. They had the best Chicago DJ’s: Dick Biondi and Larry Lujack, who wise-cracked and took calls. And she showed me how to listen to it under the pillow at night. (Click on the song names to listen to the music.)

One night I heard a song, “The Mountains High” that stuck with me all my life. As a top 40s hit, it was played a lot, until its ratings fell and it disappeared from the air. It’s about a couple who are separated by an impassible mountain. “Don’t you give up, don’t you cry, don’t you give up ‘till you reach the other side…” they sang. This song captured all the angst of a preteen, longing for travel, adventure, and especially love. And love was so unattainable to a 7th grade girl, for the simple reason that the 7th grade boys didn’t care much about girls–yet.

That was the summer of 1961. I was about to enter 7th grade, and I was growing up fast. I was no longer “just a kid down the block.” I was a young woman. My brother threw me off his sandlot baseball team because they had a “no dames” policy, and they finally noticed I was a girl. But I didn’t mind; I had other things to do. I hung with my girlfriends. We talked about boys. We read teen magazines to see the latest styles. We tried on makeup and new hairstyles. We had pajama parties, where we stayed up all night, listening to the top 40 hits on late-night radio. We watched American Bandstand, where a few lucky teenagers got to be on television, dancing to the latest songs played by Dick Clark, the DJ. There was always a popular band playing their top hit, too. How we envied those kids! We paid careful attention to their clothes, hair and their dancing, trying to emulate it. Read more »