One of my favorite classes in high school was public speaking. This small classroom was set up as a mini theater with rows of seats—not the soft leather chairs you’d find in the movie theaters but the good old-fashioned metal folding chairs. There was a stage in the front of the room where we would “perform.”
Every week we were assigned a different topic and each of us would put our creativity on the line. One student pantomimed her assignment, no words. She “acted out” waking up in the morning, washing her face, getting dressed, preparing breakfast, putting on her scarf and coat, leaving the house for school and strolling off the stage, invisible books in hand. We had no doubt as to what she was doing, all without a word. I thought that was pretty clever.
Another assignment was to speak about someone famous and what impressed you about him/her/them. I chose Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and how “I Love Lucy” came to be. I did extensive research on both Lucy and Desi and of course, threw in some of the best parts of this show: Lucy and Ethel working at the chocolate factory, Lucy making wine in Italy, and the many times she’d try and trick Ricky to get a part on his show. My audience was laughing as I ended my performance and our teacher gave me high marks.
Young women in high school during the 50s wore dresses, skirts and blouses—no jeans, capris, shorts and other casual stuff that we see nowadays. Many dresses had full skirts requiring a half slip, a crinoline slip, if you will—kind of made the skirt a little puffy.
That being said, there was one student’s performance I remember as if it happened yesterday. Her name was Ann and she was going to read poetry from a favorite book.
Ann was a tall, pretty, young woman with blond hair. As she stood on the stage, reading from her book, I noticed a bit of lace at the bottom of her dress. It seemed her half slip was “showing.” The lace came down a little bit more, and more until the slip was gathered around Ann’s ankles. This brave trooper calmly stepped out of the slip, moved smoothly to the side and finished reading her poetry.
Our teacher and class rose from our seats as one and applauded this classy, poised young woman. While walking back to our classrooms, my friends and I agreed we probably would have burst out crying and run off the stage if this horrific event had happened to one of us.
If Ann was embarrassed, it never showed. She smiled and thanked us, retrieved her slip, folded it and placed it in her book bag.