Maplewood History: Fear of Puberty by Bill Jones

I was 12 years old and a student in Maplewood schools.  I worked as an apprentice soda fountain jerk and cashier at Harper’s Drug Store. I always dressed neatly. On weekends, I am sorry to say, many teenagers came in barefooted and shirtless with their belly buttons showing. This truly embarrassed me.

My grades went up to A+ in school because I had a lot of time at work to read and study when customers were scarce. I loved the 15 cents an hour (my own money). My sister, 9 years older than I, came in on a Saturday and said, “Well, baby brother, next February 6th, you will become a teenager.” That thought had never entered my little mind.  Horrors of horrors!

I told my sister, “I don’t want to be like those kids.”  She hugged me and said, “You’ll have girlfriends and dates.  It will be a happy time and you may still work at the drug store.  My sister hugged me again and said, “You’ll be okay. Don’t be afraid. You’re a good kid and turning thirteen will not be difficult but a new kind of fun.

I couldn’t sleep that night. In my nightly prayer, I asked, “Don’t make me be a teenager.  Don’t let me be a bad teenager.” I felt better and went to sleep.

My English teacher’s wife had a friend from her New England college years who worked for the Atlantic Monthly. She sent her a typewritten copy (typed by my sister) of my “Fear of Puberty” article and, to everyone’s surprise, the magazine published it. They sent our English teacher a check for $30 and our class had treats for a month. He boasted to the whole Maplewood Junior High that his 13-year-old student, Billy Jones, was now a published author. My sister and my folks were also proud.

Honestly, I still felt uncomfortable about being a teenager until a cute girl named Irmgard took my hand and said, “Billy, would you walk me to the Muny Opera Friday night?”  I did and took Irmgard to the free seats at the Muny. I was hooked. Puberty was looking much better.

Billy Jones, Jr.      Class of ’45      Age 93

Typed by Barb.

7 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Fear of Puberty by Bill Jones

  1. Lets see the original story that was published!
    As a teenager I don’t think I would have had the guts to tell anyone my feelings let alone publish them.
    I guess once a writer always a writer.

    • Hey Mark, That would be interesting. You wouldn’t still have that original story would you, Bill? If you can find it, I’ll post it. Being a teenager was a tough thing when I went through it. I have to think it’s tougher now. Everyone should be forgiven for mistakes they make during those years. I made a few. I would not have made them if I’d realized at the time that I would still be hearing about them at family gatherings 50 + years later.

      • Doug, your comment about being reminded about things you did years ago from family members sure made me chuckle. One of the things at my family was to play the Smothers Brother routine that Mom liked you best. Lots of fun sitting around the dinner tables talking about who did what and who was the good kid. Truthfully I think some of those stories have been embellished over the years sometimes to make it seem worse other times to make it not seem so bad.

        • Mark, I remember that Smothers brothers routine. We all thought they were hilarious. As for your last sentence. Yep.

    • That’s a pretty cool graph you linked to, Tom. So no one used the term teenager before 1940? It was teen-ager back then. Weird. Thanks for this unusual bit of info. I can’t imagine why you, or anyone else for that matter, ever thought to look into this.

  2. I was a tomboy and played baseball with the boys in the neighborhood. I was scared of puberty because it meant breasts. My fear was then I would throw a ball “like a girl”. I assumed they were why girls threw differently.
    Puberty came and everything came as long with it. My throwing never changed…thankfully. lol