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.