The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


We were invincible then --
we wore taps on our shoes.

We smoked Newports and Winstons
in the restrooms and in the woods
behind the teachers’ parking lot.

Boys gathered into knots
in the hallways, in the stairwells,
girls not too far away

Long Island, New York, 1960 – 61 – 62 – 63

We were unbreakable.
Sunday dinner was an event
that called for “yes ma’am”
“no sir” and families gathered
pretended to be close,
came visiting on Sunday.

Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights
opened our eyes to traveling circuses
and dogs that sang with their owners.

We were enviable in those days –
Mom still ironed our clothes:
rolled sleeve dress white shirts
for the boys, or peacock colored ones,
magenta and lavender with socks to match
somewhere between tight, peg-legged
black slacks or dungarees

and Cuban heeled shoes with taps.

For their daughters, Mom pressed skirts
as short as the dress code allowed –
snug black ones with kick pleats
and innocent white angel blouses

or tight sweaters that they wore
with pale pale pancake make-up
and black eye liner
on the inside of their eyelids.

Hair was something that you teased,
love was a ring on a chain
and slow dances in the school gym
on Friday nights
in dull black flats or sling-backs,

sometimes with taps.

O yes -- we were
bulletproof then,
living up to our expectations
of another day, another year
of being the same:

security was stability
and we were stable then,
full of learning
and hi-fi technology

Murray the K’s
Submarine Race Watcher’s Club

or Cousin Brucie on WABC

AM Radio.

That’s the way it was.
We were invincible,
we were tough
until that day in Mr. Gabrick’s
American History Class:

the stuttering intercom

interruption, saying that

the President is dead,
Ladies and Gentlemen

a moment of stunned silence


the world no longer a safe place
for young punks
and third year Latin, Rock ‘n’ Roll,
prom queens and hot rod cars

the crack started – (then and
there) in our armored innocence
and now we are no longer draft exempt.

Mom put down her iron and burned her bra.
She bought a dishwasher. Now
we don’t know where to find her
after dinner anymore.

Even Murray the K died
somewhere on the West Coast

and we are vulnerable,
Boys and Girls

We are watching it
happen on CNN
o yes, o yes
we know everything now.

We can travel nonstop to London
in a matter of hours, fly
to the moon or down the street
in our safety regulated cars

we can source information
on anything from anywhere
on the internet.

We are grown-ups now.
Nostalgia is a trend.
High school history
is our childhood.

We win at Trivial Pursuit.

We are mortal.

The President is dead,
Boys and Girls

and Taps
is a different sound.

From The Soapbox Papers (c) 1996 Smokey Combs

all rights reserved