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Girls in the Hood

By Dianne Ballon

Simonds Park and Kemp’s — a beautiful pair
When I was on the tennis team, we practiced at Simonds Park after school twice a week and played our home matches there. Practice consisted of many warm-up exercises before hitting tennis balls. We were so out of shape, we could barely do the jumping jacks. But we didn’t care, because heaven was only a few steps away. If you cut through the woods, Kemp’s was conveniently located diagonally cross from the tennis courts. After practice, unbeknownst to our parents, we’d stop by for a hamburger. Then we’d head home for supper less than an hour later. Here’s a classic photo of my sister Jackie and David Enos at Kemp’s in 1967. (She allowed me to use this photo only if I included the photo of me as a majorette.) 

David Enos and Jackie Ballon at Kemp's, 1967
David Enos and Jackie Ballon at Kemp’s, 1967

“We hung out A LOT in Simonds Park,” recalls Siri Thomassen Joly, “attempting to play tennis while covertly watching some boys who, I think, played cards there. Some of the boys we had a crush on, even though one of them was our friend’s brother. Then off to Kemp’s for a cheap hamburger and fries.”

Kemp's Burlington MA
Kemp’s was on the corner of Cambridge Street and Forbes Avenue, a short stroll through the woods from the Simonds Park tennis courts. Don’t study that map too hard. It has enough errors to blow your mind. No wonder the place went out of business.

The Parades
I’m sure every kid in Burlington participated in a parade. As kids, my friends and I decorated our bicycles with red, white and blue crepe paper, and attached a playing card with a clothespin to make the spokes sing. We lined up in the early morning at Simonds Park, endlessly waiting for the parade to start. Then, we took our place on the road closed to traffic, and off we went.

As teenagers, we marched with batons in hand. We were the majorettes — well, sort of. One of our classmates, Bonnie Sinclair, was a professional-grade baton twirler. In her sparkling uniform, she looked as fluid as a skater while we stumbled along in our makeshift attire: white shirts with navy blue culottes, white cowboy hats and white Go-Go boots.

We didn’t have much of a routine, mostly the figure eight and the side spin. We did have a throw that we had to perform once or twice depending on the length of the parade. The parade would stop; the band would play, and we would perform. So there was Bonnie, twirling beautifully, throwing her baton high into the air and snatching it every time, while we attempted the one throw we had practiced for months. Batons bounced off the pavement and into the crowd. If that didn’t make us want to quit on the spot! But we were thirteen, and marching in Go-Go boots was just about as cool as going to high school.

Here’s a typical photo taken by my mom, who always pointed the camera up. I am thirteen, standing in my majorette uniform on my street, Lantern Lane, in 1966. You can barely see the baton in my right hand.

Dianne Ballon with baton on Lantern Lane, Burlington MA

Holding the French horn in these next photos is Michael Conners. Note the 1960s slim-style neckties. Mr. Vento, the band director, appears in both photos, serious but not too worried, yet. Michael’s mom and my mom worked at the Pine Glen school cafeteria and were good friends. A few years later, Michael died of leukemia. He was one of the first classmates we lost.

Parade Band 2, Burlington MA

Parade band 1, Burlington MA

The discovery of this 1966 photo of my sister’s Girl Scout troop marching in the Burlington Memorial Day parade led to a few tales about their trip to Washington, D.C.

Girl Scout majorettes, Burlington MA
1: Mary Raske, 2: Debra Hughes, 3: Anne Marie Clougherty, 4: Jackie Ballon, 5: Aleta Piantedosi Devaney

The Adventures of Girl Scout Cadette Troop #576
Aleta recalls, “We sold wreaths for two years to finance the trip to Washington D.C. The trip was led by Mrs. Putnam, Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Raske. When I reflect back, I am awed by their generosity and volunteerism. After all, Mrs. Putnam did not have a daughter in the troop; Mrs. Wilson was widowed and was the mother of four, and Mrs. Raske probably had five or six kids. Yet they took a week out of their lives to take a bunch of 14-year olds to Washington, DC, by bus!”

DC group leaders, Girl Scouts
L-R: Mrs Putnam, Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Raske, and Senior DC Girl Scout at Arlington National Cemetery
Burlington Girl Scouts at DC arch
L-R: Senior DC Girl Scout, Barbara Barbosa, Marilyn Moretti, Debra Hughes, Judy Sullivan, Shirley Blair, Mary Raske and Janice Wilson
Burlington MA Girl Scouts at Capitol steps
On the Capitol steps. Front row L-R: Mrs. Raske, Mrs. Wilson, Jackie Ballon, Dorothy Drinkwater, Anne Marie Clougherty and Mrs. Putnam. Middle row: Senior Burlington Girl Scout, Senior DC Girl Scout and Shirley Blair. Back row: Theresa Yasi, Valerie Naeve, Mary Raske, Marilyn Moretti, Janice Wilson, Barbara Barbosa, Judy Sullivan, Aleta Piantedosi Devaney, Debra Hughes and Joanne Vaccaro.

The troop took in the sights by day and camped somewhere in Maryland at night. Jackie remembers, “One of our friends and fellow scout had moved to Maryland, so we got to see her. She had two brothers. After a long day of sightseeing, we were settling in for the night, and she joined us in the tent. We fell asleep quickly and were woken up by a flashlight shining into our eyes, in what seemed like the middle of the night. There was much screaming and a big fright! Turns out that her brothers had figured out some girls were sleeping in the tent, and they stole underwear from one of the older girls. She cried— out of fear or embarrassment? It took a long time for everyone to settle down.”

Theresa Yasi
Theresa Yasi cleaning house
In the Girl Scout tent, Washington DC
Inside the tent. L-R: Marilyn Moretti, Aleta Piantedosi Devaney and Jackie Ballon
Girl scout camp
L-R: Judy Sullivan, Marilyn Moretti and Aleta

Georgy Girl
One afternoon the chaperones suggested the Girl Scouts go to the movies. My sister Jackie recalls, “One of the girls suggested that we go see the Disney film Bambi. But Aleta and I suggested that we go see Georgy Girl. We liked the theme song and figured it would be a good film to see. We really did not know what the film was about, but we convinced the leaders that it would be appropriate for a group of Girl Scouts.

“The ticket-taker kind of looked at us, all in uniform with sashes and badges, as we paraded into the theater and down the aisle to our seats at the front of the movie house. Unbeknownst to Aleta and me, the film was about a young British woman who became pregnant ‘out of wedlock.’ Although we were on the verge of a sexual revolution, the movie was still scandalous and shocking at the time.

“We could not exactly march down the aisle and leave before the movie finished without complete embarrassment! Needless to say our leaders were not amused, and many looks of disapproval and shock were sent our way as we sank deeper into our seats. — We still liked the theme song.”

Georgy Girl poster
Theatrical poster for Georgy Girl, copyright 1966 by Columbia Pictures. “Suggested For Mature Audiences.” Oh well.

The theme song Georgy Girl was performed by The Seekers. The single topped the charts, earned a gold record, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Many thanks to Siri Thomassen Joly who remembered “the scandalous movie” and sent her photos of the Girl Scout trip— converted from 35mm slides.

Now, to get that song out of my head . . .

Georgy Girl 45

 

9 thoughts on “Girls in the Hood Leave a comment

  1. I loved this. I’m a few years younger than these girls but the memories are so vivid. The parades – I entered a baby doll carriage decorating contest one 4th of July. The go-go boots – I would have done just about ANYTHING for a pair. Kemps – the whole fast food thing was so magical. I remember my younger brother always got a hot dog. I want to say that they were foot long dogs. His roll would always break and he would cry. Good times. Thanks so much for pulling these stories together and publishing them here.

  2. Thanks for sharing this with us Dianne. I’m just a little behind chronology with this crew. But your family , Debbie Hughes and Dave Enos were a memorable part of my life. Thanks again and give Jackie and Richard my best. , Mike Miller.

  3. I love this! I’m the youngest of the Gulde clan! Cheryl worked at Kemp’s and was a majorette!
    Thank you for the memories!

  4. Lots of memories with you and Donna!!
    I did work at Kemps and was also a majorette!
    Still have my baton!!
    Cheryl Gulde Hansen❤️❤️

  5. Fantastic article, Dianne – it evoked so many memories! Simonds Park on the 4th of July and the parade – when floats were truly homemade. Remember when Bonnie was on Community Auditions? Although I cant remember the year it was pre high school…I’m thinking perhaps Elementary? Had to give a chuckle at your comment regarding the photographer that your Mom was. Nothing wrong with aiming high – perhaps not so much when taking a pic! Thanks much for a fun read…dmo

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