I saw one of these recently and it blew me away. I hadn’t seen, much less thought of a slambook in 36 years.
Cheryl, remember these?????
They were huge during my seventh grade year.
They were anonymous ways to feed your ego or completely deflate it. More on that in a minute.
It was never made clear who initiated the slambook, wrote the questions on it’s pages or put it out in circulation. But you could get an idea based on the tone of the questions, how leading they were, who they focused on and of course, if it was a small enough class…and every class was within the Karnes City Independent School District, you could recognize the handwriting.
But not Laurie Kendrick’s slam books. I had my older sister Karol write do all the writing. Completely confounded the bastards, I did.
Speaking of Karol, hers was the very first slambook I ever laid eyes on. It was back in the late 1960’s and apparently, it was the hit of that year’s eighth grade class of Karnes City Junior High. I distinctly remember the first question and answer. It was, “What books do you like to read?” One of Karol’s classmates. the always hip R.C. Cooper signed in and replied, “chick’s books”.
Slambooks in my day were plain spiral notebooks. The first page was a numbered name page. You could put your name, your initials or to be mysterious, and place a fake name by a particular number and that number represented you throughout the book.
I could decide to place my name by…oh let’s say…..number 29 (not surprised by that, are you Cher??) and I would put any name by it–real or fake. I would use something like, “Fetid Navel Mayonnaise”. Then, I’d go through the book and answer the questions as number 29. The reader would read my answers and have a reference as to who I was back on the first page.
As for the questions? They could be generic or very specific and even lean toward being mean. Vicious, really.
Classic slambook pages looked a lot like this:
You get the idea.
They questions and answers were fairly revealing, sometimes funny. Always controversial by Junior High standards and actually, quite damaging. One perceived negative comment, read on a bad day could inflict an incredible amount of harm to a young kid with hormones swirling inside him or her.
Every slambook I ever started was always confiscated by Mrs. Gibbons, the Junior High Counselor. I resented it at the time because I had just paid 50-cents at the City Pharmacy for that spiral notebook. But now, I realize her actions were probably a preemptive strike to spare some walking Clearasil commercial a case of serious pre-teen angst.
Kids are cruel. We certainly could be.
Back then, I never thought about “hurt feelings” unless they were mine. I think today, the kids have raised cruel to a new level. Anonymity is easier because slambooks in the new millennium are found on the computer and there are a million of them out there.
I think about who and what I was in Junior High and High School and I cringe. Junior High was great, but high school? Emotionally, I can compare it to living in the squalid slums of New Dehli back in the Forties without a rupee one in my pocket. Yes, it was a lot like that. High School was both depressing and oppressive for me.
Like bathing in the filthy, urine-rich Ganges.
And furthermore my trying to find great memories from high school is like searching for clean, potable water in New Dehli. But I guess you can if you try.
You know what the ubiquitous “they” say—Sikh and ye shall find.
Anyway, I couldn’t wait to be able to only reflect back on what High School represented. And I only wanted to do that infrequently. The memories still make me shudder.
So because of that, I asked a very wizened friend recently about ways to “thicken my skin”. He told me that our existences are comprised of two things: events and experiences. Events are finite; they have a very defined beginning, middle and an end. Experiences are those life lessons with staying power. Things that teach us about ourselves and each other. Our courses are altered with experiences.
We…I…. need to learn the difference, he insists. Release all the events. They served a purpose at that time and place. That’s it; no more, no less. But he says, I must always embrace each experience, they are what should comprise my memory bouquet.
I thought about what he said. I let it meander through my gray matter a bit and then suddenly…SUDDENLY….Ah yes, I understood what he was talking about!!! By Jove, I GOT IT!!!! A gong sounded and reverberated in my head, a light went off (or maybe it was just a tumor) and there I was a short, petite blond with infernal acuity.
High school was a just series of events…………………….
………………………that proved to be THE WORST experience of my life.
I’m a quick study.