My Life as
We moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, from Ohio when I was entering
seventh grade. It was a real culture shock for our family. The rules
we were used to living by were no longer operative. For instance,
our first spring in Little Rock, we asked to go swimming in March.
My mother said, “You can’t go swimming in March! You
can’t go swimming until after Memorial Day!” But it
was 90 degrees.
While in some ways life moved more slowly in the south, other things
seemed accelerated. You could get a motorcycle license at 14. Girls
dropped out of junior high school and got married.
I used to go fishing in the pond at the end of my street, catching
sunfish and crappie and the occasional disgruntled turtle. I liked
to hang out in the woods, slipping from tree to tree, hiding in
ravines, pretending to be someone else.
Junior High School
My English/Social Studies teacher’s name in 9th grade was
Mrs. Sloan. Usually I worshipped my English teachers, because English
was my favorite subject. But Mrs. Sloan and I never got along. Skirts
were very short in those days, and we used to roll our skirts at
the waist to make them even shorter. Mrs. Sloan used to send us
to the principal’s office if our skirts were too short. We
would unroll them in the Girl’s Room on the way. After he
gave us a note saying they were okay, we would roll them up again
on the way back.
Early Literary Efforts
My girlfriends and I used to write romance novels starring
each other. We all had pen names. Mine was Ellie Michel. My
sister’s was Mickie Braddock. My friend Sandy’s
was Patti Richard. Mrs. Sloan used to confiscate our novels
whenever she noticed us passing them around. At the parent-teacher
conference, Mrs. Sloan said, “Does Cinda write these…(delicate
shudder) stories at home?” And my mother said, “I
would think any English teacher would encourage that kind
of creative activity.”
My mother was my hero.
I also took typing, which was an elective, so only girls took
it. We worked on old manual typewriters and the teacher walked around
to make sure we weren't looking at the keys. The girls who took
typing often had their boyfriends’ varsity sports jackets
draped over the backs of their chairs.
That’s where I learned to touch-type, but I wasn't very fast
until I took a job typing ad copy in high school.
My friend Sandy lived on Green Rd in a house with no central heating,
but she had an electric guitar. She smoked Salem cigarettes and
drank Coke for breakfast, which was unheard of in those days. There
was an old root cellar or spring house in back of her house. We
used to go there at night and light candles and hold séances.
The ghosts always came. Sometimes we went outside and looked for
UFO’s. We always saw them.
La Difference on stage
My sister and I bought $15 guitars and formed
a singing group with Sandy and two other girls. We called
ourselves La Difference (as in Viva). We sang a wide
range of tunes, from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones to
Peter, Paul and Mary. I sang lead and played tambourine. We
didn’t get many gigs, except at Tommy Trent’s
Fun Barn, a country music hall. We also played the Muscular
Dystrophy Telethon in the middle of the night. My mother had
to hang out with us there. We were hired for a party, once,
and were paid $10. Even in those days, that didn’t go
very far when you split it 5 ways.
My mother made us matching outfits, black corduroy shirts with
long blousy sleeves and green-striped bell-bottomed pants and English
newsboy caps. Someone once asked us if we were in a gang.
In the summers, my sister and I went swimming at Green Lake and
Lake Nixon and took swimming lessons at the War Memorial Park. This
had to do with the fact that my mother was deathly afraid of water.
And I read everything: Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and my mother’s
books from the library. Sometimes my sister and I still played Barbies,
but she was never a teenage fashion model. Usually she was a spy
or cat burglar. It’s pretty easy to burgle a Barbie Dream
House because it has no roof. You just climb over the wall. We also
built fortifications out of Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedias.
There was always music playing, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the
Rolling Stones. My sister had a little transistor radio, and we
would listen to KAAY. While we lived in Little Rock, we went to
see Eric Burdon and the Animals and Herman’s Hermits, together
We used to go to dances in the school gym. We mostly stood against
the wall and watched exotic Mindy Barnes, who slow-danced with high
school boys. She was very small, with long black hair and black-rimmed
eyes. She had a reputation. She would stand in one place, face upturned,
swaying, eyes closed, her arms around her partner’s waist.
As if she were pretending she was somewhere else.
At my school, there were good girls and bad girls. There were no
in-between girls, which is where I might have fitted in. I dreamed
of bad boys and becoming a singing star.
One of my favorite things in high school was being in the chorus.
We put on musicals every year. I was in Camelot and The
Music Man. I never played any major roles; my voice was good,
but not terrific. But I loved everything about being on the stage:
the rough beginnings, with read-throughs in street clothes; putting
on costumes (I always liked dress-up); being able to wear tons of
makeup; rehearsing with the orchestra for the first time; opening
night jitters and cast parties. I liked putting on characters and
shedding them, relating to people differently than I did in real
I was also in the Drama Club (we did Thurber Carnival)
and played a minor role in the Senior Class Play, which was Our
Town. My sister played the lead.
I continued to read and write. I was caught reading Valley
of the Dolls in Problems of Democracy class. That book was
totally controversial in those days, and my teacher confiscated
it. It belonged to a friend of my mother’s, and I had to go
beg for it back. I also wrote poems and songs, mostly about faithless
and tragic love.
We continued to sing outside of school. My sister and I used to
play at the Needle’s Eye, a coffeehouse and folk music venue
near Kent State University. I remember the first time we went there;
we were scared to death; high schoolers playing for college students.
Eventually we picked up a third member, a guy Linda was dating.
We called ourselves Cinda and Linda and Greg. One time, a friend
of Greg’s drove us to a gig in Kent in his family’s
station wagon. Linda and Greg broke up, and then Cinda and Linda
and Greg broke up, but the friend stayed on. Years later, I married