A warm spring day in Ann Arbor buoyed my spirits. After having been forced to return to the University of Michigan in February 1959 from schools in balmy California (for reasons I won’t go into here) and immediately stepping into a world of single digit temperatures, this was a day I needed.
It was about to get a lot better. I went to my advanced psychology class and the professor said, the weather’s great; let’s have the class outside on the grass. Being an outdoor person and having an aversion to being cooped up in classrooms, I wholeheartedly agreed. Our small group of upper division students trooped outdoors and sat down on the grass.
A word about the 1950s for you who regard the middle of the twentieth century as ancient history. As I have shown in my mystery novel, The Hayloft, which is set in the fifties, it was a repressed era with little sex and not much of anything else. Skirt lengths, which had entered the fifties down around the ankles, had progressed upward a bit, but still fell belong the knees. Miniskirts weren’t even a fantasy in my world. Cheerleaders wore their skirts below the knees. In face, the U of M didn’t have female cheerleaders. The cheerleaders were boys recruited from the gymnastics team.
Girls wore skirts or dresses to class—no jeans, no shorts, no exceptions. So when we sat on the grass, fifties modesty demanded they adjust their skirts accordingly. Except that for some reason they didn’t on this particular day. From my position, I could look up the skirts of at least four of my female classmates. A quick survey told me the dominant color of panties was white.
The girls didn’t seem to care. Perhaps there was a group dynamic at work. People in groups will do things they wouldn’t do on an individual basis. Perhaps it was a rebellion against the repressed atmosphere of the fifties as they approached an end. What better place for a horny boy to study this, whatever it was, than a psychology class. And study it I did. I gave it my full attention.
A number of years before, I had attended a church camp for one dismal week, the highlight of which was that on the morning we were to return home, many of the girls sat with their legs dangling from the pier above the lake, and pulled their long skirts up well above their knees. They encouraged and dared each other. Not a big deal in today’s world, but eye-catching at that time. And an example of group dynamics in action.
On the day of the psychology class incident I didn’t give a thought to what part our male professor played. Did he know what was going to happen? Did he plan for it to happen? Had he taken the class outside on purpose? Like most young people, I couldn’t picture older folks having prurient thoughts, let alone sex. When my father once told me the most fun he had was with my mother, I didn’t want to listen.
Whatever the motives of the professor or the girls in the class, this was the best experience I have ever had in a classroom situation.