SUMMER IS DEAD, LONG LIVE SUMMER

A blast from Voxfrock’s past..

 

Here’s a sad little story if you ever heard one; about the dark and sinister things that lurked behind the fizzy joys and simplest sartorial pleasures of summer 1977 for a bunch of country teens.
Perhaps you are too young to remember, but the summers then were hotter, with harder headachey blue skies and clouds that would pile up, thick and dirty, on the last-gasp day of every heatwave. They would tower high, block the sun, then seem to lean and topple and dissolve and shoot cool stony splats of summer rain into shrivelled grass, onto blistered weatherboards and blank curtained windows. (“It’s spitting! It’s spitting!”)

“Clouds…would tower high, block the sun, then seem to lean and topple and dissolve and shoot cool stony splats of summer rain…”

On most days of summer in 1977 you would find this particular bunch of teens stretched out, glistening like lizards, smoking cigarettes and flirtingoutrageously beside the municipal pool. Boys in faded footy shorts, girls in striped and spriggy-flowered cotton bikinis. Thongs, towels, drawstring beach bags and the odd spindle-legged, slippery, wet little sister or brother, scattered all around them. (“Go home, Kevin, or I’m gonna hityou again!”)
Every one of them, every boy and girl, was nut-brown but for an occasional visible sliver of lily- whiteness if their (one and only) pair of togs rode up, or down, or was flirtily teased off its usual elastic line. (“I’m telling your mum you did that, Wayne!”) And, why wouldn’t these naturally pale Caucasians be dark as full-bloods (as their shamelessly politically incorrectly innocent mums and dads joked over screwdriver cocktails and jugs of beer) when they’ve sizzled like eggs for weeks in the sun with just a slick of Johnson’s Baby Oil or (the posher) Hawaiian Tropic to hurry the cycle of burning, peeling, tanning thenburning and peeling again. (“I can’t go to grandma’s, mum, I gotta tan!”) Thin as whippets they were, too, on account of Nintendo and PlayStation not being invented, and the troubling future of teen weight issues being not much more than a glint in Steve “computer whiz” Wozniak’s eye. BMX was still as cool as hip-hop would get 20 years later, so that was the boys taken care of. And the girls? Well, the girls were slim as the Israeli army diet, or the grapefruit diet, or the one-apple-and-one-Vita-Wheat-with-a- lick-of-Vegemite-(no butter)-a-day diet,or the fasting-for-a-week-on-water- and-orange-juice diet could make them. Staying slim enough a.k.a. pretty enough — to catch a boyfriend was always thus, long before teen girls even learnt to spell a-n-o-r-e-x-i-a.

“Thin as whippets they were…on account of Nintendo and PlayStation not being invented…”

Life was a string of hot chips, grated carrot and tinned beetroot teas (thanks, mum), musk sticks, sherbet bombs and compensatory bouts of near starvation. If their bellies had sunk flat below their hip bones by
the mornings, though, and if the faint, sickly hollow of hunger never went away for long, then the regimen was working well enough.
And so this bunch of country teens spent that summer baking, burning, flirting, smoking, starving, gorging and incidentally, chewing their nails to the quick as the soles of their bare brown feet thickened like leather and their hair bleached white as surf and salt by the sun, then chlorine-green by the blue municipal pool.

“If their bellies had sunk flat below their hip bones…then the regimen was working well enough.”

It didn’t matter.
Nothing mattered.
They were the coolest, the grooviest, the most watched and mimicked.
Next summer, when this bunch was gone to the city and was growing up and inward under a tsunami of too- late-to-be-helpful information about melanoma (two of them), anorexia (two of them), osteoporosis (one of them, suspected, so far), bulimia (one of them), yo-yo diet syndrome (most of them), smoking-related diseases (one of them, possibly two, so far) those slippery little brothers and sisters panting like wet fish on the grass beside them at the municipal pool would slip into their wake.
The New Cool Ones.

Janice Breen Burns, jbb@voxfrock.com.au