American Boy in France and Greece, 1960s

My name in Shawn and I am from a town in Northern New York called Lockport.

America

Unlike many American boys, I personally wanted too and did wear short pants at every opportunity. At school, I was usually the only kid at 8 and 9 years old wearing shorts to school. There were others but they were usually in kindergarden or 1st grade (in those days, 5 or 6 year olds). My Mother didn't seem to care and the other kids would sometimes make comments but that went away and I never let it bother me. I was wearing what I wanted. I even started a trend of sorts when a few other kids my age started to wear them to school.

By age 11 in 1963, I only wore shorts in the summertime. That was the year I went to Europe.

Europe

I spent the rest of that year in Europe with my Grandmother. Unlike my mother, she insisted on short pants suits which all the boys my age wore. She was French and the suit and shorts she brought for me had really short pants. In 1963, when I was 11, almost 12, my Grandmother made arrangements with my parents to take me to Europe after the school year. Grandma was French and her own Mother came from Greece. She lived in Germany throughout the War and she had been in the States for about 5 years. My Grandfather, who was German, died during an Allied air attack during World War II. He was a wealthy landowner and a German Officer who transferred much of his money to Switzerland prior to the War. (Guess he figured on failure from the start.) At any rate, he left my Grandmother with a substantial amount of money.

The Voyage

We departed in late August abroad a French cruise ship named the Emperor. Airplanes had not become as common as they are now. We departed in the early AM bound for France. The ship was quite large and I noticed there were lots of kids on board. They were mostly a lot younger than myself and today I figure it was probably because most schools were about to start in both America and France. I had received special permission to skip the first 2 months of school because of the trip. It was still summer and my mother packed most of the clothes that I had, which included shirts, shorts, socks, pants, and shoes. I remember it was hot out and I was wearing my only suit, which was a regular American boys dark gray suit. Once we departed and settled in, my Grandmother, who’s own Children were all grown seamed totally concerned with my clothing.

France

When I wore a coat (usually well above the knees), they made me look like what a 5-year old in America wore. But I fitted right in. I never wore knee socks, just white and black ankle socks and always with leather shoes. Tennis shoes were not commonly worn in France at the time. I had a pair of sandals but only wore them on holiday.

Greece

We also went to Greece to visit with Grandmother's family. I remember in Greece that I wore a sort of shortall with suspenders and sandalls. Every outfit I had included suspenders rather than a belt. Also While in Greece I don't think I wore socks except for a couple of times. All of my pants were really short. I was the only blond haired boy there and my skin was much lighter than the other boys. They knew I was different and that made me quite popular. By the end of the year I was speaking Greek perfectly. I also remember that while shopping, the clothing stores in Greece did not have boys clothing with long pants. Even the older kids (I would say thru about 13 or 14 years old) wore shorts for all occasions.




Christopher Wagner

histclo@lycosmail.com


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Created: December 2, 1998
Last updated: September 7, 1999