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Published on February 24th, 2012 | by Staff 12-13

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Samo Through the Decades

With a look back through the Samo archives, The Samohi  examines the stagnated culture of the past thirty years.

Hilary Dubin
Staff Writer
The 1920s saw the raised hemlines ushered in by ‘flappers.’ The Depression and World War II turned the 1930s and 1940s into tumultuous decades. The stereotypical “Aryan American Dream” reigned over the 1950s before the ‘flower child’ and ‘free love’ dominated the 1960s and ‘70s. Since then, however, experts have noted that culture has tapered off to a plateau. While the 1980s and 1990s may conjure memories of neon and legwarmers, the past thirty years have passed by without major changes to our culture. This stagnation holds true for Samo as well.

The youth of the ’30s and ’40s spent their days at Samo being entertained by functions such as the annual  minstrel show, while the students of the ’60s experienced entirely different arts, entertainment and fashion, from tie die and peace signs to The Beatles.

“Each decade sort of had a big event that shifted the way people thought about what was commonly accepted the decade before. Recently, however, nothing too drastic has happened. Or at least, nothing that has affected the way society is presently living,” junior Matilda Mead said.

According to English teacher and Samo alumnus Berkeley Blatz, in Samo’s early days, school functions and events were more frequent and popular. Sports were just as important to the school as they are today, but many were solely for males with the exceptions of synchronized swimming, tennis, baseball and a few other sports for girls.

According to Blatz, from the ’20s to the ’40s, Samo had dances and functions including a homecoming dance, winter formal, prom, and many others at least once a month. According to the 1941 edition of “The Nautilus,” one of the more extravagant events of the time was the “Fiesta,” which was a huge dance held in the Greek theatre. Dressed in flamenco clothes, students would have mock bullfights and dance the night away, but this tradition came to a close at the end of the ’40s. Each Friday, the entire student body would gather for an assembly about the upcoming events at school.

“Things were regular, let’s put it that way. There would be a pep rally every two weeks. Now, it seems more random and you can’t depend on pep rallies and events to even happen they because they get cancelled so often,” Blatz said.

A surge in car production during the 1950s and 1960s had an impact on Samo. According to Blatz, Samo had a parade for homecoming and each Samo organization did its own float that was built on top of a car.

“People were in cars a lot in the ’50s and ’60s. It was a car culture. Each group would show off their kind of car as a culture statement,” Blatz said.

Since students of the 1960s often went to work right after graduating high school, Samo offered a myriad of career related classes like Home Economics and Woodshop. Although not all students had their hearts set on a college degree, the school still had an atmosphere of political awareness. As the nation plunged into the Vietnam War, Samo students became involved in the protest.

“There was student involvement on all levels,” Blatz said. “There was a whole different politcal energy in the air.”

As the ’70s progressed and the war came to an end, the mindset of the Samo student began to change yet again.

“It was completely different. All the flower children, the way people dressed. And there was a strict dress code; when I first started we couldn’t even wear pants,” Spanish teacher and Samo class of 1970 alumna Carmen Paul said.

With the addition of spandex, leg warmers and shoulder pads, the 1980s ushered in a freshman grade to Samo. In addition, Blatz said that the 1980s were the start of the “‘get into college’ mentality.”

“Prior [to the ’80s], kids were less concerned and there was less pressure. We had more of a variety at school, different career paths. Some people had great ideas; they wanted to go straight into business. The ’80s was when it became ‘college college college’ for everybody,” Blatz said.

In the January 2012 issue of Vanity Fair, Kurt Andersen examines the cutlure of the past century in his article “You Say You Want A Devolution,” and draws the conclusion that, from the late ’80s forward, rapid cultural growth seems to have come to an end. Samo is no exception.

“It was kind of the same type of student as it is today,” Samo class of 1989 alumnus Matthew Flanders said.  Of course some things have changed; according to former Samo teacher Patrick Cady, kids today are much less involved in school spirit and events than they were in the ’90s when he taught here.

“There was a whole lot more faith in what school does,” Cady said. “You would hold a pep rally and all you had to do is say ‘Samo’ and kids would cheer.”

The student outlook on school may differ, but in general, much is still the same. We have maintained the same “get into college” mindset that developed in the ’80s, and aside from technology, much of our culture in terms of music, clothing, and literature is very similar to that of the ’90s. Our reliance on computers and cell phones is definitely a large part of our culture today, but these technologies are what allow us to continue to be exposed to past culture and therefore replicate it.

“When I think about the popular shows and music of the ’90s, they all seem pretty similar to what we experience today,” senior David Tyre-Vigil  said. “I don’t think the general culture of the kids of that time was all that different from how it is now.”

Plenty of aspects of our culture have remained stagnant from the ’90s to today—Snoop Dogg,  the Foo Fighters, and Coldplay are still on our radio top 40, and any guy in jeans and a flannel would easily fit in with the teenagers of 1995. While it is clear that many aspects of culture have remained uniform in recent years, whether or not our society has hit a cultural roadbloack or if change is soon to come is yet to be determined.


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