Today’s Vintage Advice book is Party Plans for Teens by Kate Harris, published by Follett Publishing Company in 1966. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a first edition of this gem.*
The jacket flap suggests it’s for ages 12 and up. I think that should be revised: 12-year-olds during the two weeks prior to starting middle school through the end of the first two weeks of school. I know that’s a very small window, but it’s the only one I can see working: in that anxious time before starting 6th or 7th grade when you are bursting with nervous energy and worried about being cool and making friends and stuff, planning a party might be a good outlet and having a theme would give you focus. But you’d have to throw the party during the first week or two of school before the dust settles. Because within those first couple of weeks, someone else will have a party. It will either be an awesome, free-form gathering of sociable kids, or an awkward, over-planned gathering of reluctant captives. A free-form party can also stink, but I can’t imagine a party planned with this book being anything but awkward, much less awesome.
How bad can it be? you may ask. You be the judge. The book proffers 47 different party themes, organized by month, plus a bonus chapter: Parties Just for Girls. I think that one should have been entitled, Parties Just for Grandmas: Pajama Party, Telephone Party, Fashion Tea, Sewing Bee. See what I mean?
February is interesting. There’s a Valentine’s party (curiously called “Hearts to You” Dance)—not so unusual. There are also not one, but TWO presidential parties: a George’s Day Party and an Abraham Lincoln Party: because twelve-year-olds love to talk about dead presidents in their free time. The strangest February suggestion is a party called Lawn Dance in the Basement (which honestly sounds like an awesome band name to me). Knowing what we know about drab and dreary 1960s basements…brown, burnt orange, mustard yellow, shag carpets, vinyl furniture…I understand why this party includes so many details for décor:
- Invitations should feature gay summer colors and ribbon.
- Lawn furniture can be brought inside to sit on artificial turf or green carpets.
- Artificial flowers and trees will brighten up the place.
- Stuffed animals scattered about the “lawn” give an authentic outdoor feel.
- Paper butterflies hanging from the ceiling will make your basement come to life.
- And…last, but certainly not least…audio of singing birds playing as your guests arrive will really “spring” up the atmosphere.
Suggested Basement Lawn games include a Daisy dance where boys use fake daisies as relay batons to cut in on girls with their dancing partners, croquet, and badminton. YOLO!
Maybe you are thinking that things were different when this book was published in the 1960s. Perhaps kids were more naïve, entertainment was more wholesome. A little poking around on the internet turned up this Kirkus review:
We opened this book with an open mind, but our two teen-agers were less judicial: they simply hooted. In this vast collection of party ideas from January to December there are a few games which, stripped of their fancy trappings, might be good fun, but the majority are just too precious for true-blooded teens. The author calls one of these shindigs Corny Capers and that about sums it up. –Kirkus (source)
I momentarily thought this was a contemporary review of an old title. It sounded like something a parent of middle schoolers reading this book today might say. But no, this review was from 1966. So I think we can assume that the disconnect between the subject and the audience is not just a matter of changing times.
I do like to find something positive to say about a book. Upon further reflection, I can think of two other more appropriate audiences for this particular collection of party-throwing tips.
- Retirement Community Social Events Coordinators: almost all of this stuff looks like great fun for a bunch of senior citizens who are trapped under the same roof and need occasions to help mark the passage of time. For the sweet and innocent old-fashioned seniors, these parties would be a lovely throwback to the good old days. For the surly, foul-mouthed seniors at the other end of the sociability spectrum, these parties would provide endless fodder for kvetching. Those seniors in the middle could pick sides depending on their mood.
- Elementary School Room Parents: not middle school, mind you, but elementary school. Many of these games would be enjoyable for 7-11 year olds. If they were organized for a captive audience by overzealous room parents, the kids could “grudgingly” participate in activities that they would TOTALLY find fun but not want to ADMIT to being excited about. I mean – A Mother Goose Party? With Costumes? And a Lollipop Dance? PERFECTION!
And now I’m off to see if my 8 year old nephew’s teacher will let me plan an Ides of March party. Et tu, Travis?
*This is a publishing joke. First editions of unexpectedly popular books are considered a collector’s delight.