Friday, September 21, 2007


In spite of the name, Cancer Banter is about more than cancer. Sometimes it's about food and restaurants. Other times it's about embarrassing self revelations.

Now, dear Cancer Banter readers, I have a few questions for you:

- Do any of you remember the Slam Book from junior high school? We passed around the secret book and made (usually) anonymous entries on each page under a student's name. The books were banned the second that a teacher caught a whiff of them.

- If so, what did your Slam Book entry say? (Mine said "nosy and klutzy.")

- If not, what would it have said about you in junior high school?


janet aird said...

I remember slam books! We moved to Connecticut from Montreal in Feb when I was in 6th grade. Talk about culture shock. Moving in the middle of the school year is the pits, too. Needless to say, it took me months to open my mouth. I watched slam books being passed around and wondered what they were, all I knew was I wasn't included. The day one was passed to me was one of the happiest since we moved there - I took it as a sign that I was accepted. And then, horrors, the questions, bras and boys, mean comments about teachers. My first exposure to the conflict between wanting to be in with the popular (to me) kids and realizing the real me never could.

Susan Carrier said...

I think we often reminisce about the 60s being a "kinder, gentler" time, but the truth is that "mean girls" have been around for centuries.

And even "nice girls" can catch the "mean girl" bug.

Piper Robert said...

Was that a girl thing? I have no recollection of them. Must have been those slugs from East View that got it going.

Susan Carrier said...

Yep, the Slam Book was a gal thing. I don't remember any of the boys participating.

To this day, I feel guilty about writing something mean about Jennifer Andy. I'm sorry, Jennifer!

Paula Johnson said...

Girls wrote the expected things about me: short, hyper, smart-ass. A few Einsteins noted my lazy eye.

I was as snippy and evil as any 6th grader, but maybe a little more devious than many. I remember looking up words in the dictionary and jotting down juicy ones for slam book use.

"Disingenuous" was a favorite. Also "pugnacious." There were at least a dozen somewhat damning words I liked, but I don't remember them all.

Yep, those were good times.

Mathews Family said...

This is funny! And brings back those awful junior high memories. Girls (including me) were so mean! I remember one girl in particular who I tried my hardest to avoid. She would've been the queen of slambooks. We didn't have slam books but I can imagine what mine would've said...some boys called me Olive Oil :) I drank milk shakes at night to gain weight. Those were the days! Oh yeah, that same mean girl requested to be my friend on myspace recently. I really did debate whether I should accept her friend request because of how mean she was in middle school! Talk about a grudge!

Susan Carrier said...

What is amazing to me is how the Slam Book spread like a virus throughout the country to rural, suburban and urban areas alike. How did that happen before the internet?

I guess it's like the old joke: What are the three top forms of communication?

Telegraph, telephone and tell a woman.

Susan Carrier said...

I was Olive Oyl in junior high and high school too!

Marco said...

you're all right Olive - I have NO idea what a slam book was (or is) and I'm your same age, just male!

Anonymous said...

We didn't have slam books, so they must have fizzled out over the decades! Our generation just told you to your face. Four eyes, freckle face, you-look-like-a-boy, etc. And we had little gangs in elementary school. You actually had to sign the gang book and pledge to fight the "others" or practice banishing them at the playground. This started as early as second grade. And no, I didn't live in a city. I lived in Ohio's equivalent of Ravenswood.

Very quickly I realized I couldn't fit into the popular crowd and steered away from them altogether, but not until after making some years of nasty memories on both sides of the fence.

Anyway, recently a poll asked 30+ year old Americans if they believed the most popular kids in their high schools had a better life than them now. 20% said yes/80%said no. That spurred a discussion between me and my husband about where popularity got our high school classmates. The answer is "nowhere fast." All that "important" stuff in school can't stand up to the real world. It's a better choice to prepare our kids for the real world and skip all that nonsense that doesn't stand in the test of time!

I just love it when people tell me my kids need to be in public school in order to learn how to behave! They must have amnesia!

Susan, how do my children behave?

Anonymous said...

That last comment was from Tara in Va. I forgot to sign it. Will you sign it for me?

Susan Carrier said...

According to Wikipedia, Slam books began in the 40s. I believe they must have fizzled out by the late 60s, way before Emily and Tara's generation.

It amuses me that the men on this blog in "my generation" are clueless about the phenomenon.

Paula, your early word mastery is hilarious.

Tara, you have two of the best-behaved, most unspoiled, interesting and interested children I've ever met.

Karen said...

Funny - I just read something equating the anonymous slurs of yesterday's slam books to today's high-tech Internet flaming and bullying.

We didn't have slam books here in SoCal during the 1960s - not at the schools I attended, anyway. (Thank goodness!)

However my mother, who grew up in Portland, Oregon in the 1930s, remembered them. She had one experience she never forgot: The book came around one day with a question: "Are you a virgin?"

Mom, raised in a strict Baptist home, had only heard the word in the context of "Virgin Mary." So she figured it meant a woman who had a baby before she was married - and she wrote "No!"

Of course, when she finally figured things out, she was mortified. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Karen, that is an absolutely hilarious story about your mom~! Thanks for sharing!

Susan, thanks for the compliment about my kiddos. Warmed my heart, especially in the wake of having others say mean things about my choices with my kids. (I guess some people don't outgrow the slam book mentality.)

Also, to answer the question about what would have been said about me in junior high if we had had slam books........hmmm let's see. I was still 4 eyes and a freckle face, but those were the top elementary slams. By Junior high I would have been slammed as one who was rude, snippy, awkward, a do-gooder, and God-forbid, one who wore cheap cloths. That was the worst slam b/c we all know that much the price of our clothes reflects our depth of character.....NOT!!

It's truly funny to see the things that would have ( and did! ) bother me then.

Has anyone seen the flick "Mean Girls"? It's a funny tribute to just this topic!

Tara in VA

Emmy said...

Holy cow, does this topic bring back memories... No slam books, but plenty of slams. I was pretty invisible, but still managed to grab the "Olive Oil" or "toothpick" label. Every day after school (before dinner) I inhaled a big bowl of pasta! Forty years later my efforts paid off :-)

Lilli said...

For what it's worth, I have never heard of a slam book. I grew up in the Midwest. We moved to St. Louis when I was 10 and I attended both public and private schools.

There were plenty of catty girls (and rude boys), but no slam books. I'm glad I escaped at least one of the unpleasant rituals of growing up.

SAMO Calling said...

Never heard of them before now. Wow, they sound mean. Glad they weren't around - I would have been mortified of reading about myself! My only slam experience in school was that someone sabotaged my student body campaign materials - and I was so hurt. In fact, still hurt just thinking about it now.
Some things you just never get over :(.....

Margaret Finnegan said...

I graduated from high school in 1983, and I've never heard of slam books. Of course, I was so simultaneously invisible and clueless throughout junior high there could have slam encyclopedias and I probably wouldn't have known.

Idelle Davidson said...

I don't remember a slam book but in my year book, someone wrote, "Flunk now, avoid the June rush." To this day, I'm not sure if the girl was being mean or funny.

Paula Johnson said...

I just re-read the comments and wanted to add that slam books were popular for a time with the girls in 5th and 6th grade, which was grammar school back then. In total, there were likely 40 or 50 6th grade girls divided between two classes.

I do not remember seeing slam books in junior high (7/8/9 grade) at all. Likely because there were several thousand kids in the school, so the average girl did not know everyone well enough to insult them.

BTW, I always marvel at people who graduated high school in a class of 100 or less. There were more than 1,000 in my senior class. I met some of them for the first time at my 10-year reunion.

Susan Carrier said...

My school, which went from grades one through eight, had a paltry 20 kids per class in elementary school. That number increased to 30 in junior high when the school took kids from another feeder elementary school.

With those kinds of numbers, we knew one another intimately. And the class was too small to break into a popular versus unpopular caste system.

Piper Robert said...

Ditto, Sis. I had 154 in my high school graduating class.

Suzy Keleher said...

i went to a private school which my parents sacrificed a great deal for us to go to -where junior high and high school girls bragged about shoe shopping and wore mink lined snow boots to winter camp. i was lucky to get one brand new pair of shoes at the start of each new school year ( which I treasured) and very lucky to get to even go to winter camp. I was Suzy four-eyes and do dates ever...funny how that all changed in college...I had so many guys after me that no girls would be my friend! BTW Susan, that was after BJU. I was still nerdy in my first year of college too! Love you, Suzy

Karen said...

I was in elementary school in the 50s and early 60s (in CA) and in jr. high in 62-63 (in northern VA), and I never saw hide nor hair of a slam book. But maybe that's because I was a Navy brat and moved every two years and, as a result, was always the new kid, the outsider, and therefore wasn't invited to share in this nasty little pastime -- except perhaps unwittingly as the target of disparaging comments by the popular people? If so, they probably would have said that I was super prude, asthmatic brainiac, since that's what they sometimes said to my face. Oh, those were the days!!!

Mrs. Duck