Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Tucson Eight at a cathouse, in a motor home, learning about aging and life and how to crash a hippie wedding

Now when on Earth would I ever post a picture taken in front of a Nevada brothel except as a loose follow-up to my previous post titled cathouses? The answer is likely never so take a little trip into the past with me now while the mood strikes.

The year was 1973, maybe 1974. College. My major at the time was Social Services & Corrections, a field I realized wasn't for me when I began field work in a youth detention facility. In the course of trying on ideas for future employment (I use the term employment because I didn't think in terms of career) I thought I might be interested in gerontology and I had a part time job as an assistant on a senior nutrition bus that shuttled seniors from their homes to a site that offered free lunches on weekdays. I loved the interaction with the people served by the program and I enjoyed the close-knit group of students who were also interested in the field of gerontology. We weren't friends, per se, in fact we didn't know one another outside of class. But we came together as The Tuscon Tucson Eight, (thanks to Darlene for correcting my faux pax...gads!) a pack of women students of a variety of ages and backgrounds, and one male professor, who hit the road in a motor home from Reno to Tuscon  Tucson to serve as delegates at the Western States Gerontological Association Conference.

I'm the one with the long dark hair. The professor is the one in the multi-colored wig.

Needless to say, we made quite a splash when we arrived in Tuscon Tucson. Most of the attendees were professionals, others employed in the field of gerontology, and interested seniors.

The many seminars offered at the conference were top-quality and our group split out into as many as we could cover so that our report back home would be representative of the conference as a whole. We each focused on areas of personal interest and concern. Mine was sex-and-the-senior-citizen.

I was that semester enrolled in an extremely popular evening course on campus, one of those courses that fills an entire auditorium with students. Human Sexuality was the class title and the professor was a nondescript man in his early 40s whose mission it was to put an end to the guffaws and giggles and to dish us the straight scoop about anything and everything pertaining to the science of sex and reproduction, and the prevention of reproduction. He had prostitutes from Mustang Ranch outside of Reno and one who worked the streets come to class, where they were situated in front of microphones behind a screen and responded to every question tossed their way. We discussed the mystery of the first time and how it informs our response and reaction to sex from then on. He did not spare us gross photos in our studies on venereal diseases (HIV-AIDS wasn't a factor then). He had spent one evening talking about sexuality as we age, something unfathomable to the majority of us and something that is still not discussed openly even today. So when I saw two seminars on the topic of sexuality in later years I signed up for those. And my eyes were opened by the frank discussions, especially by the older people in the audience. I recorded the sessions and took notes, and with those tools I wrote a final term paper for Human Sexuality that garnered an 'A'.

Some crazy happenings occured during the trip to Tuscon Tucson and back to Reno. As shown in the top photo we did indeed stop at the famous Cottontail Ranch that, according to Wikipedia, opened in 1967 and closed in 2004.  As we snapped pictures of one another out in front of the Cottontail the madam came out and told us to leave, adding that our professor was welcome inside (he left with us).

While in Arizona we drove over the border into Nogales, Mexico, where I got this shot that touches my heart still. (We actually boarded the RV in Nogales and drove some blocks before realizing we had left one of the girls behind. When we retraced our path we found her walking down the middle of a dirt street, crying, as nasty calls were hollored in her direction from men on the sidewalks.)

We visited Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas and camped nearby. It's strange that I don't recall any other camping spots along the way. One of the more serious girls was intent upon seeing a particular mission in Arizona on our return trip. I've always been happy she insisted because it was a soulful pause in the course of a fairly frenetic trip. There, we encountered a wedding party -- a group of hippies and astonished-looking parents -- just leaving the mission as we walked toward it. Struck up conversations immediately and were promptly given directions to the mobile home park where the wedding reception was to be held. After touring the mission we got back into the RV, changed our clothes while on the road, and drove to the party. I distinctly remember sitting on a velour couch talking with members of the wedding party when the mother of either the bride or groom offered me champagne in a plastic glass, along with a paper napkin that had a picture of bells and the newlyweds' names printed on it. She quipped, "You might want to keep the napkin to have with you the next time you crash a wedding." I thought she had real style and I did understand her inner turmoil. I wonder if that marriage lasted and I imagine not, given the times...

... And the following shots are so indicative of those times. They show the wedding reception venue and musician. Always being one attracted to musicians I smoked a joint with the fiddler, and took a barefoot walk with him before we said our goodbyes to the celebrants, and headed on toward the future.

  • The Gerontological Society of America (whoses members come from over 40 countries) offers more information on the study of gerontology at The GSA website.

  • I did not stay in touch with any members of The Tucson Eight after that year. I hope life has continued to be a special journey for each of them.  


Ande said...

Thanks for sharing theese photos, Lydia. They where fantastic, I think. I really liked your story, too. There is so much life in them.

Anonymous said...

Lydia - what a great piece. The history is fantastic, your writing perfect. I love your matter of fact tone. You could have told this so many ways and what you chose was excellent. The photographs are awesome - they look so 1973ish. And I love the long, long title too!

the watercats said...

*sighs and yet again regrets being born so late!... love the photos and the commentary! What a host of memories :-D

Darlene said...

I don't want to be picky, Lydia, but the city is named Tucson, not Tuscan. It's a common mistake.

You must have had a lot of fun during those carefree times. Was the Mission you visited San Xavier or Tumacacori? If it was either one of those you can revisit it on my blog. Find the names on my side bar.

La Belette Rouge said...

This was a wonderful post!I hope some of the Tuscon 8 find you through this post. And, hey, do you still have that paper on Human Sexuality? It might make an interesting post.

Lydia said...

@Ande- Hello and how are you?! I really always love having comments from you, including these.

@koe- Thank you! Your critique and comments are so interesting to me and invigorating, too! I value what you said and feel honored.

@the watercats- I hereby pronounce you a Virtual Unbound Soul/Musical Spirit/Hippie of the First Order. There, it's official.

@Darlene- Yikes! When I read your comment earlier I changed the mistake right away...then skulked away from my computer and rocked in the corner in disgrace. I did know how to spell your city once upon a time and will not forget again!
p.s. I cannot find those mission links at your blog...and the first one sounds like it might have been it. As I recall it wasn't too far outside of the city...but what city?

@Belette- Thanks. Wouldn't that be amazing if I'd reconnect with any of them as a result of this?
Ya know my other blog? The one all about clutter? Ummm. I saved some stuff from college but not all. Any papers are unceremoniously stashed in boxes in storage. I'll keep your idea in mind when I'm sorting. :)

The Clandestine Samurai said...

Maybe a few of them are on Facebook.

Sex and old folk, eh? Makes me think of "Kinsey" for some reason.



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