News and Tribune


February 18, 2014

CUMMINS: What Beatlemania did to me

— Perhaps the name, Ed Sullivan, means nothing to you, but he had a very popular variety show on television back in the turbulent 60s. His show featured dog acts, jugglers, and other wholesome forms of entertainment in contrast to the current quotidian sleaze.

A few years earlier, Sullivan introduced Elvis to America, but he did not permit the camera to show Elvis’ seductive hips, which could put ideas into young people’s immature heads.

Elvis and I had a lot in common and about the same age. I worked hard on a farm while he spent hard days and nights picking at a guitar and swaying his pelvis provocatively to the rhythms of his suggestive music. To defend our country from tyranny, we entered military service and received burr haircuts on the first day. The media showed his skinned head, but not mine. His head was a good example for America’s youth to follow. When we were honorably discharged, Elvis went to Hollywood, and I became a principal of a high school, sacrificing myself for wayward youth.

Then in 1964, Sullivan introduced the Beatles to America. Young girls jumped up, fell down and rolled over as young boys vowed to let their hair grow. It caused me untold grief. You see, my job as principal was to combat immorality while promoting extremely high standards in the academic realm. But it wasn’t the Beatle music; it was their hair. If a boy’s hair grew too long, he might smoke weeds and his grades would drop.

Yes, it was their music, too. I did not want my students twisting and shouting, nor singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and then what do you want to hold?  Doesn’t “Can’t Buy Me Love,” refer to propositioning, and what do you think “Please, Please Me” means? And you had to be on LSD to see “Lucy in the Sky.”

 A principal doesn’t want his students to become distracted by outside influences, including England. We settled in this new world to practice religious freedom and purity like the Puritans did. And then England taxed our tea and the Red Coats came. We drove them back, but about 180 years later, the Beatles invaded, opening the way for mop-heads and mini-skirts. You wouldn’t see a girl in the Communist Soviet Union dressed like that.

A principal must live and breathe the excitement that education brings. Schools did teach music back then with bands playing forward-marching songs and choirs singing tear jerkers about beautiful and spacious skies. Even country songs taught right from wrong. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” taught that cheating would tear your heart out. And “Don’t Come a Drinkin’ With Lovin’ On Your Mind” explained how a strong drink leaves you out in the cold. You didn’t want students “All Shook Up,” nor did you want girl’s skirts rising and boy’s hair falling down over their eyes. Anything-goes behavior could lead to what an English teacher once told me, “I found a condom on my classroom door knob.”

That’s what the Beatles did to us back in the turbulent 60s. Parents lost control and turned to principals to right society’s wrongs. It was a tremendous burden on me, but I began to attack hair first and then address hot pants. When I thought I’d seen it all, Woodstock mothers began dressing their daughters in hot pants. Where were the fathers? Some were in Vietnam. And then, one of the craziest things I ever heard — Make Love, Not War. And here I am trying to prevent hippiness and promote happiness found in geometry, history and the parts of speech.

Oh, those 60s with protests, sit-ins and takeovers were a sinful time. Remember the Broadway hit, “Hair?” In one scene the cast, cast all their clothes off. And from hot pants to going braless I ordered my teachers to look for what is, or is not under a tight tee-shirt or sheer blouse.  

Most all Americans went a little crazy back then, the government as well. Too bad they never seemed to get the point that making love is better than making war.

Back in 1964, two of my finest senior boys asked if they could talk to me. Have a seat. “Would it hurt anything if we let our hair grow down a little before we go in the Army?” No, it wouldn’t, and it didn’t. You can also twist a little if you want, but please don’t shout through the rooftop. It will disturb study hall.

— Contact Terry Cummins at


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter