Fifth grade girls at the Boulder Dam
In fifth grade, we all had to transfer to Fifth Street School, where I had attended first grade when we lived on Bonneville Ave. That’s when I met my first rich Mormon. Her name was Alice, and she had shiny braces like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. I’ll say one thing for Alice, she had presence. When called upon to read aloud, she stood, nose in the air, and recited in flawless prose, with a slightly English accent, obviously inspired by Miss Taylor. No one else in class came close to her except me, with perfect diction acquired from elocution lessons at Jeanne Robert’s School of Dance. Perhaps that was why she hated me? On the first day of school, Alice wore a starched blue dress with tiny white dots, a white, lace-trimmed collar and a bow in back. It was definitely the nicest dress in class, except for mine.  When our eyes met, hers were not only haughty, but vicious. I knew she would make my life miserable.

At lunchtime, all of the girls would gather on the front steps. On either side of the landing were secluded areas where one could perform in privacy before a select audience. Alice’s admirers cheered her on as she acted out boring little vignettes about her family and her pets. She clearly thought she was brilliant. I, on the other hand, was content to practice my tap dancing alone on the other side of the steps, which Alice must have found annoying. In front of her friends, she made a point of asking if I were still going to dancing school, as if it were something one outgrew. Not only was I still dancing, I replied, but I was preparing for a solo performance in which I would be wearing a pink satin costume trimmed with maraboo. Alice shot me a withering look. “I take piano lessons,” she said.
Deryle Ann was no longer my best friend. She had shifted her loyalty to Alice who merely tolerated her because they were both Mormon. Thus it was, that my only friend that year was Helen the hairlip. Helen had stringy blond hair that she never combed, and wore unflattering clothes over her lanky, awkward, boney body. She also picked her nose. Worst of all, she had a habit of coming up behind me and smacking me hard on the back. Even though I threatened to kill her for it, she was apparently willing to take the risk. Helen and I gravitated toward the same movies. While many of our classmates preferred Bogey and Bacall, we liked Abbot and Costello. We also enjoyed playing dress-up in our mothers’ old clothes. Other than that, we had little in common but shared humiliation at the hands of Alice and her cohorts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Toward the end of the school year, Alice seemed to lose interest in tormenting Helen and me.  I was relieved. With my father struggling to make ends meet, and my mother threatening to divorce him, I had enough to deal with. Then, Alice’s sidekick, Elaine, offered me a ride home on her bike. Elaine and Alice were very close, despite the fact that Elaine’s parents were only middleclass, and Protestant. Tomboyish, with short brown hair and a chubby face, Elaine was popular with boys. She was probably the smartest kid in class. And the cleverest. Why she liked Alice was beyond me. We had just passed the El Cortez Hotel when she asked me what boy I liked? I didn’t know what to say. Boys didn’t interest me, and I definitely didn’t interest them! I lied and said Gordon Stewart, a freckle-faced kid who dressed like a hick, but was good at multiplication like me. Elaine teased me about Gordon the rest of the way home, but in a nice way. I couldn’t figure out why she was acting like we were friends. Then, I got a call from Deryle Ann. She said Alice and Elaine were going to invite me and Helen to a party. They were starting a Special Girls Club for us. I suspected there was an ulterior motive behind it, but Helen was giddy with gratitude.

Deryle Ann’s father drove Deryle, Helen and me to Elaine’s house for the party. We sat on the couch drinking Seven Up, waiting for Alice. Elaine attempted to engage us in conversation, but her flushed cheeks and shifty eyes told us something was wrong. After an interminable 45 minutes, Elaine left the room to have a private chat with Alice on the phone. She came back with a long face. It seemed Alice couldn’t make it because she was too busy and we’d have to reschedule, but she couldn’t promise that she’d ever be free because she was just so busy. Helen was fighting back tears. I squeezed her hand. It was bad enough to treat me like a nobody, but Helen had enough to contend with without this. Deryle Ann called her father to come get us.  Later on, she told me the truth. Alice and Elaine had felt bad that they had been mean to us all year, and wanted to teach us how to be popular, like them. They planned to show us how to do our hair, what to wear, what to say, and how to act around boys. They were even going to recommend foundation makeup for Helen’s deformity. Weren’t they just the nicest girls?