In the early 1980s, I was a Dynamite Girl. That is, inspired by my subscription to Dynamite Magazine, I formed an all-girl club with a posse of grade-six friends, appointing myself as its president.
Unlike what you might imagine, the club was serious and secretive. We had detailed typewritten rules and minutes, Liquid Paper-laden formal agendas and questionnaires. We took anonymous polls and collected dues.
Ensconced in my suburban basement, we planned fundraising endeavours like backyard sales, and creative projects like publishing a newspaper. (Whether we actually followed through with these grand plans, I can’t remember.) We tried to solve mysteries, scanning the local newspapers for connections between crimes in the neighbourhood. That undertaking I’m pretty sure never panned out.
Rule #6: No fooling around.
Here’s a typical rundown of a Dynamite Girls club meeting, based on the official typed minutes from March 4, 1981:
- All members wrote down on paper what they wanted to talk about but disguised their writing.
- We talked about maturing and what we would do if we got our period.
- We talked on a loopline and got a french guy after more than 1/2 hour of trying different numbers.
Googling doesn’t turn up much about these mysterious “looplines,” but they vaguely sound like the eighties telephone version of today’s online chat rooms. (Our parents would have been horrified, I’m sure.)
It’s clear that along with the sober fundraising and mystery-solving projects, we also talked about typical girl things like bras and periods. We used a code phrase – “certain matters” – to refer to something I can’t even remember, but was probably boy-related. When we took that secret poll about things we each wanted to do in the club, one piece of paper said “I want to talk about ‘certain matters'”; another said “I want to talk about things of adolescence”; and a third said “Do you guys want to have a social? I do but I don’t know where to have it!!!!!” Only one lonely piece of paper said “I WANT TO PRICE BOOKS!!” Even with the “disguised” handwriting, I can tell that this one was mine – apparently I was mostly keen to get going on the backyard sale.
The club’s collection of paper artifacts gives me a peek into my pre-adolescent world, before heavy angst hit and female friendship became more complicated. I was able to indulge my urge to organize and plan, even as my friends and I entered the turmoil of teenagedom, my gang of dynamite girls.