Open letter to Teenager - 1959
Teenagers, like never before, are bombarded with messages that influence their minds and shape who they are. Not to mention the constant technology and internet presence in their lives from Facebook and Twitter just to mention a few. Being a teenager is tough. We all remember those days. Times certainly have changed, but sometimes there's a basic message that every teenager should hear from the Baby Boomer to the Y Generation and everyone in between.
We recently came across this message that appeared on page two of Pierce County Tribune's Dec. 17, 1959 issue. It was quietly nestled between the area news and local happenings. No reason was given. I suspect the editor just thought it was a good message. Sometimes we come across these items while reading our archives and find them interesting enough to share with the modern-day reader.
The piece was written by Judge Philip B. Gilliam of Denver, Co. A little research on Judge Gilliam found him to be a highly respected judge in the Denver Juvenile Court and Juvenile Hall from 1940 until his death in 1975. During his time on the bench, he spent his time protecting children and ensuring their proper treatment in the court system.
His message may sound harsh at first, but when you stop and think about it it comes from a guy who had probably seen it all. Being a judge in juvenile court in Denver would have been one tough job. Maybe if more teenagers heeded his advice they would avoid ending up on the wrong side of a courtroom someday.
Judge Gilliam's letter appeared as follows… Open letter to Teen-ager
Always we hear the plaintive cry of the teenager. What can we do? ... Where can we go?
The answer is GO HOME!
Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves. Mow the lawn. Shovel the walk. Wash the car. Learn to cook. Scrub some floors. Repair the sink. Build a boat. Get a job. Help the minister, priest, or rabbi, the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army. Visit the sick. Assist the poor. Study your lessons. And then when you are through - and not too tired - read a book.
Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your city or village does not owe you recreational facilities. The world does not owe you a living. You owe the world something. You owe it your time and your energy and your talents so that no one will be at war or in poverty or sick or lonely again.
Grow up. Get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone, and start acting like a man or a lady. You're supposed to be mature enough to accept some of the responsibility your parents have carried for years. They have nursed, protected, helped, appealed, begged, excused, tolerated and denied themselves needed comforts so that you could have every benefit. This they have done gladly, for you are their dearest treasure.
But now, you have no right to expect them to bow to every whim and fancy just because selfish ego instead of common sense dominates your personality, thinking and request. In Heaven's name, grow up and go home!
- South Bend Tribune, Sunday, Dec. 6, 1959
It's interesting that this message was addressed to teenagers. The fact is that many adults these days could stand to be reminded of many of his suggestions. Judge Gilliam's message "tells it like it is" and doesn't hold back. He clearly wasn't afraid of hurting anyone's feelings or concerned about sugar-coating his message. You have to respect that. Many times these days we are so conscious about being politically correct. We can't offend anyone's personal rights. Well, sometimes we have to go back in time a little and hear things the way they were meant to be said - straightforward and to the point.