Looking Back to Look Forward: A Relationship in the 60s

Mounted high-up on a dusty shelf, in the family cottage that was once an old schoolhouse, sits a frame filled with an anniversary photo, serving as a reminder of young love. From riding bikes to school together in Kindergarten, to celebrating their 50th anniversary with their 12 grandchildren, Joy and Denny Hahn are the definition of true love. In this interview they will reflect on what a relationship in the 60’s looked like. 


AH: How did most couples meet?

Joy: Most couples met in school. 

Denny: Most couples met in high school…well in our case, grade school. 


AH: Was it common to date people from other schools or within your own school?

Joy: Date within your own school. 

Denny: For us, it was more common to date within your own school. 


AH: Were you involved in any school activities together?

Denny: Yes, everything. We were involved in student council; we were involved in chorus; we were involved in sports; and we were involved in the musicals. 

Joy: We were in two musicals together:  “Babes in Arms” and “Leave it to Jane”.  

Denny: Well, I was in three musicals. 

Joy: That’s only because they were really desperate (bantering). 


AH: Did you have the lead roles in the musicals or were you cast members?

Denny: We had the lead roles. 

Joy: Well…I did. He… had a secondary role (bantering). 

Denny: It. Was. A. Lead!


AH: What would happen when you called your significant other’s house? 

Denny: We didn’t call a whole lot. 

Joy: Usually there would be a party line.

Denny: We would talk a lot at school and after school activities, and I would make sure I walked Joy home, but we rarely ever talked on the phone. 

Joy: We occasionally would talk on the phone for short conversations like “are you going somewhere” or “where are we going to meet?”

Denny: I think Joy’s talking about her other boyfriends…. because I don’t think I ever talked to her on the phone (jokingly).

Joy: We’ll talk later, Abbey (in reference to her old boyfriends). 


AH: What were your parents’ rules for dating?

Denny: Joy wasn’t allowed to go to a whole lot of things. We walked to almost everything. 

Joy: Denny would have to pick me up.

Denny: I would pick Joy up from her porch, and then, later, I would take her home. I promised her dad that she would be home before midnight every night. 

Joy: My parents were pretty strict. I wasn’t allowed to go to many parties. Like after a basketball game, I would have to go home, while most of the kids went to a party after or went out for pizza. 

Denny: Well sometimes, since the pizza was on the way home, we would sneak over and grab a quick slice, and then continued home. Or, we would go to an ice cream store called Isaly’s. 


AH: How did society view public display of affection?

Denny: There was no public display of affection in our days. If we held hands, that was a lot. 

Joy: There was no hugging or kissing in front of people or anything like that, not even in a show. 

Denny: There was absolutely none in school. 

Joy: And if there was, you would get called to the principal’s office. Even in the halls, it was unheard of to walk around and see a couple holding hands.


AH: What did getting asked to a school dance look like?

Denny: That was just a simple “Will you go to the dance with me?”

Joy: Denny might walk me home and ask me before he left. There were no signs like you guys do today. There might have been conversation between the boys such as “Are you gonna ask her, because if not, I’m gonna ask her” or “Did you ask her yet?” It would always be a verbal thing between the two people and then you would just tell everyone at school. 


AH: What was appropriate attire for a school dance?

Denny: It depended on the dance. Most of the time, the guys would get dressed up in suits.

Joy: The girls would wear pretty dressy dresses. The only time you would wear a floor length dress was to the Prom, but all of the dresses were very full and puffy. We never wore the real cute form-fitting one’s like you girls wear today. They were never that short either, since we went to a Catholic School. We usually wouldn’t buy a new dress for the dance either. We would just wear a dressy Sunday dress. 


AH: Were your school dances an all day event including dinner, pictures before, and an after-party? 

Denny: It was just the dance. 

Joy: Because a lot of time Denny would have to ask to borrow the car for the night because his family only had one. 


AH: Would the woman in a relationship expect the man to pay for the date?

Denny: Yes. Always. 

Joy: The only exception was for the Sadie Hawkins dance. The girls would ask the guys and pay for everything that night. 


AH: What were the rules if you were hanging out in your room? Were you allowed?

Denny: We were NEVER allowed on the second floor. 

Joy: And if it got too late, my dad would actually walk into the room where we were and say “time for you to leave.” And if we would be standing outside, right inside the metal fence, surrounding my yard for too long just saying goodbye, my dad would come to the front door and say “time to come in.” There was never any hesitation on my dad’s part.


AH: What were the relationships between your siblings and significant each other like?

Joy: Denny and CiCi were like brother and sister. She never dated very seriously while we were dating, so she did a lot for us. Even for our wedding, she wasn’t dating anyone so she really helped up to pay for things and plan. Now, for me and Denny’s brother’s, it was different.

Denny: My older brother didn’t care at all. He was doing his own thing. On the other hand, my younger brother, who was six years younger, would go out with us occasionally, but he didn’t really fit in with our crowd since he was so much younger. 

Joy: Bob ALWAYS teased me.  


AH: Did you tend to make yourself at home at your significant other’s house, or did you take on the role of guest?

Denny: Definitely a guest. You didn’t get out of line one inch. 

Joy: If the parents said “why don’t you sit down”, you didn’t move. I can’t get over the fact that you kids today, help yourselves to food in the fridge. That would never, ever happen. 

Denny: You didn’t even look at the refrigerator. 

Joy: You didn’t change the channel or lean back on the couch, which seems so absurd looking back on it now (laughing). 


“Respect your elders,” we were told when we were younger and tried to follow, but took lightly. However, as we approach our teenage years, we believe older generations cannot relate to us because their experience in our shoes is so distant and foreign. However, if we are truly willing to listen to what they have to say, there is some truth in it.