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The 'containment' of Juvenile Delinquency: Social Engineering and American Youth culture in the postwar era

the 'containment' of
juvenile delinquency
social engineering and
american youth culture
in the postwar era
william graebner
In 1951, Buffalo, New York Children's Court Judge Victor Wylegala,
in language evocative of the era's anti-Communist ethos, warned the
people of western New York to guard against ''complacency." "We are
entering a critical period," he wrote, "a period which could bring disaster
to the community's young people."1 The source of Wylegala's concern
was not the Red tide, but what the popular magistrate feared would be a
new wave of juvenile delinquency. In retrospect, Wylegala's injunction
might be read as residue from the immediate postwar years. Statistics
gathered by Buffalo's Youth Board in the late 1950s reveal that by any of
several measures, the rate of "delinquency"2 actually declined substan-
tially from 1946, when 2,697 juvenile cases were known to the city's Crime
Prevention Bureau, through 1952, when cases bottomed out at 1801. By
the judge's own calculation, juvenile cases heard in Children's Court
reached an all-time low in 1950. Yet Wylegala had not been writing history
but predicting the future, and in that endeavor he seems to have been
remarkably astute. Youth arrests and Crime Prevention Bureau cases
increased substantially in 1953, and by the late 1950s delinquency rates in
Buffalo were approaching the relatively high levels of the mid-1940s.3
Buffalo's war against juvenile delinquency was waged on many fronts.
0026-3079/86/2701-0081 S01.50/0 -^ .
FIGURE ONE* This scene, from the 1957 Report of the Buffalo Youth Board, recreates a
"delinquent" act The original caption reads, "For delinquency-prone youngsters whose respect
for the law is marginal, idleness and corner lounging may have serious consequences. The
street corner may become the rendezvous where amateur criminals plan an act of petty car theft,
such as rifling the contents of a parked car."
Police broke up gang fights and drove youth off street corners. Wylegala
called for "spiritual guidance" and sent vandals off to "reform" school.4
But if juvenile delinquency was regarded as a bitter enemy, the struggle
against it was not always carried on as overtly as the term "war" might
suggest. This essay examines two devices, each more subtle than police
activity or the threat of reform school, by which the community of
Buffalo—more precisely, Buffalo's middle class—sought to keep juvenile
delinquency at arm's length. One device took the form of a large, media-
based club called Hi-Teen, launched in 1946 during the first postwar wave
of delinquency, and active until 1961. The other was Dress Right, a
voluntary dress code for the Buffalo public schools developed in the
mid-1950s, when delinquency rates were again rising.
Though both Hi-Teen and Dress Right were created during surges in
delinquent behavior, the eras in which they emerged were very different in
terms of youth culture and its relationship to the adult world. The years of
Hi-Teen's greatest popularity, the late 1940s, found youth relatively
receptive to adult authority and guidance. In contrast, the youth culture of
the mid-1950s was more peer-oriented and less receptive to adult influ-
The difference can be seen through changing teen-age perceptions
of band leader and singer Vaughn Monroe. Monroe was warmly received
as Hi-Teen's first guest in 1946, yet by 1953 he was having considerable
difficulty understanding the new youth culture. Venting his frustration in
an article in American Weekly, a nationally distributed newspaper insert,
Monroe lamented the failure of modern youth to dance to the "jive" beat
of his orchestra. "When my orchestra beats it out," he wrote, "I'd be a lot
happier if I saw a whole floor of windmilling arms and legs."5
Given the somewhat more cooperative youth of the 1940s, Hi-Teen was
content to operate largely through adult authority. Although the program
made some concessions to democratic, participatory organization and
structure, Hi-Teen was clearly controlled and shaped by adults. Dress
Right, on the other hand, was created with the strength of the adolescent
peer group in mind; the code was intended both to penetrate the peer
group and to utilize its social authority. The "democratic" methods
through which youth were involved in Dress Right's development, dis-
semination, and enforcement—methods that I have labeled democratic
social engineering—were an integral part of its social reformism.
Nonetheless, Hi-Teen and Dress Right were alike in two significant
respects. First, both were based on the understanding that social engineer-
ing could take place through the most obvious manifestations of youth
culture—music and dress.
Second, neither was really designed to eliminate juvenile delinquency,
or even to operate on the most wayward youths. As the word "contain-
ment" suggests, Hi-Teen and Dress Right were defensive in spirit; they
sought to contain juvenile delinquency within the black and working-class
cultures where it was most common.6 Hi-Teen accomplished this by
creating a middle-class environment that implicitly excluded the delin-
quent population; similarly, Dress Right's democratic methodology ex-
cluded all but middle-class students from the process by which the dress
code was created. Hi-Teen and Dress Right were products of white,
middle-class culture, and each was intended to protect and insulate middle-
class youth from outside contamination.
Thus Hi-Teen and Dress Right exemplify the most characteristic
feature of postwar efforts to deal with juvenile delinquency. What was new
in the post-1945 era was not adult concern with juvenile conduct, nor even
the effort to cope with the problem by utilizing the peer group. What was
new was that the American middle class sensed its own vulnerability. Once
understood as a serious social problem restricted to the working class,
delinquency now seemed to have spilled over the boundaries of social class
and neighborhood and to threaten the children of the middle class.7 Hi-
Teen and Dress Right were efforts to redraw and clarify those social
Hi-Teen went on the air for the first time in January of 1946. The
program was developed by WEBR, a station owned by the Buffalo Courier-
Express and concerned with maintaining its middle-of-the-road program-
ming reputation.8 For fifteen years, until 1961, when the program went off
the air, Hi-Teen's emcee and guiding spirit was Bob Wells, whose
background and musical tastes were consistent with WEBR's conservative
mission. Born in 1918, Wells attended one of Buffalo's better public high
schools, where he played flute in the school band and orchestra. After two
years of high school, Wells attended Culver Military Academy in Culver,
Indiana on a musical scholarship and in 1936 entered Oberlin Conser-
vatory of Music, where he earned a B.A. (1941) while studying flute. Wells
became Assistant Director of Music for the Batavia, New York schools and
in 1945 joined WEBR.9
success with Hi-Teen may be ascribed more to qualities of
personality than to any appreciation for popular music. He ''could sell
anything," his assistant recalled, and Hi-Teen enjoyed a large and
appreciative audience. Hi-Teen dances, broadcast on Saturday afternoons,
drew live audiences of from 300 to over 2,000 teen-agers. Club mem-
bership reached 15,000 in 1947, 22,000 by 1954. On the air, Hi-Teen was
just as popular. At times, the show drew more than half of the Buffalo area
listening audience. In 1949, Billboard Magazine rated Hi-Teen the third
most popular record show in the United States.10
From the beginning, Buffalo's civic leaders envisioned Hi-Teen as a
response to juvenile delinquency. Judge Wylegala captained the city's
campaign against vandalism, gangs, street-corner lounging and other
manifestations of what was labeled delinquency. "Juvenile delinquency,"
Wylegala warned, "can crop up anywhere, under any circumstances. Just
providing a so-called good home and good background is not enough.
Keeping a child out of trouble means constant vigilance. "1 l For Wylegala,
the most crucial agency of vigilance was the democratic family, but the
judge was not unmindful of the therapeutic role of community institutions,
including the schools, the churches, the scouts and the Boys Clubs. "There
are thousands of cases [of juvenile delinquency]," he wrote, "that have
been solved by active participation in some community group."12
Hi-Teen was just that: a therapeutic community group activity.
Significantly, the first broadcast originated from a club operated by the
a private organization whose own wartime therapeutic activities
took place through the social lives of servicemen.13 When the show moved
to elegant, Saarinen-designed Kleinhans Music Hall, one newspaper
reporter anticipated a therapeutic effect for the new atmosphere. "The
show is a concrete answer to juvenile delinquency," read the story. "It is
conducted in a dignified manner at Kleinhans Music Hall, one of the city's
most modest and sedate gathering places."14
It was widely understood that Hi-Teen was designed to combat juvenile
delinquency, and that the community retained an interest in what was
nominally a private endeavor. No sooner had the first program been
broadcast than Hi-Teen was endorsed by public officials and organiza-
including the county
the YMCA, the Catholic Youth
Council and the U.S.O. director. Early in the program's history, Hi-
Teen's producers invited fifty city officials to attend the program and to
participate in a post-broadcast discussion on "how to combat juvenile
-* I*
\S à
FIGURE TWO: Perry Como signing autographs for Hi-Teens in the late 1940s, while emcee Bob
Wells looks on. Bob Wells Collection.
delinquency through the popular series."15 The Sample Shop, an early
sponsor, apparently restricted its commercial time in order to avoid
interfering with the show's "civic aspect."16 Moreover, Wells had no
quarrel with Hi-Teen's civic mission. Recalling the experience from the
perspective of 1977, Wells said, "The show was an antidote to juvenile
delinquency. . . . We took the kids off the streets."17
Hi-Teen took on this reformist challenge in a variety of ways, some
very obvious, others quite subtle. The first category would surely include
Chamber of Commerce awards presented on one segment for the best
essays on "How to Prevent Vandalism,"18 as well as Mayor Steven
Pankow's appearance on the program to enlighten the Hi-Teen audience
with a recording of his inaugural address.19
Central to the show's social engineering goals was its attempt to define
what a proper teen-ager was. A proper teen-ager was socially committed
at least to the extent of helping to eradicate disease and feed the starving,
provided the latter were not located in this country. Thus Hi-Teen
members found themselves enlisted in the March of Dimes, collecting food
for Europe's hungry masses or campaigning for traffic safety.20 Through a
regular series of Teen-of-the-Month contests, Hi-Teen members learned
that a proper teen-ager assisted neighbors in time of need and participated
in a variety of community and church organizations.21 Other contests
rewarded teens for having "perfect feet" or well-cared-for teeth.22
Much of Hi-Teen's social engineering energy was directed at defining
appropriate teen-age behavior in two areas of great concern to youth:
music and clothing. Musically, Hi-Teen claimed a certain catholicity, and
with some justification, for the show's high ratings made possible a star-
studded guest list.23 Very frequently, however, the stars that performed on
the Hi-Teen bandstand were those booked into Buffalo's Town Casino, a
popular Main Street nightclub with an adult clientele.24 As a result, the
typical celebrity at the Hi-Teen Club was from the mainstream of
American popular music, and many made their basic appeal to an
audience that was adult, white and middle-class. Rhythm and blues and,
after 1954, rock 'n' roll, were seldom heard on the Hi-Teen program.
Among those who graced the Hi-Teen stage were Tony Martin, Vic
Damone, Lionel Hampton, The Hoosier Hot Shots, Peggy Lee, Benny
Goodman, Dennis Day, Danny Thomas, Woody Herman, and in the
1950s Russell Arms (of television's Hit Parade) and Pat Boone.25 The fact
that in 1949 Hi-Teen still held a waltz contest is evidence of the program's
own cultural myopia, or, more likely, of its ongoing desire to shape the
musical tastes of postwar youth.2up6 Another example, and one that
demonstrates the community's continued interest in Hi-Teen and, in
particular, in the relationship between music and behavior, comes from
1961—the year Chubby Checker dominated the charts with "The Twist."
Although the recording and the dance were rapidly absorbed within white,
middle-class, adult culture,27 Buffalo's police department feared the
consequences if "The Twist" was aired in Hi-Teen's Delwood Ballroom.
Rather than order the show's producers not to play the song, the police
"made certain suggestions."28
Hi-Teen was also involved in an attempt to influence teen-age dress.
This effort occurred on two very different levels. One level involved the
show's major sponsor, a local dry-goods retailer called The Sample Shop,
marketing its notion of style and fashion to the Hi-Teen Club and to the
city at large. A photograph from the 1940s, titled "Teen Age Models Show
Latest Summer Fashions," reveals how out-of-touch The Sample Shop
was with teen-age tastes. The photograph features seven teen-age young
each wearing a neat cotton pinafore and looking as if she were
headed for the nearest 8-year-old birthday party.29
The other level of control over dress involved Hi-Teen's efforts to
ensure order among its 1000 live audience. When the show first went on
the air, no dress regulations existed. Youths came to the program in jeans
and sweatshirts and, according to Margaret Russ, then assistant to the
program director, fights broke out. A dress code was imposed, and the
fighting ceased. "When you had dress codes," Russ recalled, "people
behaved."30 From this point on, boys wore slacks and a white shirt, often
with a sport coat; girls came in dress and blouse, sometimes with a school
have in reality set out his course at his subconscious level. He gets
his direction in a less blunt way and, most important, he gets it with
the feeling of responsibility.37
In a limited way, Hi-Teen utilized this "democratic" methodology. Hi-
Teen was, after all, established as a club, with all that word implied about
participation. The Hi-Teen Club had "members"; the programs were
called "meetings"; and the meetings (the on-the-air broadcasts), routinely
opened with group singing of the club theme song. During the broadcast, a
Hi-Teen Committee carried out certain functions, such as escorting guests
to the stage or turning the bin for the selection of prize-winning tickets.38
The Hi-Teen Club membership card illustrates both the existence of
democratic procedures and their limitations. A signature on the card
brought membership, and with it, the right to admission to the "meet-
But that same signature also acknowledged the club rules. The
cards were first issued when the program moved to the Elks Club in 1947,
and the four rules adopted at that time reflect the concerns of the Elks for
their building. One rule limited membership to youths under 16; another
required members to "conduct themselves as guests"; a third prohibited
loitering in the lobby or entering any part of the Elks' Building except the
ballroom and attached restrooms; and the fourth required a signature as
acknowledgment of the other rules. In addition, these rules were enforced
not by club members, but by a committee of WEBR and Elks personnel.39
In short, Hi-Teen's commitment to democratic methods was a minimal
FIGURE THREE: Hi-Teen in Buffalo's Delwood Ballroom, late 1940s. Bob Wells Collection.
dress right
The 1958 yearbook of Buffalo's Burgard Vocational School contains a
lunchroom photograph. On a darkened wall behind the students is a sign.
It reads:
Shirt and Tie or
Sport Shirt
and Tie
Sport Shirt With
Sweater or Jacket
Standard Trousers or
Khakis Clean and
Neatly Pressed
Shoes Clean and Polished
White Bucks Acceptable40
Burgard FOUR: The cafeteria at
Vocational High
Right Code is posted
gard Craftsman,
The sign's origin dates to October 1955, when Dr. Joseph E. Manch,
one of the Buffalo Public School Associate Superintendents, decided on the
need for a dress code. By 1957, two aspects of Manch's original vision were
the object of national attention. One was the code itself—the Dress Right
Program, as it was called. The other was the process through which the
code had been proposed, written, adopted and applied. That process,
labeled The Buffalo Plan, was democratic social engineering in its purest
Hi-Teen's Margaret Russ was not alone in assuming a relationship
between dress and behavior. It was widely believed that one's presentation
of oneself—including clothes, hairstyle and physical appearance—reflected
one's attitude toward authority and (this was Manch's assumption) that
one could change the attitude toward authority by changing the presenta-
tion of
There is plentiful evidence of this politicization of dress in the
national popular culture. Marlon Brando's portrait in "The Wild One1'
(1954) identified anti-social behavior with T-shirts, Levi's, long hair and
motorcycles. On records, rockabilly artist Carl Perkins captured the
feelings of his working-class audience with the line "you can do anything,
but stay off of my blue suede shoes."41
In Buffalo, school and municipal authorities emphasized the impor-
tance of dress. For example, following a dance at South Park High School,
several teachers were heard to comment "on the attractive appearance and
commendable behavior of the students. . .
"42 Police Lieutenant Richard
V. Carnival, head of Buffalo's Youth Bureau, was unable to name a single
Buffalo gang, yet he insisted that all gang members dressed alike: in high
blue jeans and jackets, and "duck back" haircuts.43 But the event
that best captures the politics of dress took place late in the 1950s, following
the death of James Dean, Buddy Holly, or some other cult figure (the oral
history is vague on this point). In an act of both mourning and defiance,
many Buffalo teen-agers began wearing black T-shirts. Convinced that this
protest held some danger for the public order, Buffalo Mayor Frank Sedita
prohibited the sale of black T-shirts in the city. Although certain elements
of this story may be apocryphal, even as myth it represents the extent to
which both youth and adults invested clothing with political and cultural
Manch had come to grips with the politics of dress in the early 1950s.
As Associate Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services, he conducted
hearings on students suspended for improper conduct (what Manch
referred to as "my work with juvenile delinquents"). During those
hearings, Manch noted what "seemed to be a rather close relationship
between the way boys and girls dressed and the way they behaved." Thus
"delinquents" charged with "serious misconduct were often dressed in
extreme or bizarre fashion or rather sloppily, wearing soiled dungarees and
T shirts or sweat shirts."45
Late in 1955, Manch moved to turn this correlation between dress and
behavior into a program of social action. But rather than impose a code
from above, and risk its rejection as a manifestation of adult or administra-
tive authority, Manch turned to the Inter-High School Student Council.
This body, organized in March 1954 at Manch's suggestion, consisted of
two representatives from each of Buffalo's secondary schools, "able
students," as Manch described them, "who were accepted as leaders by
their peers."46 At an Inter-High meeting on October 25, 1955, Manch,
acting as a "guide," broached the idea of a dress code and outlined how a
committee of the Council might be structured and selected to develop such
a code.47 The proposal, Manch reported, was "accepted . . . enthusi-
astically," and within a month, the Council's committee recommendations
for a dress code had been approved by the whole Council and cleared with
Manch. "The recommendations," Manch concluded, "thus were the
result of student thinking and as such, became student, not faculty,
recommendations."48 Convinced that the "peer group" exercised enor-
mous influence over the behavior of youth, Manch believed he had found a
way to enter the peer group and utilize its authority for his own purposes.49
The Dress Right code contained separate recommendations for boys
and girls as well as for academic and vocational high schools. Code
recommendations for girls were clearly designed to restrict sexuality. V-
neck sweaters without a blouse were "not recommended," and the code
IhisWeek NE-W-^YOr.K
FIGURE FIVE: To encourage adherence to
the voluntary Dress Right Code, some Buf-
falo schools installed 2-way mirrors and
observed student behavior from behind
This Week Magazine, November 23,
urged that "all recommended wear for girls should fit appropriately and
modestly." Recommendations for boys—academic and vocational alike
were designed to eliminate soiled clothing, T-shirts and sweatshirts, and
"extreme" shoe styles, with specific reference to the "motorcycle boots"
so strongly identified with delinquent youth. Recommended wear for all
boys included "khakis," a word of military connotation. Vocational
students were allowed a greater degree of informality than their academic
counterparts; they might wear a simple sport shirt with tie, while academic
students were held to the higher standard of a "dress shirt" and tie or a
"conservative" sport shirt and tie with suit jacket, sport coat, or sweater.50
Manch's enthusiasm for democratic methods of social engineering is
apparent in his efforts to have the code implemented. In theory, student
adherence to the code's recommendations was entirely voluntary. Com-
pliance was secured through a series of persuasive techniques that were
part of the methodology of democratic social engineering. At many
schools, student councils, "with the encouragement and guidance of
principals and teachers," discussed, approved and recommended com-
pliance with the new code.51 School newspapers carried editorials endors-
ing the recommendations, special assembly programs emphasized the
advantages of proper dress, and one institution installed a full-length
mirror at the head of a stairway, inscribed with the words "Look! This is
you. Are you satisfied?" In accord with the democratic ideology through
which compliance was urged, most of these persuasive techniques had first
been suggested by the Inter-High Council.52 On the other hand, some
institutions seem to have pursued compliance through coercive methods.
At one school, for example, boys without ties found themselves in the
principal's office, renting gaudy neckware at two cents a day.53
The non-coercive methodology of democratic social engineering seems
to have been effective in securing general, though not complete, com-
pliance with the code. A survey of school principals, conducted a year after
the code's introduction, found principals unanimously agreed that school
dress had been improved as a result of the code, and that students had not
"as a whole" been resistant to it. Ten of 14 principals found students more
courteous and respectful of authority, and the same number said the dress
program had improved student behavior. On the other hand, four
principals believed that students had not "shown enthusiasm about
accepting responsibility and leadership for improving their attire in
school."54 Just as positive were the results of another, more informal,
survey of students and administrators conducted by the Buffalo Evening
News in November, 1957. The principal at Seneca Vocational claimed that
dungarees, sweatshirts and engineer boots had been entirely eliminated,
and that only a small minority of perhaps 5% of the student body still wore
ducktail haircuts. At Fosdick-Masten Girls Vocational High School, the
principal reported a dramatic change in student attire. "They used to
come to exams in dungarees, but not anymore," he said. Now there were
"no pin curls, no dungarees, no slacks—all dresses." Several principals,
and the president of the Inter-High Student Council, commented on how
compliance with the code had brought pronounced changes in attitude,
behavior and discipline.55
Manch's results, and his democratic methodology, found a receptive
national audience. Manch and Caesar Naples, student head of the Inter-
High Council, went to Chicago to discuss the Dress Right program on
"Good Morning Show," hosted by Will Rogers, Jr. The New York
Herald Tribune and the New York World-Telegram and Sun carried well-
illustrated features on the code, and Newsweek illustrated its coverage with
two photographs, one of a "bejeaned" girl, the other of a better-behaved
counterpart in "ladylike dress."56 In February, 1957, when Manch
described Dress Right for some
school principals at the annual
meeting of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the
story received extensive national press coverage.57 Dress Right also
garnered elaborate publicity through the American Institute of Men's and
Wear (AIMBW), an apparel-industry trade association that must
have relished the prospect of dressing up millions of American youth in
new and more costly garments.58 Partly because of the Institute's influ-
many schools—some thirty-one in New York City alone—were ready
with the Buffalo Plan when school opened in the Fall of 1957.59
The media was most likely drawn to the Dress Right program because
of the compelling image, conveyed in the Newsweek photographs and
inherent in Manch's vision, of a juvenile delinquent rather easily and
quickly converted into a model citizen. Nonetheless, it was generally
understood that Dress Right was newsworthy and important only because
it came packaged as the Buffalo Plan; that is, only because the code was
United Press Photos
1 r Vnc
. . . . \\-li(-n theyVo in ladylike dress
FIGURE SIX: Newsweek captured the prevailing view that clothes affected behavior Newsweek
March 11, 1957, p. 102. (Reprinted with permission from The Bettmann Archive.)
"democratic" in origin and voluntary in application. The World-Telegram
and Sun^ story took pains to assure youth that Dress Right involved no
imposition of authority from above. And Francis DeW. Pratt, president of
AIMBW, was as eloquent a spokesman for voluntarism as Manch.60
Dress Right and Hi-Teen shared several qualities. Both were originally
conceived as antidotes to juvenile delinquency. Because juvenile delin-
quency was understood as closely related to youth culture, the solution to
delinquency was thought to require modifications in the culture of youth.
Both Hi-Teen and Dress Right sought behavioral change through modifi-
cation in dress and appearance, though producers of Hi-Teen were
perhaps more interested in shaping teen-ageaste in music.
Hi-Teen and Dress Right shared another understanding of teen-age
behavior and delinquency. In differing degrees, these programs were
shaped by the perception that youth could not be controlled effectively
using traditional subject-object modes of influence. The producers of Hi-
Teen and, to a much greater extent, Joseph Manch, understood the
centrality of the peer group to youth culture. What this meant was that
youth had achieved a certain undeniable separation from adult authority.
This in turn meant that adultuthority could be effectively exercised only if
it were mediated by, or laundered through, the peer group. At bottom, this
perception of delinquency and youth culture recognized, if only tentatively,
that the growing gulf between youth and adults had to do with authority,
and thus had to be approached gingerly.
Hi-Teen, founded almost a decade before the emergence of rock 'n'
roll, was created with less awareness of the importance of this aspect of
youth culture. Lacking that awareness, the program opted for a more
direct kind of authority. Although the "club" concept recognized the peer
group in a general way, Hi-Teen's commitment to democratic methods of
social engineering was relatively primitive; club rules and the Hi-Teen
dress code were developed by adults. A decade later, the independence of
youth culture would be undeniable, and Manch's approach the more
If Hi-Teen and Dress Right shared certain common insights into
juvenile delinquency, they were also fatally flawed, and in the same way, as
approaches to that problem. It is not just that Hi-Teen and Dress Right
were built on rather simplistic or partial understandings of delinquency,
nor even that their methods—from democratic social engineering to the
modification of youth culture—were inadequate to the task. Rather, Hi-
Teen and Dress Right were bound to fail because they did not operate on
the "delinquent" population. As we have seen, Hi-Teen was not popular
with, and was not intended to attract, the working-class teens who were
most likely to engage in delinquent behavior,61 and Hi-Teen's dress code
no doubt discouraged the participation of some who might otherwise have
been tempted to attend. Similarly, although Dress Right was the product of
a participatory process, it is unlikely that the process represented, or was
intended to represent, the problem youth who had been coming before
hearing officer Manch. While Manch understood the power of the peer
group and the necessity of working through it, he did not understand how
little influence the middle-class Inter-High Council would have over the
school system's delinquent population. Thus Dress Right sidestepped one
problem of authority—the relationship between adults and youth—only to
encounter another, embedded in social class, that could not be so easily
bypassed. Compliance, after all, was voluntary, and school principals
admitted to difficulty in securing conformity from a small percentage of
students. Yearbook photographs indicate that Dress Right eliminated
sweatshirts, but not jeans. And there were youth who found the code an
intrusive imposition, its democratic origins notwithstanding.62 In the end,
there were limits to the influence of middle-class youth over a subculture to
which they did not belong.
Neither Hi-Teen nor Dress Right was really designed to eliminate
hard-core juvenile delinquency. Bob Wells did not expect vandalism to
cease and gangs to fall away when Hi-Teen went on the air, and Joseph
Manch did not anticipate that Dress Right would mean the end of
delinquency hearings. What they did expect—or at least fervently hope
was that their programs would prevent the disease of delinquency from
spreading to the white middle class. Hi-Teen and Dress Right were
preventative medicine: the former was intended to provide youth with a
social setting under the control of adults and, not coincidentally, removed
from the more threatening elements of the working class; the latter
provided a standard of dress around which school administrators and
parents could circle their middle-class wagons against the threat of
working-class delinquency. State University of New York—Fredonia
Buffalo Courier-Express, (January 28, 1951), sec. 5, p. 14.
The phrase "juvenile delinquency" held a great many meanings, some of them complex.
Most simply, it was a set of behaviors, including the destruction of property, participation in
social groups called "gangs," a tendency to personal violence, even street corner lounging.
Juvenile delinquency was also identified with musical tastes running to rhythm and blues and, in
the 1950s, rockabilly, and with ducktail haircuts, heavy boots, leather jackets, black T-shirts and
other characteristics of physical appearance and style.
Buffalo Youth Board, Delinquency and Youth Crime (n.p., n.d.), 3-5; Buffalo Youth Board,
Youth Crime, 1958-1960 (Buffalo, New York, n.d.), 2-5; Buffalo Courier-Express, Qanuary 28,
sec. 5, p. 14.
Buffalo Courier-Express, (February 16, 1953), 1, 9.
Vaughn Monroe, "Why Don't You Dance?" The American Weekly, insert to the Buffalo
Courier-Express, (April 12, 1953).
6. Buffalo Youth Board, Delinquency and Youth Crime, 8, 10, 12 (maps of delinquency by
census tract).
James Gilbert, "Worried Parents: Looking in the Mirror of Youth Culture," unpublished
8. Personal interview with Margaret Russ, June 20, 1983.
9. Clipping, Buffalo Courier-Express, (October 30, 1955), "Bob Wells Today Marks Ten
Years with WEBR," in Bob Wells Scrapbook. The scrapbook is in Wells' possession.
Jack Allen, "Move Over Dick Clark," The
Courier Express
Magazine, (March 6, 1977), 10,
and the following items, all in Bob Wells Scrapbook: flier, using information from October 2,
1948 issue of The Billboard; clipping, "Hi-Teen Dance and Radio Show Highly Successful";
undated column, Don Tranter's "Radio Comment, Highlights"; clipping, "Hi-Teen Radio
Show to Come from Elks Club," Buffalo Courier-Express, (February 10, 1947); WEBR memoran-
dum (1954), on club membership.
Buffalo Courier-Express, (January 28, 1951), sec. 5, p. 14.
Victor B. Wylegala, "Outside Leadership Important to Child," Buffalo Courier-Express,
(February 27, 1952), 13.
On the social engineering functions of the USO, see the materials in Record Group 225,
"Records of the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation," National
Archives, Washington, D.C., General Subject Files, Boxes 15, 45, 46; especially "Music: USO,"
Bulletin (n.p.,n.d.), Box 46, file United Service Organizations, Inc. Ray Kendall, p. 14.
Clipping, "Hi-Teen Dance and Radio Show Highly Successful," Bob Wells Scrapbook.
Items from Don Tranter's "Radio Comment: Highlights," in Bob Wells Scrapbook.
Scrapbook also contains letters from public officials responding to this or a similar
invitation. One from the Fire Commissioner states: "Juvenile Delinquency is one of the biggest
problems confronting us today, and this program should prove of real interest." (Letter from
Joseph S. Masterson to William A. Schweitzer, July 27, 1946).
Clipping, "Hi-Teen Dance and Radio Show Highly Successful," Wells Scrapbook.
Allen, "Move Over," 10, 13.
Clipping, "Hi-Teen Dance and Radio Show Highly Successful," Wells Scrapbook.
Photo, labeled "High Fidelity," Wells Scrapbook. The caption reads, "Three Fans of
Mayor Pankow, still too young to vote, but interested in local politics, listen with the Mayor to a
recording of his inaugural address. ..."
Clipping, "10,000 Assist WEBR Boost to Polio Fund," Wells Scrapbook; Clipping, "Hi-
Teen Dances Scheduled at Brown Motors," June 10, 1948, Wells Scrapbook.
Clipping, Buffalo Courier-Express, (August 9, 1959), 22A; Buffalo Courier-Express, (March
8, 1959), 3B.
Photo, "Perfect Feet," in Buffalo Courier-Express, (May 16, 1954), 12A, and photo,
"King and Queen Crowned at Hi-Teen Club Session," both in Wells Scrapbook.
Allen, "Move Over," 10.
Russ interview.
See advertisements for Hi-Teen in Wells Scrapbook; Russ interview; Buffalo Courier-
Express, (July 2, 1954), 24.
Photo of winners of Hi-Teen Waltz Contest, ca. 1949, Wells Scrapbook.
Iain Chambers, Urban Rhythms: Pop Music and Popular Culture (New York, 1985), 50,
Russ interview.
Wells Scrapbook.
Russ interview.
Clipping and photo, "Hi-Teen Dances Scheduled at Brown Motors," June 10, 1948,
Wells Scrapbook.
Photo, Buffalo Courier-Express, (January 8, 1959), 28, Wells Scrapbook.
Russ interview.
See the photos in Wells Scrapbook.
Personal interview with Jerry Szefel, August 15, 1984.
Personal interview with June Bihl, August 10, 1984.
37. Victor B. Wylegala, "Home Life Shapes Child's Character," Buffalo Courier-Express,
(February 26, 1952), 13.
Clipping, "WEBR Hi-Teens Celebrate First Birthday," and undated and unidentified
clipping, both in Wells Scrapbook; Russ interview.
Clipping, "Hi-Teen Radio Show to Come From Elks Club," Buffalo Courier-Express,
(February 10, 1947), Wells Scrapbook.
Burgard Vocational High School, The Burgard Craftsman, 1958 (Buffalo, n.d.), 81.
Perkins' recording was issued in 1956 on the Sun label. It was one of many 1950s
recordings on the subject of dress, including Bobby Freeman's "Betty Lou Got a New Pair of
Shoes," Joe Bennett's "Black Slacks," and Perkins' "Pink Pedal Pushers."
South Park High School, The Dial, 1954 (Buffalo, New York), 73.
Buffalo Courier-Express, (June 15, 1955), 1-2.
Personal interview with Lee Johansson, July 20, 1983; personal interview with Al Triem,
August 2, 1984.
The quotations are from Joseph Manch, "The Dress Right Program in the Buffalo Public
Schools," mimeograph, in the possession of Dr. Joseph Manch, Buffalo, New York (hereafter
referred to as the Joseph Manch Papers); personal interview with Joseph Manch, June 27, 1983.
Biographical information on Manch is available in the files of the Buffalo Courier-Express, now
located in the library at the State University College at Buffalo, file "Manch, Joseph."
Joseph Manch, "Dress and Conduct: An Inter-High School Student Council Program,"
Journal of the New York State School Boards Association, 22 (September, 1958), 31 (quotation);
Manch interview; Manch, "Dress Right Program."
Manch, "Dress Right Program."
Manch, "Dress and Conduct," 32; Manch, "Dress Right Program."
Manch, 'Dress and Conduct," 32.
Manch, "Dress Right Program."
Jhan Robbins and June Robbins, "Buffalo's Magic Mirror," This
(November 23, 1958), 8.
Robbins and Robbins, "Magic Mirror," 8.
A copy of the survey results is presented in "Report on 'The Buffalo Plan,'" Manch
Clipping, "Better-Dress Drive in Schools Effective, Survey Reveals," Buffalo Evening
News, (November 13, 1957), copy in Manch Papers.
Newsweek, (March 11, 1957), 102; Manch interview; clipping, Buffalo Evening News,
(August 23, 1956), in Manch Papers; Robbins and Robbins, "Buffalo's Magic Mirror"; Chris
Cominel, "The Proper Dress for High School," New York World-Telegram and Sun Saturday
Magazine, (September 7, 1957), 10, 11, 19.
57. Clippings, "Pupils Act to Better Behavior with Dress," Washington Evening Star,
(February 26, 1957); Jeanne Rogers, "Dress Code for Pupils Proposed to Principals," Washing-
ton Post, (February 26, 1957), both in Manch Papers.
Everett M. Smith, "Students Dress Up Now—Fashion Show Keys Shift," Christian
ScienceMonitor, (September 5, 1957), 1.
Cominel, "Proper Dress," 10.
10, 19.
This assumption of a high correlation between juvenile delinquency and the working class
is not one universally held. The 1950s' interest in "teen" culture subsumed class in a larger
analytical framework in which leisure and affluence were seen as the key factors in the emergence
of a unique teen-age style. See, for example, Jessie Bernard, "Teen-Age Culture: An Overview,"
in Jessie Bernard, éd., "Teen-Age Culture," The Annals of
American Academy of Political and
338 (November, 1961), 1-12. European scholars have been more willing to come to
grips with class. See Paul Willis, Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class
Jobs (1977; New York, 1981); Geoff Mungham and Geoff Pearson, eds., Working Class Youth
Cultures (London, 1976); Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson, eds., Resistance Through Rituals: Youth
Subcultures in Post-War Britain (New York, 1975); and John R. Gillis, Youth and History: Tradition
and Change in European Age Relations, 1770-Present (New York, 1981), 191-96.
Clipping, "Better-Dress Drive," Buffalo Evening News, (November 13, 1957), Manch
Papers; McKinley Vocational High School, The President, 1955 (Buffalo, n.d.); Lafayette High
School, The Oracle, (1957), 42 (account of reaction to Dress Right). See also personal interview
with David Holdsworth, August 22, 1984.
... Simon Frith explains that adults feared 'teenager' culture as both 'hedonis[tic]' and 'nihilistic', concerned only with consuming for personal pleasure and vulnerable to sex and violence (Frith 1981, p. 183). In both the USA and the UK, these concerns were rooted in class anxiety and a fear of 'the gradual middle-class adoption of the trappings of working-class teenage life' (Frith 1981, p. 190;Graebner 1986). In the US, the middle-class reaction against rock 'n' roll was especially imbricated with fears of the dangerous body of the racialised Other (Maddock 1996). ...
Scholarship on the moral panics around rock music has long focused on racial fears and anxieties about a youth culture that might escape societal control, but little serious attention has been paid to the conservative Christian anti-rock discourse that surfaced publicly in the United States in the 1960s. This article addresses that gap by situating this construction of rock as an inherently evil corrupting force for 'traditional' religious, family, and national values within a larger cultural context, and arguing that it illuminates the rise of contemporary conservative morality politics in the U.S. Not merely the ravings of a few extremists, this discourse represents a worldview and rhetorical mode that was once widespread within a small religious subculture but has since developed—together with the social and cultural power of that subculture—into one of the central political frames of contemporary American life, helping lay the groundwork for today's culture wars.
American child psychiatrists have long been interested in the problems of delinquent behaviour by juveniles. With the rise of specific psychiatric diagnoses in the 1960s and 1970s, delinquent behaviour was defined within the diagnosis of conduct disorder. Like all psychiatric diagnoses, this concept was shaped by particular historical actors in context and has been highly contingent on assumptions related to race, class and gender. The history of conduct disorder illustrates the tensions in child psychiatry between the expansive goals of the field and the often limited uses of its professional authority, as well as individual children as the target of intervention and their interactions in groups.
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Ever since his creation in 1939, the villain of the Batman comic series, the Joker, has had an unstated, yet very specific purpose (other than to be defeated by Batman); as this paper will demonstrate, he represents and reflects the fears and anxieties of American society at any given time period. What has been deemed ‘scary’ by society has changed throughout the decades, and the Joker’s repeated transformations follow these changes. Aside from being a villain mastermind in Gotham, Joker has been, among other things, a depression era-gangster, a post-war rebel, even the head of a modern-day terrorist group and a computer hacker. Each manifestation, while sharing the same name and a fondness for suits, exhibits different personalities, characteristics and desires, all of which change to reflect the darkest parts of American society, as they are perceived in the wider culture. In this way, the Joker becomes, for readers of this comic, a demonstration of the changing landscape of fear in America.
In 1956 entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., attempted to organize the music industry in a campaign against juvenile delinquency, using musical public service announcements to encourage teens to stay on the right side of the law. Although popular with the public and some industry insiders, Davis's idea failed, officially because of opposition from the Recording Industry Association of America. Although Davis's campaign went nowhere, we argue that this episode provides an important illustration of the need to broaden our understanding of cultural policy studies in the context of American music history. Specifically, we argue for an approach to policy analysis that draws on poststructuralist historiography to capture the forms that cultural policy takes in the United States, including the specific factors of race, intra-industry struggles, and the persona of Sammy Davis, Jr., himself, a pivotal figure who has been largely neglected by music historians despite embodying many of the key cultural tensions of postwar U.S. society. By examining the case of Sammy Davis, Jr., vs. Juvenile Delinquency, we can achieve a better understanding of how U.S. music, U.S. culture, and cultural policy intersect.
Democratic social engineering was a method of social control utilizing the small group, discussion, leadership, and participation of the objects of control. Grounded in late 19th-century progressive education, pragmatic philosophy, and the social sciences, the technique was especially prominent between 1917 and 1945. Case studies of the foremen's clubs, the Golden Age clubs, pediatrician Benjamin Spock, and Kurt Lewin describe and analyze the practice of democratic social engineering. They serve as a backdrop for a concluding discussion of alternatives.
Full-text available
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Texas at Austin, 2003. Vita. Includes bibliographical references. Requires PDF file reader.
Why Don't You Dance?" The American Weekly, insert to the Buffalo Courier-Express
  • Vaughn Monroe
Vaughn Monroe, "Why Don't You Dance?" The American Weekly, insert to the Buffalo Courier-Express, (April 12, 1953).
Records of the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and RecreationHi-Teen Dance and Radio Show Highly Successful Bob Wells Scrapbook. 15. Items from Don Tranter's
  • B Victor
  • Wylegala Archives
  • D C Washington
Victor B. Wylegala, "Outside Leadership Important to Child," Buffalo Courier-Express, (February 27, 1952), 13. 13. On the social engineering functions of the USO, see the materials in Record Group 225, "Records of the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation," National Archives, Washington, D.C., General Subject Files, Boxes 15, 45, 46; especially "Music: USO," Bulletin (n.p.,n.d.), Box 46, file United Service Organizations, Inc. Ray Kendall, p. 14. 14. Clipping, "Hi-Teen Dance and Radio Show Highly Successful," Bob Wells Scrapbook. 15. Items from Don Tranter's "Radio Comment: Highlights," in Bob Wells Scrapbook.
Worried Parents: Looking in the Mirror of Youth Culture," unpublished manuscript. 8. Personal interview with Margaret Russ
  • James Gilbert
James Gilbert, "Worried Parents: Looking in the Mirror of Youth Culture," unpublished manuscript. 8. Personal interview with Margaret Russ, June 20, 1983.
Dress Code for Pupils Proposed to Principals
  • Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers, "Dress Code for Pupils Proposed to Principals," Washington Post, (February 26, 1957), both in Manch Papers.
Pupils Act to Better Behavior with Dress
  • Clippings
Clippings, "Pupils Act to Better Behavior with Dress," Washington Evening Star, (February 26, 1957);
Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain Youth and History: Tradition and Change in European Age RelationsBetter-Dress Drive
  • John R Gillis
Geoff Mungham and Geoff Pearson, eds., Working Class Youth Cultures (London, 1976); Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson, eds., Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (New York, 1975); and John R. Gillis, Youth and History: Tradition and Change in European Age Relations, 1770-Present (New York, 1981), 191-96. 62. Clipping, "Better-Dress Drive," Buffalo Evening News, (November 13, 1957), Manch Papers; McKinley Vocational High School, The President, 1955 (Buffalo, n.d.);
Scrapbook also contains letters from public officials responding to this or a similar invitation One from the Fire Commissioner statesJuvenile Delinquency is one of the biggest problems confronting us today, and this program should prove of real interest
  • Wells
Wells' Scrapbook also contains letters from public officials responding to this or a similar invitation. One from the Fire Commissioner states: "Juvenile Delinquency is one of the biggest problems confronting us today, and this program should prove of real interest." (Letter from Joseph S. Masterson to William A. Schweitzer, July 27, 1946).
42 (account of reaction to Dress Right). See also personal interview with David Holdsworth
  • Lafayette High School
Lafayette High School, The Oracle, (1957), 42 (account of reaction to Dress Right). See also personal interview with David Holdsworth, August 22, 1984.
Why Don't You Dance?
  • Vaughn Monroe
Vaughn Monroe, "Why Don't You Dance?" The American Weekly, insert to the Buffalo Courier-Express, (April 12, 1953).