The Outsiders is a classic novel set in the mid-1960’s. The author, S.E. Hinton, wrote it based on real-life events and people in her high school, and the book was published in 1967 when she was seventeen years old. The novel explores the difficulties of teenage life and social classes among teens and in society. It teaches lessons about breaking stereotypes and learning to look at situations from one another’s perspectives. Generations of 8th graders at Wylie have grown up reading The Outsiders, and it remains true as a beloved novel. In 2013, the Wylie Junior High 8th grade English department decided to take the novel a step further and allowed students to dress up as their favorite social role, a Greaser from the other side of the tracks, or a Soc from the socially elite upper class in the novel. Students research the dress, style, and slang of the 60’s era. The students had so much fun with it that the teachers decided to expand once more by adding a treat and a small car show. Students and teachers dress up from the era and enjoy ice cream floats before heading out to enjoy the car show during their reading classes.
“The cars play an important role in The Outsiders novel and defined the social groups of the times. More so, I feel like the cars have helped students connect it with their grandparents’ generation. I grew up with my dad telling stories about his 1969 Camaro and thought it would be a fun addition for the kids to see first-hand. Hearing stories and reading them are one thing, but when you can make it come to life, that’s a connection students will never forget. I began to research what Abilene looked like during the 60’s and places I’ve grown up hearing my parents talk about to show students. I have found pictures of places like Mack Eplen’s and downtown Abilene. Students are always surprised to see what the cost of food was during that time frame. We discuss the economy, social expectations and roles, and what life must have been like during that time,” said Kelly Trumble, an 8th grade reading teacher. She continued, “We’ve had fellow teachers and parents volunteer to show the kids the inside of these vintage classics, the process of restoration, and a true appreciation of an older generation of cars. It has stirred a love of literature and a connection with the real world they may have never had otherwise.”
Hailey Miller, Abbey Wartes, Amanda Gay, Daysha Kerby, Shannon Allen, rest of the English department, agreed that not only does the dress up day and car show open the students’ perspectives, but it also brings kids closer to the reading content in a fun and exciting way. The kids just have fun with it and their excitement is contagious!
A few students in Trumble’s class were interviewed about Outsider’s Day. Evvy Chatfield said, “It gives you a true 60’s feel and furthers your understanding of what it was like in the novel.” Ashley Perry chimed in, “Yes, it makes you appreciate the book a little more and makes stronger connections with the characters.” Then Brock Stephenson added, “If I could go back in time, I would go back to the 60’s.”
Outsider’s Day is also a time to have the community connect with students. Lane Justice asked his teacher weeks in advance if his grandfather could bring his old vintage cars for the day. “It was fun having my grandparents here to show their cars to my friends. They got to show a piece of our family history to my friends. The Bel-Air has been in my family for the past 30 years. They are expensive to care for and maintain. I’ll get to drive the Mustang when I’m in high school, so I’m pretty excited about that!”
Teachers and staff participate to make the day an event worth remembering. Laro Clark, an algebra teacher at the junior high brought his restored Mustang to school. Donning his Greaser look, he loves allowing his math students to join in on the fun.
“When Mr. Clark revved his engine, it was loud, and surprising how many people you could fit in the backseat!” said Allie Stewart-Duke, “That was my favorite part.”
When asked what these soon-to-be freshman would share about Outsider’s Day with those younger than them, Kadin Long and Brock Stephenson said, “Don’t think you’re too cool to dress up. Dress up and have fun! Taking pictures with your friends is fun, so make the most of it.”
The teachers have been asked multiple times if this tradition will continue in 8th grade as the campus splits East and West. Hailey Miller (East) and Trumble (West) said, “Oh, you bet! We’ll just have two car shows. It may be a bit more of a challenge finding cars, but we’ll continue to make it a true Wylie tradition for all eighth graders as the excitement and love for The Outsiders grows each year.”