It’s almost hard to believe now that she didn’t love school or enjoy any aspect of it, because she does so much for children’s education with her Imagination Library foundation.
She was never a star student, but made decent grades and did enough to get by. She even caused a little trouble during her high school years wearing what some would classify as “inappropriate” clothing choices and perfecting the craft of her signature witty, sharp sense of humor that has clearly served her well throughout her career.
She did an interview with Playboy back in 1978 about what school was like growing up in rural East Tennessee, saying that there were no more than 15 kids in the one room schoolhouse and they ranged from first to eighth grade. She walked to school everyday with her siblings through windy mountain roads just to get there.
In the same interview, she also talked about the time she got mistaken for a prostitute in New York City and had to pull a gun on a guy, so you’ll definitely want to check that story out here, as well.
Growing Up In Tennessee
During her childhood in the mountains of Tennessee, schooling really wasn’t a priority for most people in her area, which is why most of them stopped going around the age of 12 or 13:
“My daddy didn’t particularly want me to go to school, my momma didn’t care. In the mountains, schoolin’ is not that important.”
She still cringes at the sight of a school bus to this day:
“I hated it. Even to this day, when I see a school bus, it’s just depressing to me. I think, Those poor little kids having to sit there in the summer days, staring out the window.
It’s hot and sweaty in the schoolroom. It reminds me of every feelin’ and every emotion that I had in school. I’d hate to have to make my own kids go to school. I know that sounds terrible.
A lot of people will say, ‘What a dumb person.’ I hated school every day I went, but it was better than stayin’ home every day. Momma was sick a lot; we had some real hard times.”
But regardless of all of that, Dolly was determined to go further and ended up going to high school, too, because she felt like she needed to have that knowledge when she got out into the real world:
“I wanted to finish high school just so I could say I did, because I knew I’d learn things there that I would probably need to know, because I had already decided I was going out into the world.”
15 Going On 25
And, as no surprise to any of us, she was quite popular… for two specific reasons:
“I was the most popular girl in school but in the wrong way. I wore tight clothes and told dirty jokes.
I looked more mature, I was more mature. I used my mind in different ways. I developed my mind by writing and thinking deep and planning and dreaming. I thought serious.
I looked as old as the teachers. When I was in high school, I looked like I was 25 years old.”
It doesn’t sound like they had a dress code back then, but if you haven’t ever gotten a talkin’ to about what you wore to school at some point, did you even go? I mean, I remember they had some of the dumbest rules about what you could and couldn’t wear when I was in high school, like the “three finger” tank top rule.
I went to high school in North Carolina, and while we obviously have air conditioning these days, it was still hot in the summer and spring and I really do not see the point of that rule at all. I can wear a “three finger” strap-wide tank top, but not a spaghetti strap one? Someone please explain to me the difference…
Rules are rules though, I guess, and if you didn’t follow them you were gonna hear about it. I just remember it being such a big deal back then if you didn’t follow the dress code that it’s funny to hear Dolly talk about how it was when she grew up, too.
She didn’t mention if she ever had a formal consequence for her clothing choices, but it’s clear that there was no point in it because she was gonna do what she wanted anyways.
I’m just glad to know Dolly broke the dress code (or would’ve by today’s standards if they’d had a formal code) just like the rest of us…