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So many teenagers made the late-night pilgrimage to see Betty that the high school deemed it prudent to paint over the windows of the school auditorium.
During a later renovation, its facade was covered with bricks. Students still talk of “a presence” in the auditorium, one that is to blame for a long list of strange occurrences, from flickering lights and noises that cannot be explained to objects that appear to move on their own.
The oldest of four children, she knew that her parents could not afford to send her away to college, and her part-time job at Woolworth’s barely paid enough to finance any kind of getaway.
While she aspired to one day appear on the Broadway stage, in the meantime she planned to live at home after graduation and attend Odessa College, just up the street.
“There are people willing to be my friends, but mostly they [are] either too ignorant to understand why I’m like I am, and consequently offer my mind no challenge; or they haven’t the wits to match mine.” At the top of Odessa High School’s rigid social hierarchy were the “cashmere girls,” as one alumna called them—the girls with perfect complexions from West Odessa’s better neighborhoods who were perennially voted most popular, best personality, and class favorite.
At football games, they sat in the stands wearing the ultimate status symbol: their boyfriends’ letter jackets.
She freely expressed opinions that went against the grain, like her belief that segregation was unjust and that blacks should not have to attend a separate high school across the railroad tracks.She made no secret of the fact that she was not a prude and that she was willing to prove it.At the end of an evening at Tommy’s, it was not unusual for her to end up parked in a secluded spot somewhere with a football player—after, of course, he had taken his girlfriend home to meet her curfew.In bedrock-conservative, blue-collar Odessa—where the John Birch Society’s crusade against communism and other “un-American influences” had struck a chord—she was seen as an oddball.“Most people do not understand me,” Betty wrote to a friend her senior year.
They belonged to the informal sororities called Tri-Hi-Y clubs—Capri, Sorella, and Amicae—which cherry-picked the most popular high school girls.