Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wenonah in the Summer

We'd leave the shore at the end of June, beginning of July, and return to Wenonah. Two weeks in the relatively balmy climate of a shore town. We'd pull into a near tropical climate 45 minutes later. South Jersey in the summer is hot and humid. Very hot and very humid. The trees by now were a deep, deep green. The garden we'd begun in May was filled with weeds and vegetables bursting out all over. The grass was high and thick. The house close and hot.

There was no air conditioning in the Wiler house until a few years later. We cooled off with a big ass attic fan that sucked air from below and blew it out a window, essentially creating some sort of breeze. We lay in bed in our sweat and listened to the crickets.

We'd wake up early and run to our bikes and head right to the pool. We spent the day swimming and getting a great tan and working up the nerve to flirt with girls.  Of course we never did. Some of our friends were on the swim team. The Wenonah Swim Club had a great swim team for a little podunk town in South Jersey. I hated swimming on a team. Way too much work. In fact, although I liked swimming in general, the swim club itself could be a trial. I wasn't a particularly fast freestyle swimmer so in our games of tag I was always it.

But then, you've probably heard that before.

We'd end up back at the house for dinner. Then we'd head out to play the Gun Game or Kick the Can or just sit on the porch and watch the world walk by. It was as if we were in heaven. The night was filled with the sounds of cans rattling down the sidewalk, lightning bugs, the chirp of crickets and the sound of sneakers slapping cement.  No, it wasn't as if we were in heaven.  We were in heaven.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

1965: Year of the World's Best Music

I talked a little about the music of that summer of 1965.  But the whole year was filled with ungodly tunes.  Hit after hit after hit.  When I was living in New Brunswick in the '80's there was a band that only played music from 65 & 66.  They played at my second wedding.  But Jack, you say, it couldn't have been that good.  You must be just fondly remembering it; every year is pretty much the same when it comes to music.  Well, here's my proof:  The hits of 1965:
  The Ad Libs - The Boy From New York City - 02-65 - Blue Cat 
Jewel Akens - The Birds And The Bees - 03-65 - Era 
Herb Alpert - A Taste Of Honey - 11-65 - A&M 
Eddy Arnold - Make The World Go Away - 12-65 - RCA 
Len Barry - 1-2-3 - 11-65 - Decca 
Fontella Bass - Rescue Me - 11-65 - Checker 
Shirley Bassey - Goldfinger - 03-65 - UA 
The Beach Boys - California Girls - 08-65 - Capitol 
The Beach Boys - Do You Wanna Dance - 04-65 - Capitol 
The Beach Boys - Help Me, Rhonda - 05-65- Capitol 
The Beatles - Eight Days A Week - 03-65 - Capitol 
The Beatles - Help! - 09-65 - Capitol 
The Beatles - Ticket To Ride - 05-65 - Capitol 
The Beatles - We Can Work It Out - 12-65 - Capitol 
The Beatles - Yesterday - 10-65 - Capitol 
The Beau Brummels - Just A Little - 06-65 - Autumn 
The Beau Brummels - Laugh, Laugh - 02-65 
James Brown - I Got You (I Feel Good) - 11-65 
James Brown - Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - 08-65 - King 
The Byrds  - Mr. Tambourine Man - 06-65 - Columbia 
The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn! - 11-65 - Columbia 
Freddy Cannon - Action - 09-65 - Warner 
Mel Carter - Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me - 08-65 - Imperial 
Alvin Cash & The Crawlers - Twine Time - 02-65 - Mar-V-Lus 
The Castaways - Liar, Liar - 10-65 - Soma 
Chad & Jeremy - Willow Weep For Me - 01-65 - World Artists 
Cher - All I Really Want To Do - 08-65 - Imperial 
Petula Clark - Downtown - 01-65 - Warner 
Petula Clark - I Know A Place - 04-65 - Warner 
Sam Cooke - Shake - 02-65 - RCA 
Vic Dana - Red Roses For A Blue Lady - 04-65 - Dolton 
The Dave Clark Five - Any Way You Want It - 01-65 - Epic 
The Dave Clark Five - Catch Us If  You Can - 09-65 - Epic 
The Dave Clark Five - Come Home - 03-65 - Epic 
The Dave Clark Five - I Like It Like That - 07-65 - Epic 
The Dave Clark Five - Over And Over - 12-65 - Epic 
Jackie DeShannon - What The World Needs Now Is Love - 07-65 - Imperial 
Dick & Deedee - Thou Shalt Not Steal - Warner 
Ronnie Dove - One Kiss For Old Time's Sake - 05-65 - Diamond 
Patty Duke - Don't Just Stand There - 08-65 - UA 
Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone - 08-65 - Columbia 
Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street - 10-65 - Columbia 
Shirley Ellis - The Clapping Song - 04-65 - Congress 
Shirley Ellis - The NameGame - 01-65 - Congress 
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders - Game Of Love - 04-65 - Fontana 
The Fortunes - You've Got Your Troubles - 09-65 - Press 
The Four Seasons - Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye) - 02-65 - Philips 
The Four Seasons - Let's Hang On! - 11-65 - Philips 
The Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself - 06-65 - Motown 
The Four Tops - It's The Same Old Song - 08-65 - Motown 
Freddie & The Dreamers - I'm Telling You Now - 04-65 - Tower 
Marvin Gaye - Ain't That Peculiar - 11-65 - Tamla 
Marvin Gaye - How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You - 01-65 - Tamla 
Marvin Gaye - I'll Be Doggone - 05-65 - Tamla 
The Gentrys - Keep On Dancing - 10-65 - MGM 
Gerry & The Pacemakers - Ferry Across The Mersey - 03-65 - Laurie 
Bobby Goldsboro - Little Things - 03-65 - UA 
Dobie Gray - The "In" Crowd - 02-65 - Charger 
Roy Head - Treat Her Right - 10-65 - Back Beat 
Herman's Hermits - Can't You Hear My Heartbeat - 03-65 - MGM 
Herman's Hermits - I'm Henry VIII I Am - 07-65 - MGM 
Herman's Hermits - Just A Little Bit Better - 10-65 - MGM 
Herman's Hermits - Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter - 04-65 - MGM 
Herman's Hermits - Silhouettes - 05-65 - MGM 
Herman's Hermits - Wonderful World - 06-65 - MGM 
The Impressions - Amen - 01-65 - ABC Paramount 
The Impressions - People Get Ready - 03-65 - ABC Paramount 
Horst Jankowski - A Walk In The Black Forest - 06-65 -Mercury 
Jay & The Americans - Cara Mia - 07-65 - UA 
Jay & The Americans - Let's Lock The Door (And Throw Away The Key) - 02-65 - UA 
Jay & The Americans - Some Enchanted Evening - 10-65 - UA 
Jack Jones - The Race Is On - 04-65 - Kapp (written and recorded first by country singer George Jones at the same time on United Artists) 
Tom Jones - It's Not Unusual - 05-65 - Parrot 
Tom Jones - What's New Pussycat? - 07-65 - Parrot 
Bert Kaempfert - Red Roses For A Blue Lady - 03-65 - Decca 
The Kingsmen - The Jolly Green Giant - 02-65 - Wand 
The Kinks - All Day And All Of The Night - 02-65 - Reprise 
The Kinks - Tired Of Waiting For You - 04-65 - Reprise 
Brenda Lee - Too Many Rivers - 07-65 - Decca 
Dickey Lee - Laurie (Strange Things Happen) - 07-65 - TCF Hall 
Barbara Lewis - Baby, I'm Yours - 08-65 - Atlantic 
Barbara Lewis - Make Me Your Baby - 11-65 - Atlantic 
Gary Lewis & The Playboys - Count Me In - 05-65 - Liberty 
Gary Lewis & The Playboys - Everybody Loves A Clown - 10-65 - Liberty 
Gary Lewis & The Playboys - Save Your Heart For Me - 07-65 - Liberty 
Gary Lewis & The Playboys - This Diamond Ring - 02-65 - Liberty 
Little Anthony & The Imperials - Hurt So Bad - DCP 
The Lovin' Spoonful - Do You Believe In Magic - 10-65 - Kama Sutra 
Martha & The Vandellas - Nowhere To Run - 04-65 - Gordy 
Dean Martin - I Will - 12-65 - Reprise 
Barbara Mason - Yes, I'm Ready - 07-65 - Artic 
The McCoys - Fever - 12-65 - Bang 
The McCoys - Hang On Sloopy - 09-65 - Bang 
Barry McGuire - Eve Of Destruction - 09-65 - Dunhill 
Roger Miller - Engine Engine #9 - 06-65 - Smash 
Roger Miller - England Swings - 12-65 - Smash 
Roger Miller - King Of The Road - 02-65 - Smash 
The Miracles - The Tracks Of My Tears - 08-65 - Tamla 
The Moody Blues - Go Now! - 04-65 - London 
The Newbeats - Run, Baby Run (Back Into My Arms) - 11-65 - Hickory 
Patti Page - Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte - 06-65 - Columbia 
Peter & Gordon - I Go To Pieces - 02-65 - Capitol 
Gene Pitney - Last Chance To Turn Around - 06-65 - Musicor 
Elvis Presley - Crying In The Chapel - 05-65 - RCA 
Elvis Presley - I'm Yours - 10-65 - RCA 
Elvis Presley - (Such An) Easy Question - 07-65 - RCA 
The Ramsey Lewis Trio - Hang On Sloopy - 12-65 - Cadet 
The Ramsey Lewis Trio - The "In" Crowd - 09-65 - Argo 
The Righteous Brothers -Ebb Tide - 12-65 - Philles 
The Righteous Brothers - Just Once In My Life - 05-65 - Philles 
The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody - 08-65 - Philles 
The Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' - 01-65 - Philles 
Johnny Rivers - Seventh Son - 06-65 - Imperial 
The Rolling Stones - Get Off Of My Cloud - 10-65 - London 
The Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - 06-65 - London 
The Rolling Stones - The Last Time - 04-65 - London 
Billy Joe Royal - Down In The Boondocks - 08-65 - Columbia 
Billy Joe Royal - I Knew You When - 11-65 - Columbia 
Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs - Wooly Bully - 05-65 - MGM 
The Seekers - I'll Never Find Another You - 04-65 - Capitol 
The Shangri-Las - I Can Never Go Home Anymore - 12-65 - Red Bird 
Del Shannon - Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow The Sun) - 01-65 - Amy 
Silkie - You've Got To Hide Your Love Away - 11-65 - Fontana 
Simon & Garfunkel - The Sounds Of Silence - 12-65 - Columbia 
The Sir Douglas Quintet - She's About A Mover - 06-65 - Tribe 
Sonny - Laugh At Me - 09-65 - Atco 
Sonny & Cher - Baby Don't Go - 10-65 - Reprise 
Sonny & Cher - But You're Mine - 11-65 - Atco 
Sonny & Cher - I Got You Babe - 08-65 - Atco 
Sounds Orchestral - Cast Your Fate To The Wind - 05-65 - Parkway 
The Strangeloves - I Want Candy - 08-65 - Bang 
The Supremes - Back In My Arms Again - 05-65 - Motown 
The Supremes - I Hear A Symphony - 11-65 - Motown 
The Supremes - Nothing But Heartaches - 09-65 - Motown 
The Supremes - Stop! In The Name Of  Love - 03-65 - Motown 
The Temptations - My Girl - 02-65 - Gordy 
Joe Tex - Hold What You've Got - 01-65 - Dial 
The Toys - A Lovers Concerto - 10-65 - Dynovoice 
The Turtles - It Ain't Me Babe - 09-65 - White Whale 
The Vogues - You're The One - 10-65 - Co & Ce 
Jr. Walker & The All Stars - Shotgun - 03-65 - Soul 
We Five - You Were On My Mind - 09-65 - A&M 
Ian Whitcomb - You Turn Me On - 07-65 - Tower 
Wonder Who? - Don't Think Twice - 12-65 - Philips 
Glenn Yarbrough - Baby The Rain Must Fall - 05-65 - RCA 
The Yardbirds - For Your Love - 06-65 - Epic 
The Yardbirds - Heart Full Of Soul - 09-65 - Epic 
The Zombies - Tell Her No - 02-65 - Parrot

Look at all these names!  The Beatles, The Stones, James Brown, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, The Temps, Barry motherfucking McGuire, The Zombies, The Turtles, Sir Douglas Quintet, Dean Martin, Roger Miller, Sonny & Cher!!!!  All mixed up together.  Patty Duke next to Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs!  The Yardbirds & Patty Page!  Herman's Hermits have more hits than the Beatles, more than Elvis.  The crummy and the great all tossed together!  And all of us chuckleheads walking around humming those tunes, strolling down the beach with all that music in our heads, all that wild world.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Boy Scouts of America

Well, I'm going to break my cardinal rule.  I'm going back a bit in time so I can talk about something I forgot.  I talked a bit about this in an earlier post but realized that I had much more to say.  I forgot that in the fall of 1964 I joined the Boy Scouts.  I'd been a Cub Scout and a Webelo (how's that for a weird name) and it was my goal to become a Boy Scout.  So I joined Troop 50.  I was happy as a clam.  We met every Thursday (I think) in the Methodist Church.  There'd be a reading of the minutes, some discussion of various upcoming events, talk about camping trips, a bit of Scout lore and then we'd play various physical games.  Chief among them was British Bulldog.  I have no memory of what this game consisted of; only that it involved mashing into each other very hard.  There must have been rules but who knows.
Our Scout Leader was (and I could be wrong here) Ralph Leeds father and the senior leaders were guys like Kingsley Lentz.  What a great name.  Kingsley.  It was all about the outdoors.  I couldn't wait to go on my first camping trip.  I was excited and happy.
I forgot one minor thing.  I wet the bed.  So we decamped to Elk Neck, Maryland and on the first night I wet my sleeping bag.  You can imagine this might have been a tad embarrassing.  It was.  In fact it was humiliating and then I got to do it again the next night.
I'd wet the bed for my whole life up until then.  My parents took me to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia looking for help, we tried various homemade cures and strategies but nothing worked.  Like clockwork each evening I pissed in my pants.  This was only pleasurable for about two minutes.  Then it was cold and wet.
My bed had plastic sheets.  I couldn't sleep over at other friend's houses. I told no one about my problem.  It was my little secret.
Then my little secret was hanging on a rope in the middle of our camp site.  My soaked sleeping bag.  
I quit the Boy Scouts after that.  I did rejoin several years later but we'll get to that.  Later in the year or perhaps it was Fall of 8th grade my parents found my cure.  It was a rubber mat that they put under the sheets.  When liquids hit the mat it set off a loud, loud alarm.  I would wake up.  Pretty soon I would wake up before the alarm went off.  I was Pavlov's dog.  It worked.  Within a week or two I stopped wetting the bed.  But I've never forgotten the alarm.  I can't stand a bell that rings for more than a moment or two.  I pick up calls before everyone at every job I've ever had.  I've never forgotten my sleeping bag.  Isn't it odd how secrets come back to haunt you?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ocean City 1965

I'm bored with 7th grade.  Okay, I barely remember 7th grade, it being a long time ago and me being old and forgetful.  So let's cut to the summer of 1965.  A great year no matter how you cut it.  
My family went on vacation this year to Ocean City where we took up residence in two buildings along with several other families from Wenonah and my dad's brother and his family.  It was kid heaven.  Our apartments were right on the beach and we were there for two weeks.  A few times we even got out of school before the year was over to go.
The apartments were all the way at the end of OC.  I think between 56th & 57th streets but I'm sure I'm wrong and someone will tell me in a day or so.  They were simple buildings built in the late fifties.  Living room, sort of dining room, bedrooms, bath, shower outside.  We spent maybe 8 hours a day inside unless it rained.  Besides my family we stayed with our parents friends.  The Lakes, the Shepards, the Pistilli's, the Nugent's and others who came and went but these were the standby's.  This meant we had tons of friends.  Charlie Lake, Debbie Lake, Jack and Joe Shepard, Bruce Nugent, Dave Pistilli.  It also meant we had our own little world on the beach.
On the Saturday we were to leave it would invariably be foggy or rainy and we'd be whining about not being able to have fun and my Dad said, always, don't worry it will burn off.  And it always did.  We drove to OC the back way through Glassboro and Buena, past the Mexican movies in Buena, past the old lost taverns along the way until we arrived at the 34th street bridge and in just twenty odd blocks were at our shore place.
We'd unpack like demons, throw on our trunks, grab our towels and race to the beach and the water and OH MY FUCKING GOD THE WATER IS FREEZING!.  And it was.  This is the 2nd week of June and the water temperature on the Jersey shore is typically 52-56 degrees.  This is bone chilling cold.  Your little balls would get sucked up deep inside you, your ankles would ache a terrible terrible ache but you had to go in, you had to go in.
Our parents would arrive moments later and spread the chairs and blankets around like some rude compound.  Maybe an umbrella, maybe not.  We'd run in and out of the water, hike to the point south of 59th street, explore the gullies and the rocks and our fathers would scope out babes while our mothers...actually I don't know what they were doing.  Probably scoping out young men but this is 1965 so maybe not.
We were there for two weeks.  We played box ball, which is some weird combo of handball and baseball, in which Mr. Lake would usually crush my foot and break my little toe.  We'd play handball.  We'd play frisbee.  We'd body surf.  We'd go to the boardwalk!  The boardwalk! The boardwalk!  The Pavilion! Salt water taffy!  Mack and Manco's pizza!  The cool hobby store that sold Airfix little men!  The Taylor Ham Pork roll store with Pennsylvania Dutch Root Beer!  And of course, of course, Gillian's Wonderland!
The ferris wheel, the merry go round, the rides, the cotton candy, the sheer pleasure in pissing away all the money you had from shoveling snow or raking leaves or from your lazy uncles and aunts at Christmas!  It was the greatest place in the world in 1965 for a mess of chowderheads from South Jersey.  We body surfed, we played, we ogled Penny Pistilli and my Aunt Simone's bikini.  We cursed in a stupid 7th grade way.  We wore clam diggers and stupid hats right out of Beach Blanket Bingo.  
We were in heaven.