Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beatles, Birthdays, Record Players

By Pete Frecchio, Groovy Reflections Team Member

It was July 1968 and I was counting down the days until my eighth birthday. Among the things I was hoping to get were accessories for my G.I. Joe and Johnny West action figure collections, a new baseball bat and glove and my very own record player. 

I was just starting to get into rock and roll music and was tired of sharing a record player with my big sister.  To her credit though she was kind enough to share her records with me. 

My record collection was pretty thin; it consisted mostly of kid’s songs and novelty records. I figured I would work on getting a record player first, and then focus on get my rock and roll music collection going.

When the big day came, July 23, I was not disappointed. My mom threw a party for me and several of my good friends came over to share cake, ice cream and games. I do remember we played a few games of pin the tail on the donkey!  

Sure enough, when it came time to open the presents, I found I had a new General Electric Walt Disney record player, turquoise with white stripes and a big picture of Mickey Mouse on the inside of the cover. After my friends left the party I plugged it in and went in search of some 45’s to play.  To my surprise, my sister handed me a stack of her 45’s and said I could keep them. The creation of what is now a rather large record collection had begun.

Two of the 45’s she gave me come to mind, both by the Beatles: Please Please Me and From Me to You. I think that one of the reasons I remember those 45’s was the groovy record label they were on. Although most Beatle records would be released on Capitol Records, these early recordings were released on the small Chicago based label known as V-J Records. The labels were black with silver lettering and had a rainbow around the edge of the label similar to what Capitol Records was using on their albums at the time.

While I thought the labels were cool, the music simply blew me away. I heard my sister play the Beatles many times before and also heard the Beatles played often on Phoenix, Arizona radio stations KRIZ and KRUZ but this was different; they were now playing on MY very own record player! I was hooked!  

I had to have more Beatles records; I had to have ALL kinds of rock and roll records! In years to come, allowance money, birthday money, paper route money and part-time job money went towards feeding my Beatles habit.  I had a “Ringo” on my back and I didn’t care.

Well, that small collection of records I received from my sister grew into well over a thousand albums and 45’s. In addition to that, my home is filled with all kinds of rock and roll memorabilia with the focus being on the Fab Four.

After all these years, I still look back on my eighth birthday and think YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! What a great day that was!!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

The Party.

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

I was just barely out of my teens and had a whole house to myself. Living alone in the early 1900’s home I grew up in - neato! 

When I was really young the house had a 1940’s kitchen with metal cabinets. In the late sixties, a new kitchen went in with a micro-ray oven, a Formica table top and a curious curved bench seat in the corner. I later learned that the formica covered seating with an "M" inscribed on it had previously belonged to a diner. 

The house also received a fresh treatment in the living room with a generous amount of wall paneling and orange carpeting. Wall paneling was already sprinkled liberally in the bedrooms, so why not have even more? 
Not THE house but one from that period.

This was the house my dad had pretty much abandoned because he had moved about eight hundred miles away. Twice a year he’d visit with a small trailer (that he built himself) for hauling away more furniture. The place was looking pretty sparse each time after my dad set up temporary camp. When he wasn’t around, I shipped off the utility bills to him every month.  


I had a paltry job for a publishing company, and by night, I enjoyed hanging with friends at restaurants and bars or going to the movies. Nothing terribly exciting.

Oh, and going to parties. That was a fun pastime. And heck, it was MY turn to have a party.  All I needed was a keg, right? And my boyfriend would take care of that. Food? Snacks? Eh, fuggedaboutit! But I did have plenty of good tunes to put on the record player. 

Now, I grew up on an acre of property, about half of which was driveway. Probably enough space for ten cars, but no easy way to get out or turn around a vehicle. Plus, my house was on a main street with no room on the sides for stashing a car. The last thing on my mind was where my friends were going to park. Who needs details?

Then the big night arrived. And friends started showing up. They were coming in packs. Friends were bringing their friends.  And the house was getting mighty crowded and loud with conversations swirling, and platters (uh, records) spinning. It was noisy but under control; just a bunch of people having a good time! I was in the kitchen when suddenly someone came in from the side door and bellowed very loudly, “there’s a cop directing traffic outside!”
The church parking lot.


I ran outside to take a peek. There was the friend of one of my brothers, Don*. Don, a cop in town, was standing in the middle of the street with his arms waving around. He was directing the cars to the church parking lot across the street!

And that’s the only thing I remember about the party. I can’t tell you who was there, how much beer was consumed, or when the party finally broke up. 

Thank you Don.
* not his real name.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Days of TV and Bod

By Karen Rouse, Groovy Reflections Guest Blogger

The school day seems like an eternity when you’re seven years old. I remember once getting into trouble with my teacher as we had taken our seats in the classroom for the first lesson of the day. Even at that age, I knew that having just arrived, it would be a very long time before I could go home again. 

I sat, staring down at my Grease T-shirt, trying not to cry. Somehow, that image of Sandra Dee and Danny Zuko hitting the high school dance floor got me through the morning and I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief as I left the school gates and crossed the bridge that took me to the street where I lived.

In much the same way, the lunch hour then felt like a long weekend. My sister and I would climb onto the sofa and sit cross-legged to watch TV. We’d tuck into our favourite (favourite healthy, that is) treat – slices of cucumber (with the skin cut off) and a dollop of salad cream for dipping, accompanied by a cup of dandelion and burdock*, straight from the glass bottles that were delivered to our doorstep every week by the Alpine pop man.

And that’s when the opening credits of Bod would begin and we’d forget all about that long school day for a while as we became lost in his world.

In my mind, there were about a million episodes, all with exciting and intriguing in depth storylines. Bod throws an apple into the air and it doesn’t come down – what genius! All the other characters arrived to find out what was going on (as they always did) - how a child just like us could wow those adults speechless! And who could forget the majestic Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band? A frog that drank a milkshake to reward himself whenever he saved the day - and not just any milkshake but a different flavour milkshake every single time! It was too good to be true!

Many years later, of course, it transpired that actually it wasn’t about a million - only thirteen episodes were ever made and the stories always started the same and ended the same and were all, well, sort of the same.

But back then it didn’t matter – that eon of crazy tale-telling revived us - we could return to school and brave the rest of the day! Off we’d go, back over the bridge, turning to see our mother waving a towel out of the upstairs bedroom window to wish us bon voyage. And the rest of the day wouldn’t seem quite so long and even sometimes when it did, you knew that there would be a whole marathon of just as thrilling television adventures to go home to at the end of it!

 * Soft drink available today, traditionally (in the 1200's) it was made from fermented dandelion and burdock roots.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

To the Farm and Back Again!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

It was a hot August and I was in my off campus apartment awaiting start of college classes. I’d returned to school early because of being on a couple of athletic teams that started practices prior to the start of school. Okay, mostly to get out of the house where my parents didn't seem to understand that I wasn't a kid anymore; that I was a man with a whole year of college experience under my belt, that whole “while you’re living under my roof” thing, just didn't cut it!

Since my two roommates hadn’t arrived back to school in western Massachusetts yet I had the place to myself. I could play my guitar without them complaining after the 200th time I played “Sounds of Silence”! I was into the whole folk rock scene, a natural progression from my days as a folkie!

That’s exactly what I was doing, sitting on my bookshelf, strumming my guitar and sipping from an illegally obtained bottle of vodka, when a friend from the cross country team named Phil, suddenly burst into the apartment!  “Quick!” he said; “They’re having a big rock concert over in New York and they’re letting people in for free!”

Now one would assume that I jumped at that, but I didn’t know that history was being made! I wasn’t into the heavier rock from people like Hendrix and Iron Butterfly. I DO have a much greater appreciation now than I did then. So I said “No thanks”.

Phil looked at me like I had two heads! “Don’t you understand?” he pleaded. “It’s gonna be great! They have all these acts lined up, it’s a three day event; it’s gonna be awesome! “No thanks” I said, wishing he’d leave so I could play Sounds of Silence for the 300th time! “The drinking age in New York is 18”, Phil said in desperation. “Well now you’re talking! Let’s go”! And with that I was out the door and into a van with six other guys I barely knew!

When we crossed into NY we stopped and got beer, I remember thinking, this stuff’s gonna be heavy to carry, so I started trying to lighten the load. When we got there, we pretty much all just separated, and I started wandering around. A group of people included a blonde with long straight hair (okay that just described every blonde there), and she said “hey man, want to join us”? She didn’t have to ask me twice!

I sat down and shared my beer and they shared their food and a funny looking cigarette, which since I didn’t smoke, I politely declined, at least the first time, and to this day I’m not sure if I partook later or not, but shortly after that things are a blur, but I do have some specific memories.

Of the groups I heard, the one I remember most was Sha Na Na! Not sure why they stand out. I remember doing the Fish Cheer when they did that, of course there was a half a million people doing it at the same time; so not even sure if they were on stage or not. I remember bits and pieces of other performers like Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, Sly and his Family, CCR and of course I tried to get closer when someone said Arlo and Tim Hardin were on stage, (folkie, remember?).

There was something in the air, besides the blue haze: All around me was basic chaos yet it was somehow peaceful. I don’t remember sleeping, I do remember the rain and the mud, but most of all I remember the sharing, and the feeling of belonging like I’d never felt before. The music was like back ground music. It’s why we were there. We listened and we cared.  It was something I had never experienced before and probably never will again.

I don’t recall the trip back to school or how I even found my friends again. There have been many attempts to recreate that weekend, but it’ll never happen, there was something magical and in the words of Joni Mitchell, I am grateful, that for a little while, I made it “Back to the Garden”.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Model Lunchtime

By Guy Sharwood, Groovy Reflections Team Member

I always looked forward to lunch when I was in grade school. Mainly because we had the good fortune of living around the corner from the school, about a five-minute walk. So although on occasion I ate cold lunches at school, more often than not I'd go home.

My folks were both working by the time I'd gotten into the fifth grade. But since life was so much safer in the mid '60s, we couldn't properly be called "latchkey kids." Keys weren't even necessary. We could keep our doors unlocked even when nobody was around. Usually neighbors were out and about anyway, but there was never any worry about people breaking in. 

We lived right on the corner and our rented house had no backyard fence. So people were always using our backyard as a short cut. It just came with the territory. It was just like another sidewalk to most of our neighbors. It was also great for baseball games because with no fence we could have the games in our yard and position our outfielders right across the street. Traffic was comparatively light back then, too.

But what I liked about lunch time, as I say, was that I could go home and had the better part of an hour to do whatever I liked. Typically Mom would have a can of Dennison's Chili Con Carne sitting out on the drain board, and I could open it and heat it up in a saucepan. While I was doing that I'd work on one of my homemade comic books or read the latest issue of Boy's Life magazine and work on one of my models.

In those days, models and accessories were available at pretty much any drug store of pharmacy, although Fresno did also have several hobby shops. My passion was monsters, like the kind Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was so famous for. Although Rat Fink was his most popular, that was the only one I didn't buy mainly because he didn't have a cool car like Mr. Gasser and his other contemporaries (but a tiny replica of RF came with the Drag Nut set).

They didn't cost a lot, either. Most of the time I'd invest my lawn mowing money, a buck a week, in one. Paints were reasonable and there was a wide choice of colors, both sprays and the type in the little bottles that required those little thin brushes. For just 15 cents we could buy a tube of Testor's Glue. The clerks at the stores knew we got those tubes for our models, not for anything else. And notes from our parents weren't required.

Spring weather was perfect for this. I'd get home from school during lunch, eat my chili and spread newspapers over the picnic table we used so regularly this time of year for many purposes. I'd have whatever model I was working on, my paints and glue, plus the instructions that always came with the kits and spend the balance of my lunch hour working away while listening to rock and roll on my little transistor radio. And I'd allow myself enough time to get back to school for the afternoon. By the age of 11, I had a lot of autonomy, as long as I did whatever my folks asked.

There’s lots of rationale as far as why I'm grateful I was still a kid at this particular time. As safe and quiet as things were in those days, this was one of the reasons.

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