Monday, February 24, 2020

At The Adventure Car Hop, Circa 1957-60th Anniversary Edition

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Eddie Cochran performing Sittin’In The Balcony.

CD Review

The Rock and Roll Era: 1957, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1988

Jimmy LaCroix’s older brother, Evie, usually didn’t speak two words to Jimmy, or let him speak two words to him. (Jacques and Evian, by the way, to mother, mother Daphne, and all still up around Quebec City French-Canadian relatives but Jimmy and Evie, strictly Jimmy and Evie, among themselves and their respective Olde Saco corner boy crowd in that odd generation-skipping rush to become Americanized, to be like the bloody English and Irish, and shed that blasted patois thing, that down from hunger thing, that damn Gallic saint this and saint that thing and bless yourself before every meal, at night, in front of every passed church thing, and vanilla melt in with souped-up hot rods, Luckies cigarettes rolled up a white tee-shirt sleeve, and a Coke bottle beside you at all times in order, hell, in order to “pass” with the Down East lobster fisherman’s daughter and that Irish mick’s colleen daughter, the one with that flaming red hair, prayer book in one hand and her other hand, well, let’s leave it at that since Irish colleens, or for that matter wistful mermaid yankee girls, do not figure in Jimmy, or Evie’s, life just now.) Evie LaCroix fully subscribed to the prerogatives of being an older teenage brother, an older American teenage brother, moreover one with both a license to drive (although he had been seen on back roads, the dirt roads and gravel pit ruts that passed for roads, around Gorham Road, out in farm country driving full-throttle when he was barely fourteen san license) and an automobile, or rather the automobile, a late model flash red (make that very cherry red) ’57 Chevy.

That hard fact car was nothing but a girl magnet (hell, Evie had picked up a few real women looking for kicks and ready to do what was necessary in the sex department to get to that front seat on more than one frosty Friday night when her walking daddy was away and, according to rumor, even a very married woman, a Mayfair swell woman with kids from over in swanky Ocean City who got her kicks for a while, very hush, hush and out town up in Portland nestled up against his shoulder) added fuel to the flame of the “no talk” rule between the brothers.

See teenage guys in the Acre (the French-Canadian section over on Atlantic Avenue) had too much to do to keep those fast cars up in order to keep that girl magnet headed their way to talk to inconsequential brothers. Every day after school (and some weekends too) Evie LaCroix could be seen at the Adventure Car-Hop doing solemn duty as a short order cook serving greasy burgers and oil-drenched fries to the multitudes.

And every once in a while pulling his head up from the splattering stovetop to eye his girl of the moment, Lorraine Champlain, the ace carhop of the place, and one fox that every guy in town, every guy maybe from young guys like Evie to old, maybe thirty year old guys, wanted to get next to. Just in case you don’t remember or don’t have Wikipedia handy a car hop was, well, a young, good-looking woman who came (in some places via roller skates) to the side of your car, took your order, and eventually brought you your burger with whatever on it, fries and soft drink on a tray. Nice touch in car conscious 1950s America, even in sleepy old dying mill town Olde Saco, Maine. Lorraine, all blond hair (real, by the way, Evie said so real), small breasts like all F-C girls, long forever legs and some perfume thing that made you do a double-take when she took your order (if Evie did not have his head up, otherwise pass, wisely pass, please). And while many guys ogled Lorraine (and left big tips as tribute) she was true blue to her Evian (not Evie, not to her, or anything like that by the way and no mother’s boy talk about him letting her use that forbidden name, not if you didn't want to mix knuckles with corner boy tough Evie, no leave that noise at home, or better stand in some sullen corner at home if that is your line). So you can see that Evian certainly would have had o time, no time at all for bon Jimmie.

Except Jimmy, all twelve years of him, had to, just had to break his armed truce with Evie and speak two, maybe more words. Jimmy was smitten (local Olde Saco corner boy, junior division, word for love, puppy love learned, or half-learned, from a poem picked up in Miss Genet’s class and immediately adopted in junior division corner boy society) with one Mimi Dubois, Lorraine’s cousin, and someone who might one day challenge Lorraine as the ace car hop in town. But that future prospect was not what was bothering Jimmy that day, the day he got up enough nerve to ask Evian the big question.

He had asked Mimi to go to the movie theater, the Bijou where they had sci-fi stuff and monster movies not the Majestic where they only had old time film noir fare with guys getting themselves blasted up for dames and getting nothing for their efforts, except an off-hand slug in the chest or something, with him on Saturday afternoon to watch the double feature and he needed a please, please favor because the theater was too far from her house to walk and her parents would not let her go without a ride. (They in time-honored tradition did not make the social faux pas of suggesting that they take the pair to the theater, jesus, no, they had been told in no uncertain terms to not even mention that possibility.) Also Jimmy’s parents were out for the very good reason (although not as good as the “in no uncertain terms” one) that Mr. LaCroix had been out of work as the dying textile mills where he had worked most of his life had laid him off and he didn’t have an automobile at the moment.

So Jimmy spoke, spoke to Evie on the fly after school one afternoon as Evian was preparing to enter his chariot very cherry red Chevy to head to Adventure Car Hop about driving him to the theater. And here is how young Jimmie laid out his case to his older brother. One day at Doc’s (the local Acre drugstore where the junior high school kids hung out because, one, it was right across from the school, and two, Doc’s had a soda fountain and super jukebox that played all the latest teen hits)Jimmie had cornered Mimi. It was there that Jimmy approached his sweet Mimi to ask about going to the movies. And Eddie Cochran saved him. No, not Eddie in person, but his latest hit, Sittin’In The Balcony.

Jimmie kind of came at Mimi sideways, like twelve year old goofy guys will, and asked Mimi off-handedly a hypothetical question concerning her choice for movie seating options. Down in the orchestra which meant a silly date, like old people did, watching the movies, and maybe eating popcorn or up in the balcony where in Olde Saco tradition (and maybe every other civilized place as well) the young, very young sans automobile, sans money, sans any idea of what was going on went to “make out” and not watch some silly old double feature (although they might come up for air for popcorn occasionally).

Mimi answered like this, and thus caused Jimmy his boldness in asking his brother for help. “If you are asking me just to ask me a silly question while Eddie Cochran’s Sittin’ In The Balcony is playing then I’d answer orchestra but if you are really asking me to go to the movies with you then it’s the balcony. Evian laughed, laughed out loud at that and then grabbed Jimmy by the shoulder and said “Sure kid, I was young once too.”