Friday, May 14, 2021

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- “The Next Girl Who Throws Sand In My Face Is…” –With Johnny Silver’s Sad Be-Bop 1960s Beach Blanket Saga In Mind.

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- “The Next Girl Who Throws Sand In My Face Is…” –With Johnny Silver’s Sad Be-Bop 1960s Beach Blanket Saga In Mind.

YouTube film clip of the Falcons performing You're So Fine.

Introduction by Allan Jackson

[I could not tell you thing one about the 1960s dating rituals on in the farmlands although I think from what Laura Perkins who actually grew up on hard rock truck farm in upstate New York it had a lot to do with going to school basketball games, checking out the Dairy Queen and maybe, just maybe, “necking” down in some back road Farmer Brown place. I could not tell you thing one about what the 1960s dating rituals were among the leafy suburban youth but from what ex-wife number one, Josie Davis, told me it had plenty to do with driving cars, driving to nice restaurants, checking out the woods around Walden Pond and the like and maybe, just maybe, “necking” down behind the boathouse at said pond. I could not tell you thing one about the 1960s dating rituals of the small town mountain teens  of Vermont or Colorado although I think what I have learned from Janis Jamison, Sam Lowell’s wife number two they mostly hiked and biked and drank large quantities of beer and maybe, just maybe, “necking” up on Sugar Mountain. As for the dating rituals of the 1960s Mayfair swell progeny I am clueless about that as I am about every aspect of their existences except they probably had plenty of discretionary funds to pave their ways and maybe, just maybe, “necking” if that was something they even knew about (although Josh Breslin’s second wife, Amy Drinkwater, yes of that Drinkwater tribe who owned all the factories in Ohio before they went under told Josh who told me that the sexual activity among the Mayfair swell young, replicating that of their parents was like that of rabbits.) 

What I do know about and provided the genesis of this story about beautiful Johnny Silver when he was a squirt and later when he was Handsome Johnny and Scribe spent half his time fending off girls who wanted to meet Johnny or know what he was up to meaning did he already have a girlfriend was the 1960s dating rituals of those who grew up near our mother the ocean. I knew exactly what “watching submarine races” meant, knew why cars parked along the boulevard were fogged to perdition come late Friday or Saturday night, knew who were nerds and had to fund shelter against the night behind the seawall and who got to square off with some honey down at the Squaw Rock end of the beach. Knew lots of little tricks about how to get girls to talk to you when we were hanging out even if all of this information never got translated into any dates, at least with hometown girls during high school. Knew too what Josh and a few of the other guys meant when they said “don’t bury me in Kansas.” Yeah strewn ashes on the sea is our fate and rightly so. Allan Jackson]


No question that Jimmy Callahan and his corner boy comrades, including Sam Lowell, of the old Frankie Riley-led Salducci’s Pizza Parlor hang-out “up the Downs” (no further explanation is necessary for any old corner boy who knew pizza parlors were exceptionally good places to hang your knee against a wall waiting, well just waiting for whatever might come up for any others it was nearly impossible to be a corner boy if you did not have a corner and that should be enough on this matter) from the day high school got out for the summer in the early 1960s drew a bee-line straight to the old-time Adamsville Beach of blessed memory. One day recently Jimmy had been thinking back to those times, back a half century at least, as he walked along the beach at Big Sur and had been telling his girlfriend, Miranda, that his love affair with the sea started almost from the day he was born near that beach, a beach that still held his sway although he had seen, and was seeing right there with her better beaches since then. (As far as that girlfriend designation goes with Miranda Jimmy always wondered what the heck do you call somebody whom you are not married to but are intimate with who is along with you pushing the wrong side of sixty, so Jimmy’s simple girlfriend it is until somebody comes up with something better that “significant other,” what the hell does that mean, “consort,” like he/they were royalty or something or “partner,” like you were ready for incorporation rather than romance.)

The old Adamsville beach with its marshlands anchoring each end, its stone-laden sands uncomfortable to sit on, its rendezvous teen meet-up yacht clubs, its well-sat upon seawalls, and its thousand and one night stories of late night trysts in fugitive automobiles and while on skimpy beach blankets, its smoldering fried clams at the Clam Shack fit for a king or queen, its Howard Johnson’s many-flavored ice creams still held memories wherever he was in later life.

Although from what Red Rowley, an old corner boy comrade, had told Jimmy a while back when they had touched base for a minute in Sweeney’s Funeral Parlor over in landlocked Clintondale a couple of towns away after the death of a Jimmy family member the old beach had seen serious erosion, serious stinks and serious decay of the already in their day ancient seawalls and no longer held the fancy of the young who back in the day wanted to go parking there at night to “watch the submarine races.” (For the clueless that is an old local custom gag because looking for midnight submarines off shore was not what was going on in the back seat of some Wally’s car.) Also the beach no longer served as a coming of age spot for winter-weary guys watching winter-weary well-tanned girls in skimpy bikinis between the yacht clubs hot spot for such activity. In fact Red said that last time he checked on a hot July summer’s day at high noon nobody, young or old, was in that sacred spot.   
Red Rowley who was the youngest boy in the Rowley household and who had been afraid of girls, not closet gay or gay afraid, but just afraid of girls and their ways had like a lot of Irish guys who took their stern religious upbringing too seriously never married and had stayed in town the whole time, stayed in the same house, and once his mother’s health declined after his father died never thought to leave. So Red could, as an old fixture like the street lights, see what changes had occurred around town. And he would ask young people, some of who were interested in talking to him, what they were up to, what they knew about the old time customs of the high school and of the town.

Hell, Red said, the young guys in the neighborhood didn’t know what he was talking about when he mentioned “watching the submarine races,” that old code word for getting in the back seat of an automobile (or if car-less and desperate on a skimpy beach blanket against that stony sand) with a girl and seeing what was what, coming up for air to check for any midnight submarine sightings. One guy even asked how one could see a submarine at night if one was in the neighborhood of the beach. Jesus. Also they, and here Red meant both sexes, had no idea on this good green earth that those now old tumble-down yacht clubs in dire need of serious paint jobs after the slamming of the seas and the furious winds had done their work had been the site of many a daytime planning for the night heat sessions. Were clueless that guys would ogle girls there, thought it kind of, what did one of them, one of the girls, call it, yeah, sexist. Jesus doubled.   

Red, by the way, was one of those ancient Irish Catholic corner boys who had stayed in town to help mother in order to have clean socks and regular six o’clock suppers without the bother of matrimony but also like Jimmy, hell, like Sam Lowell and every guy who breathed their first breaths off an off-hand sea breeze, also stayed to be near the ocean too. But Red had mainly watched the town change from an old way station for the Irish and Italians to the South Shore upward mobile digs further south to a “stay put” moving from the big city immigrant community which he was not particularly happy about since he could not speak any of the new languages (frankly in high school he had serious trouble with the English language) or understand the cultural differences when they, the collective mix of immigrants none from European homelands, did not bend at the knees in homage on Saint Patrick’s Day. But Red’s trouble with the new world of America (not really so new since these shores since the sixteen hundreds had seen wave after wave of immigrants just back then they had been from Europe, or had been Africa branded), or the real condition of Adamsville Beach was not what had exercised Jimmy on that trip to Big Sur with Miranda but about the old beach days, the now fantastic beach days.

Jimmy had chuckled to himself when he told Miranda- “Did we go to said beach to be “one” with our homeland, the sea? You know to connect with old King Neptune, our father, the father that we did not know, who would work his mysterious furies in good times and bad. Or to connect as one with denizens of the deep, fishes, whales, plankton, stuff like that. No.” Then he went down the litany of other possible motives just as a little good-humored exercise. “Did we go to admire the boats and other things floating by? The fleet of small sailboats that dotted the horizon in the seemingly never-ending tacking to the wind or the fewer big boats, big ocean-worthy boats that took their passenger far out to sea, maybe to search for whales or other sea creatures? No.” “Did we go to get a little breeze across our sun-burned and battered bodies on a hot and sultry August summer day?” Jimmy, a blushed red lobster in short sunlight who was sensitive about that red skin business declared a loud “No,” although Red, Frankie, Peter, and Josh, his other comrade corner boys less sensitive to the sun would have answered, well, maybe a little.

Jimmy said that he soon tired of those non-reasons, this little badger game, and got to the heart of the matter, laughed to himself as he thought and then mentioned to Miranda-“Come on now we are talking about sixteen, maybe seventeen, year old guys. They, every self-respecting corner boy who could put towel and trunks together, which meant everybody except Johnny Kelly who had to work during the day in the summer to help support his mother and fatherless younger brothers and sisters , were there, of course, because there were shapely teeny-weeny bikini-clad girls [young women, okay, let’s not get technical about that pre-woman’s liberation time] sunning themselves like peacocks for all the world, all the male teenage North Adamsville world, the only world that mattered to guys and gals alike, to see. Had been sunning themselves in such a manner since bikinis and less replaced those old-time bathing suits that were slightly less cumbersome that the street clothes you saw in your old grandmother’s scrapbook. And guys had been hormonally-charged looking at them that long as well.”

“Here is the catch thought,” Jimmy continued. “They, and they could be anywhere from about junior high to the first couple of years in college although they tended to separate themselves out by age bracket were sunning themselves and otherwise looking very desirable and, well, fetching, in not just any old spot wherever they could place a blanket but strictly, as tradition dictated, tradition seemingly going back before memory, between the North Adamsville and Adamsville Yacht Clubs. So, naturally, every testosterone-driven teenage lad who owned a bathing suit, and some who didn’t, were hanging off the floating dock right in front of said yacht clubs showing off, well, showing off their prowess to the flower of North Adamsville maidenhood.” And said show-offs included, Jimmy, of course, Frankie Riley (when he was not working early mornings at the old A&P Supermarket and did not show until later in the afternoon), his faithful scribe, Pete Markin (who seemingly wrote down for posterity every word Frankie uttered and some that he did not, and others including the, then anyway, “runt of the litter,” Johnny Silver. And Sam Lowell too.

It is Johnny’s sad beach blanket bingo tale that Jimmy had suddenly thought about when he had driven pass the old beach one day to confirm Red’s recent beach judgment mentioned at the funeral parlor and wanted to relate to Miranda as the over the top waves pummeled the scarred rock faces in the secluded reaches of Big Sur to give her an idea of what the sea meant to a lot of guys he knew. If, in the Jimmy telling, it all sounds kind of familiar, too familiar even to old time non-corner boys, to those who do not live near the oceans of the world, to the younger set who may have a different view of life than what carried the day back then, it is because, with the exception of the musical selections, it is. This is how it all started though:

“The next girl who throws sand in my face is going get it,” yelled Johnny Silver to no one in particular as he came back to the Salducci’s Pizza Parlor corner boy summer beach front acreage just in front of the seawall facing, squarely facing, the midpoint between the North Adamsville and Adamsville Yacht Clubs. “For the clueless,” and Jimmy assumed Miranda was in that vast company so he took pains to spell it out, “the corner boy world in North Adamsville, hell, maybe every corner boy world everywhere meant that you had certain “turf” issues in your life not all of them settled with fists, although an issue like some alien corner boy looking the wrong way at one of the Salducci girls could only be resolved that way.” But mostly it was a matter of traditions, traditional spots which the “unwritten law” held for certain groups and the spot between the boat clubs was theirs, and had been the “property” of successive generations of Salducci’s Pizza Parlor corner boys since at least the end of World War II when Frankie Riley’s father and his corner boys, some very tough boys transplanted from South Boston to work in the shipyards and some restless guys who had like Frankie’s father served in the war but were not ready to settle down “claimed” the spot.”       

Johnny, after having his say, fumed at no one in particular as the sounds of Elvis Presley’s Loving You came over Frankie Riley’s transistor radio and had wafted down to the sea, almost like a siren call to teenage love. Then one of those “no one in particulars,” Pete Markin replied, “What did you expect, Johnny? That Katy Larkin is too tall, too pretty and just flat-out too foxy for a runt like you. I am surprised you are still in one piece. And I would mention, as well, that her brother, ‘Jimmy Jukes,’ does not like guys, especially runt guys with no muscles bothering his sister.” Johnny came back quickly with the usual, “Hey, I am not that small and I am growing, growing fast so Jimmy Jukes can eat my… ” But Johnny halted just in time as one Jimmy Jukes, James Allen Larkin, halfback hero of many a North Adamsville fall football game running opponent defensive players raggedy in his wake, came perilously close to Johnny and then veered off like Johnny was nothing, nada, nunca, nothing. And after Jimmy Jukes was safely out of sight, and Frankie flipped the volume dial on his radio louder as the Falcons’ You’re So Fine came on heralding Frankie’s attempt by osmosis to lure a certain Betty Ann McCarthy, another standard brand fox in the teenage girl be-bop night, his way Johnny poured out the details of his sad saga.

Seems that Katy Larkin was in one of Johnny’s classes, biology he said, and one day, one late spring day Katy, out of the blue, asked him what he thought about Buddy Holly who had passed away in crash several years before, well before he reached his potential as the new king of the be-bop rock night. Johnny answered that Buddy was “boss,” especially his Everyday, and that got them talking, but only talking, almost every day until the end of school. Of course, Johnny, runt Johnny, didn’t have the nerve, not nearly enough nerve to ask a serious fox like Katy out, big brother or not, before school let out for the summer. Not until that very day when he got up the nerve to go over to her blanket, a blanket that also had Sara Bigelow and Tammy Kelly on board, and as a starter asked Katy if she liked Elvis’ That’s When The Heartache Begins.

Katy answered quickly and rather curtly (although Johnny did not pick up on that signal) that it was “dreamy the way Elvis sang it, but sad when you think about all the trouble guys bring when they mess with another boy’s girl.” Then Johnny’s big moment came and he blurted out, “Do you want to go to the Surf Dance Hall with me Saturday night? Crazy Lazy is the DJ and the Rockin’ Ramrods are playing?” And as the reader knows, or should be presumed to know, Johnny’s answer was a face full of sand. And that sad, sad beach saga is the end of another teen angst moment. So to the strains coming from Tammy’s radio of Robert and Johnny’s We Belong Together we will move along.

Well, not quite. It also seems that Katy Larkin, tall (too tall for Johnny, really), shapely (no question of “really” about that), and don’t forget foxy Katy Larkin had had a “crush” since they had first started talking in class on one John Raymond Silver if you can believe that. She was miffed, apparently more than somewhat, that Johnny had not asked her out before school got out for the summer. That “more than somewhat” entailed throwing sand in Johnny’s face when he did get up the nerve to ask. And nothing else happened between them for the rest of the summer, except Johnny always seemed kind of miserable when he leaned up against the wall in front of Salducci’s to confer with his corner boys about life being kind of crazy. But get this- on the first day of school, while Johnny was turning his radio off and putting it in his locker just before school started, after having just listened to the Platters One In a Million for the umpteenth time, Katy Larkin “cornered” (Johnny’s term) 

Johnny and said in a clear, if excited voice, “I’m sorry about that day at the beach last summer.” And then in the teenage girl imperative, hell maybe all women imperative, “You are taking me to the Fall All-Class Mixer and I will not take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Well, what is a guy to do when that teenage girl imperative, hell, maybe all women imperative voice commands. After that Johnny started to re-evaluate his attitude toward beach sand and thought maybe, after all, it was just a girl being playful. In any case, Johnny had grown quite a bit that summer and it turned out that Katy Larkin was not too tall, not too tall at all, for Johnny Silver to take to the mixer, or anywhere else she decided she wanted to go. “

Here is what Jimmy told Miranda that Big Sur day to put a philosophical twist on the whole episode fifty years later.  After stopping his car toward the middle of Adamsville Beach, the place between the two yacht clubs where he and the Salducci corner boys hung out, the two clubs whose appearance that day spoke to a need of paint and other fixing up, the place that had stirred his memoires that day Jimmy Callahan thought Red had it all wrong, all wrong indeed, it had nothing to do with the condition of the clubs, the beach, the sand, the waves or the boats. Mr. John Raymond Silver and Ms. Katy Silver (nee Larkin), now of Naples, Florida, are proof of that statement.    

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