This is just a trip down memory lane.
In 1970, when all the world was young, my world was forever changed by a transistor radio. All Summer long, WABC out of New York cranked out hits all day like:
Band of Gold
Let it Be
In the Summertime
Lay Down Lay Down(Candles in the Rain)
Ride, Captain, Ride
War(What is it good for?)
Close to You
Mama Told Me Not to Come
Ball of Confusion
Everything is Beautiful
Spill the Wine
The Long and Winding Road
I remember these songs so clearly, because we built an addition on our house that Summer, and the radio was on all day. I had never listened to music, except when my Mom and Dad played their Eddie Arnold, Dean Martin, or Glen Campbell albums on our mid-century cool, hi-fi stereo.
We were living at 19 Aspinwall Road, in a 3 bedroom ranch with a basement that was built in the 1950s.
That Summer, my Uncle Max drove from Kansas to do all the carpentry on our addition. He brought my Aunt Helen, and their 15 year old daughter, Teresa. My Uncle Paul, Aunt Vicky, and their 8 year old son, and 5 year old daughter, also moved into our 3 bedroom house, which was down to one bathroom. A temporary kitchen was set up, down into our windowless basement.
Let’s do the math here:
3 married couples, 1 teenage girl, and 5 kids under the age of 11 living in a 3 bedroom, 1 bath house, about half of which is a construction site. The 3 men didn’t leave for work, no sir, they all worked on the house, all day. The 3 women, 1 teenager and 5 kids were there every day, all day, breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Meanwhile, the saws whined, the hammers pounded, and the radio played.
Did I mention that one of my uncles was an alcoholic?
That was the Summer my absolute tee-totaler mother, my don’t-smoke-drink-or-chew or-run-with-boys-who-do Mama started drinking wine. My father saw how frazzled she was, heck, volatile she was, Lord have mercy, and started buying her wine. Manishewitz, as I recall. Mom embraced the whole, Mama needs a glass of wine thing like a boss.
My parents are smart people, but I shake my head in amazement that they could have done something so dumb. The mere fact that their marriage survived that Summer is a source of wonder to me 50 years later.
For me, though, that Summer was one of the best of my entire life.
Besides, I was smitten with my 15 year old cousin.
Teresa was pretty. She had long blond hair. Being part Native American, she had a beautiful tan. She wore short cut-off jean shorts that I distinctly remember. We had a lot of fun together that Summer, and became friends for life, but that Summer? Heck, I was in love with her.
I had it real bad.
I wasn’t the only one.
One afternoon all the gang was out front on the street playing kickball. Teresa was on second base, looking like only she could look, when the older boys-John Cerelli, Eric Fraleigh, Mike Dillon and Tommy Brammer- walked by. I remember John turned around, and walked backwards down Dogwood, all the way to Albie Road, just so he could look at Teresa.
Nicely played John, nicely played.
Indeed, faint heart never won fair maiden, and they became an item.
Another good thing about having Teresa as my cousin? My stock with the older guys went up. I’m talking blue chip. I never got picked on again by any of them.
It was a heck of a Summer.
I played all day with Mike and Paul Zucco, Wade Ezzell, Bob Gehrer, and Marty Higgins. I played baseball for Manny’s Barbershop, and Mr. Pack was the coach. We went to Temp-T-Freeze after ball games. We went to the Catskill Game farm. We went to Crueger’s Island. We played kickball, and jumped our bikes on the trails between Linden Acres and College Park.
And the radio played.
I remember those days. I remember Kent State. I remember adults arguing over Viet Nam, the riots, the awful pictures in Life Magazine. I remember when the Beatles broke up.
My beautiful cousin left me in August to go home. Most 15 year old girls would have treated a goofy 11 year old boy with disdain, but she was so good to me. I made her laugh all the time, and she made me cry when she left.
I hear those songs today and I am always transported back to those days, and I feel those old feelings, that sense of innocence.
When I hear Mungo Jerry singing In The Summertime, I smell freshly mown lawns, and that gassy, grassy smell of the lawnmower in our garage. When I hear Let It Be, I feel that sadness when seasons end. When I hear Close To You, I remember a girl I liked in 6th grade, and those feelings are fresh again.
Man, that was some good music.