Some of my first memories of music were from listening to Dad and Mom play their 78 records on their console player in the living room in La Salina back in the mid-`40s. They loved Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney and others such as the Sons of the Pioneers who sang Cowboy tunes such as "Cool Clear Water "and then there were the musicals, with Oklahoma being the one that has always stayed with me over the years.

On our summer vacations back in the States while taking one of our many family rides through the beautiful green countryside where the sweet odor of cut clover hung in the air and the endless rows of tall stocks of green corn marched off across the nearby fields, Dad would sing a tune from Oklahoma – "…corn is as high as an elephant's eye…." And he would end with "OOOOOKKKKLLLLAAAHOOOMMMMAAAAA…." And we would all laugh. He and Mom would then flick their cigarette ashes out the car windows (Pre AC) and they would swoop back into our eyes.

I still love the old songs and now have a collection of CDs with the music.

There always was music in the house. Dad had made an arrangement with the May Company in New York to mail us records, books and magazines (Boy's Life was one) once a month. My brother and sister(Bill and Cris) and I looked forward to them. We also brought records back with us upon returning from Vacation.

Then there were the 33 LPs which had a much better sound Dad's record player had a switch on it which allowed you to play either 78's or 33's and on every vacation Dad bought new records for the family. I recall an incident upon returning from vacation at the Maracaibo airport the customs agents were very tough. That was when the dictator Perez Hemenez was being threatened with overthrow. Dad had a number of 78's with us and the custom's agents played each of the records. They were looking for inflammatory messages which could be played over a radio. One of Dad's records had a tune titled "Chew Tobacco Rag" and when that tune played, the custom's official who had a chaw in his mouth stopped listening to any more records. That reminds me, the Venezuelan government at that time used to censor any incoming news magazines and I recall the Time magazine we received with articles cut out by the censors if they had anything to do with Venezuelan news. (Overseas issues of Time magazine at that time cost 26 cents a copy and were printed on a very thin paper similar to onion skin paper to reduce the Air Postage)

I used to play Dad's old time jazz records over and over and laugh at the lyrics and the music. I thought they were so funny.

Before I left to go to High School in Georgia I used to take Dad's Zenith Shortwave radio up on the dike in Tia Juana and listen to the popular music that I could pick up on Miami AM radio stations. I would sit there for hours with the faint breeze coming off the lake listening to the music and watching the Catatumbo lighting flash on the mountains across the lake.

Now, when I arrived in Georgia for high school in 1957, the first thing I did when I had free time was to go to the local drug store and listen to the music being played on the juke box. I had never experienced such a thing before. That was when I really learned about 45 rpm records. All the new music was being introduced after Elvis Presley made his debut. There were many new popular singers.

Dad and Mom gave me my first AM /Shortwave Radio the Christmas before and I strung at least a 50 foot antenna out my dorm window and into the nearby pecan trees and I would listen to the bee-bob and early rock-`n-roll music. If there was a tune I liked then I would save up from my meager allowance and buy the 45 at the local music store.

By the end of the school year I had a collection that I took back to Venezuela with me and I became "POPULAR" for the first time.

Over my high school years I accumulated a large collection of 45's and I would be invited to many house dance parties because the kids wanted to listen and dance to my records. I was very very "POPULAR".

I loved the Blues in High School as the school was in the heart of Georgia it was impossible not to get a black radio station. I used to listen to the music on the weekends when the rest of the boarding students went home and none of the white kids would know that I liked the music – B.B. King was my favorite black singer and I bought his 45's. When I brought my records to a dance I would slip on one of the Blues records and ask one of the pretty girls to dance with me. Usually I ended up dancing and them standing as they could not dance to that kind of music. The only girl who could that I knew was Shari Norsworthy who could really move to the music.

I loved the dances under the homes on stilts. The parents would be up stairs and they never came down to check on the kids. We used to congregate in the maid's room and smooch in the dark and smoke cigarettes. Some of us would bring a bottle of rum and we could pour the rum into a half empty coke bottle and slowly but surely get tight. What a delight!!

About that time the "Doing the Bop" was the in thing and the girls used to wear those long pleated cotton dresses and they loved to twirl as they danced to the music and the dresses would whirl around them. Randy Lanciault was a good dancer and had all the right steps and moves down pat. He worked at his dancing. Many of the girls, including Franca Vettor liked to dance with him.

Slow dancing was great because you could pull the girls in close and put your face into their hair – one of the few times you could – no matter how damn hot and humid it was – unless you were going steady which few of us did as we had grown up together and were like family in many respects.

I remember when I bought my first pair of black Wejin loafers. They were so cool, because you could stick a dime or in my case a real in the tongue of the shoe and look cool in a pair of jeans or kaki slacks and T-shirt. Looking cool was very important, especially at the dances. Occasionally there were teen dances at the club. I didn't particularly like them because the parents used to stand around looking at us as we danced and I felt like I was performing for their entertainment. When I was in Tia Juana, we did not have live band music, it was records or if there was a band, then it was a Trinidadian steel drum band or a native band playing Venezuelan music which I also loved to dance to.

Then there was the time for love found and then lost love when I waited until my parents went on their afternoon rides after Dad came home from work, when I would put on the "love lost" records and sit around listening to them feeling totally sorry for myself until I wore the damn records out. This lasted one whole summer after I broke up with my first girl friend – more like her father breaking it up now that I think about it.

When Dad retired in 1963 I packed up and brought to the States the piles of 45 rpm records that I had acquired over the years. They ended up in the basement of our house in Baltimore where they had been relegated as I was now purchasing 33 Stereo LPs and my taste in music had moved into Rock and Roll, Hard Rock, Acid Rock. I was in the Army in Germany in the late 60's when a hurricane that came ashore in Louisiana cut across the East coast and flooded the basement to our house. Upon my returning home I learned that all my treasured 45's had been covered in water and mud and were beyond recovery and consequently were thrown out.

Inwardly I was upset because of the extent of the collection and the memories I associated with many of the songs on the records. Fortunately, I have discovered that many of the old singles are being reproduced on CDs and I hunt the racks in Borders hoping to find some of my old memories. Occasionally, I will listen to an "Oldies" radio station and hear one of those old forgotten favorites and the great memories come rushing back Too bad I can't share them with my wife and daughter…..they don't understand.

That's the way it was…..

 

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