Sunday, January 16, 2011

Our Juke Box Was A Hero

During the Spring of 1963 my dad moved our entire family to 301 East Central Avenue in Alpha, New Jersey. The front half of the two story cement block building held a huge room which had previously been a Mom and Pop corner store run by the Scalora family. At one time the basement below the store front was the home of a boxing gym and still had remnants of its former operations.

Soon after we moved in, Dad and my older brother Buddy started painting, and laying linoleum. They put up a privacy partition to make a hallway to the stairs that led up to our bedrooms. Then they built a counter to be placed at the back end of the store front which held the cash register, meat slicer, and very soon would hold those tempting last minute goodies.

The Alpha Luncheonette was completed after they added a penny candy case, ice cream freezers, soda coolers, three sets of booths, and our particular favorite, the Juke Box.

Boy, did we have fun with that Juke Box! It cost just one nickel a play and five plays for a quarter to listen to the greats like, Leslie Gore, the Supremes, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, the Shari-Las, and the Beatles.

We learned to do the Jitter Bug, Twist, Monster Mash, Limbo, Mashed Potato, and Watusi while playing our favorites on that Juke Box. Sometimes we danced with each other, or used the handle of the soda cooler.

Occasionally we all put on our roller skates, and skated around the floor of "the store" after we had closed for the night. I have a vivid memory of skating around to "The Boy From New York City by Donna Loren, the year was 1965.

Once I put my quarter in the Juke Box, and one of the neighborhood bullies, wise guy B.G. stood in front of it and wouldn't allow me to play my songs, and started pushing buttons. Well he pushed my buttons, and I ran behind the counter to get my mother, and spied my little brother's football. I picked it up, and wham, I made the goal, right at his Vitalis laden head! He turned in shock and ran toward me. Just then my Dad who saw the whole thing, stepped out from the side door that lead to the cooking kitchen. A villain stopped in his tracks! They say revenge is sweet, and it was. We did end up friends in the end, as we both forgave and forgot.

Our friends, Cynthia, and her sister Celia, participated in most of the fun including many a lip sync session. Our favorite was to The Leader Of The Pack by the Shangri-Las. We took turns playing the parts of lead singer and back up singers. We usually held a brush for the micro-phone.

One day the John Dolak American Legion held a banquet, and my brother Buddy, his wife Joan, my cousin Helen, her husband Bill/Moose, and Mom and Dad attended. They returned to "the store" after imbibing drinks of the alcohol persuasion. I have no idea how they came up with the bamboo pole, but soon they were all doing the Limbo, bending as low as they could go to The Limbo Rock by Chubby Checker.

I was a giddy girl the day the "Juke Box Guy" added our first Beatles song, I Want To Hold Your Hand. Our favorite thing about the "Juke Box Guy" was that we could buy the records that he removed in order to make room for the new ones for a quarter. We had the best and largest collection of hits in the neighborhood, housed in a card board box. My sister took the box of 45 records to a friends house once, and her house caught fire, and they were destroyed.

My memories of my late cousin Helen singing along to Dean Martin's Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime, or my late brother Buddy bending as low as he could go to Chubby Checkers The Limbo Rock are more precious to me than diamonds or gold. I am so thankful that I had the privilege of getting to know our "Hero of a Juke Box", deserving honor for its ability to bring joy to a bunch of music loving characters from 1963-1968. My friends can't believe that the Alpha Luncheonette years were only five, because the fun we had there seemed to have spanned at least a decade.

*I am presently writing my memoirs to be published at the end of this year, and most likely to hit the book stores in the Spring of 2012.