Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sander Street: Rock 'n Roll at the Friar's Club

St. George First Communion photo, May 1949.  First Row, second from left. 
                         In my own world, daydreaming, as usual.

We moved to Sander Street in Corryville about 1949.    

We were the “war babies.”  Peace and prosperity was the theme…at least for a couple of years.

We were worried about Russia.  They had exploded an atomic bomb.  One morning the  Enquirer’s front page headlines warned Russia was going to bomb the U.S.  The story even had maps detailing where the Communists would strike.  Dad laid the paper aside, mumbled something with cuss words in it, and left for work. 

I looked at the paper, the maps, understood what bombs were and wars.  My Dad and Uncle Norb had been in one.  Though I never told anybody, I was scared half to death one of those Russian atomic bombs was headed for Cincinnati. 

I already had a hard time sleeping at night because of Dad coming in at all hours, making noise and arguing with Mom, the baby crying for nighttime feedings, and now the bomb threat. 

I listened every night for airplanes coming to bomb us.  Would Mom and Dad even be aware of it?

I figured it would be at night when the bomb came, like most bad surprises. 

Then the Korean War came, and Uncle Junior went to fight.  Along with the rest of the family, I prayed he’d come back home in one piece.

Uncle "Junior," Frank Dean
When I was about 12, I joined the Friar’s Club on the corner of McMillan and Ohio Avenue to take swimming lessons with the rest of neighborhood girls.  The Friar’s Club was a boys’ club,  but in the summer, every weekday morning, girls were allowed to come for swimming, playing games, and just hanging out and listening to music on a jukebox. 

Friar's Club in Clifton.  Torn down now.  Courtesy of QueenCityDiscovery

The club also had a huge ballroom that had accordian doors to close off certain sections depending on the need.  Every month or so, there’d be a guest artist come to perform, and the big ballroom opened up to accommodate dancing.  The first I remember were the Isley Brothers, an up-and- coming local Cincinnati band that later made it big with “Shout!” 

Also Brenda Lee came to sing at the Friar’s.    She was just a little girl at the time.  I think she sang “Jambalya.”  Her family lived in Cincinnati in the ‘50s, and she sang country hits for Jimmy Skinner’s Record Shop over WNOP radio in Newport, Kentucky.

But those weekday mornings the neighborhood girls and I listened to early ‘50s  rock ‘n roll. 

Fats Domino’s  I’m Walking, I’m in Love Again, and  of course Blueberry Hill.  The Dell Vikings’ Come Go with me.  And the Satins’ In the Still of the Night, which we harmonized. 

That’s when I discovered music could help me tolerate what was going on at home.  It became an escape from my reality.  Rock ‘n Roll had made its first appearance, and I jumped on that wagon as fast as I could.  Like all the other kids my age at the time, it was “ours,” our music.  We defined ourselves apart from our parents. 

And this was all before Elvis went into that studio in Memphis.

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