When I was a kid back in the 1950s in a little suburban New Jersey town called Oradell, I used to absolutely live for that certain night of every week in the summer when there would be a “block dance.” For those who aren’t familiar with this traditional American phenomenon, it wasn’t particularly distinctive; it was nothing more than an outdoor dance held in a parking lot (usually behind the local town hall). What made it special was that it provided youngsters the opportunity to press their sweaty bodies against the sweaty bodies of members of the opposite sex—without having to hide in the back seat of a car, or the balcony of a movie theatre. Back then, most block dances had a real live disc jockey who actually played 45 RPM records (discs, if you please) on a record player connected to an unsophisticated PA system that could be heard for blocks. Ours featured a DJ known as the Limey Cowboy, who was originally from England and also called square dancing (hence the distinctive monicker). The square dancing was done mostly by the adults, who were there primarily to assure that their offspring didn’t create any offspring of their own. The “regular” recorded music that we kids danced to was by groups like the Coasters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. James Brown could also be heard screaming the sophisticated lyrics to songs like “Get on up” and “This is a man’s world.” Those teenagers with drivers licenses never danced, but instead sat in their souped-up cars in the back of the parking lot, making fun of the younger kids trying to “make out.” It was a simple time in America, and one that I remember fondly.
Fast forward to the present. Last night, my wife, Becky, and I attended something called Music on Main Street, in downtown Hendersonville, North Carolina. Make no mistake, it was a “block dance,” just like in the good old days, but there were some real differences. For starters, most of the attendees were senior citizens; very few youngsters were in evidence. The event began in bright daylight and ended just as darkness fell (in our day, we waited for the sun to go down before we would begin dancing). There was a live band—no recorded music for us! But some things never change—like the music. Almost every song that was played dated back to the 50s and early 60s—including those loin-stirring sounds of James Brown. And nearly everybody danced—or tried to. But the biggest attraction of all had nothing to do with dancing; it had to do with cars—specifically Chevrolet Corvettes!
I couldn’t resist walking up and down the street and photographing those wonderful cars that dreams were made of when I was a kid. Here are just a few I’d like to share with you.
1958 Corvette convertible. List price was $3591: standard with a 283 cubic inch V-8 (220 horsepower), Carter four-barrel carburetor, and a three-speed synchromesh manual transmission. This one is my personal favorite. If I won the lottery, I’d buy one in candy apple red w/ cream insert.
1966 Corvette fastback coupe. List price was $4295: standard with a 327 cubic inch V-8 (300 horsepower), Holley four-barrel carburetor, and a three-speed synchromesh manual transmission (although most were ordered with the optional four-speed “tranny”).
BEHOLD THE FUTURE! A spanking new 2014 Corvette Sting Ray. List price starts at $53,000 MSRP! Standard with: 6.2 liter V-8 (455 horsepower), fuel injection, seven-speed manual transmission w/ overdrive. (I’d have to win the lottery to afford this one!)
Have you got a block party story—or a tale about your first car (maybe it was a Corvette). Why not share it with my readers!
NOTE: Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the highly-successful Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day (a 2012 Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner), Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. All four are available in paperback and E-book from Amazon.com. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also in audiobook from Audible.com, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises currently in production. If humor is your cup of tea, consider Joe’s rip-roaring, coming-of-age novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, set in the tumultuous Sixties. It, too, is available in print, E-book, and audio book editions.
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