Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Memory (07/10/08)
TITLE: The Invasion of the Teenagers
By Jerry Rasmussen
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That sounds like the title of a terrifying science fiction movie starring Richard Carlson. For restaurants and ice cream fountains, the reality of a teenage invasion was far more frightening than science fiction could ever imagine. In the forties and fifties, teenage hangouts changed as quickly as skirt lengths. And if you’re talking about teenage hangouts, you have to talk about music. Music and teenagers have always been joined at the hip. I became a teenager on June 14, 1948, but that’s only a technicality. Nobody who is sixteen or seventeen years old would consider a 13 year old kid brother a real teenager. By the time I became a teenager, my oldest sister Marilyn was dangerously close to becoming an adult, as she is 5 and a half years older than I am. My sister Helen was hot on her heels, being 4 years older than me. That meant that their music and teenage hangouts had already become passé by the time I was 15 or 16. When Marilyn was a teenager, it was the bobby sox, angora sweater era. Marilyn had a hopeless crush on Mel Torme, the Velvet Fog. She and her friends hung out at a place called Homseys, on Milwaukee Street up near the Jeffries Theater. The songs in those days were dreamy and romantic: the afterwash of the romantic songs of World War II. Frank Sinatra was the dreamboat back then, long before he became Chairman of the Board. I always pictured Homsey’s as looking like the soda fountain in the movie Good News with Hep Cats cutting a rug. Helen’s tastes ran more toward country music and by the time she was 16 or 17, the crowd had moved down the street to Adamany’s. Russ Morgan and his orchestra were Cruising Down The River and Perry Como sang of “far away places, with strange sounding names. By the time I was a certified teenager, the crowd had moved down to Charlie’s Chatterbox on Main Street and a major sea-change in music was just starting. Johnny Ray was wailing on the juke box, telling us to go on and cry and Down Howard was singing about a Happy Day, strumming his guitar and sounding a little wobbly because he’d cut the record in a Record Your Own Voice booth. The first rumblings of rhythm and blues were heard too, with the Orioles Crying In The Chapel.
There was a reason why teenage hangouts were constantly moving. For starters, teenagers didn’t spend a whole lot of money. Becoming “The Place to Meet” was the kiss of death for an ice cream parlor or restaurant. Kids could nurse a ten cent cherry coke for three hours, and when teenagers descended into an unsuspecting restaurant and made it their hangout, the adult, spending customers headed out the back door. It took about two years for teenagers to reduce a thriving restaurant or ice cream parlor to the brink of bankruptcy. Fortunately, that was about the time it took for the next onslaught of teenagers to decide the place was no longer cool, and to pick a new place to hang out. No one wanted to hang out in a place where an older brother or sister hung out. And so, the next wave of teenagers moved on, like a plague of locusts leaving a trail of devastated restaurants in their wake.
These days, my wife and I have been going on a river walk every morning, and once in awhile, we walk over to the Mcdonald’s for a Sausage egg McMuffin with cheese, or a Sausage biscuit. McDonald’s throughout the country are a hangout during the breakfast hour. If you ever wondered where those teenagers of the forties and fifties ended up, they’re having Mcbreakfast at the local McDonald’s. And just as it was when they were fifteen and going to a dance at the “Y” all the “girls” are sitting in one area, and the guys in another. The guys sit close enough to the girls so that they can flirt with them by occasionally saying something funny loud enough so that the girls can hear it and respond.
Life comes full circle.
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