I’m sad to say good-bye to August, but a few lazy, hazy days of summer remain. Time enough to take a walk down memory lane.
How about 1962? What a golden year that was. My generation’s prince, John Kennedy, was still in the White House, “Bonanza” was on TV and the Beach Boys “Surf’s Up” was blaring out of our car radios. Bring on the parties! And what parties we had!
Move over Frankie and Annette. You California snobs didn’t corner the beach party scene. We had Lake Michigan from Stop 37 all the way to West Beach. My gang was partial to West Beach, especially on date night. It was remote, had great trails, little dunes to spread out your blankets and devastating sunsets.
Pure bliss was having four or five couples lounging around a beach fire singing Ray Charles, folk songs and laughing ourselves into near comas.
Franklin Street went both ways in those days and cattin’ the drag was the “in thing.” Everyone was into cars. I mean, what you drove in many ways defined who you were. Crazy, I know, but guys even had their car’s name engraved on their fenders like “Road Runner,” “Baby Blue” and “Run Away.”
On some days I’d pack my 1956 Chevy convertible with my group of heathens and go up and down Franklin Street, into Long Beach and sometimes even over to La Porte. Our reputations had become so tarnished we had to seek out greener pastures in the land of the Slicers.
There were root beer stands all along Franklin and I still remember Terry’s in La Porte. But the real place to be seen was Morrison’s in Michigan City. They had the best chili dogs in town and by far the cutest car-hops. I and my pals with nicknames unprintable in a family newspaper would ogle the terrified car-hops with Wolfman stares.
Who could blame us? Hey, we were devil-may-care teenagers with wild hormones sizzling under the hot summer sun.
Speaking about wild hormones, how about those drive-in movies? I hit ‘em all. “The Deluxe” in La Porte, a few in Michigan but the “212” was the undisputed king of the passion pits. It was huge with a nice concession area, swings and benches down front and a frightful array of horror movies guaranteed to get even Doris Day wrapped around you.
What is summer without a little romance? That special girl rated a night walk on the pier (hand in hand of course), a stroll around the zoo topped off by a climb to the observation tower.
For dinner there was Gene’s restaurant with its little music roll decks right at your table, a movie at the majestic Tivoli theater and if you were lucky, a kiss in Fedder’s alley or Friendship Gardens.
And then there was the La Porte County Fair, the event that marked the end of summer and forewarned that the new school year was just around the corner.
The best way to enjoy the fair was one night reserved for your pals and another for a double date.
With the guys you could enjoy the Demolition Derby, scoping out the girls, meet up with some of your La Porte buddies and go to the girlie shows. Yes, the fair actually allowed them back then.
Those were the days of our glory!
I believe the English poet Wordsworth, said it best: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”