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181224 December 24, 2018


Wednesday 25 December 1963, Christmas Day

   It was Wednesday, under the sign of Capricorn (see planets position on December 25, 1963). The US president was Lyndon B. Johnson (Democratic). In that special week of December people in US were listening to Dominique by The Singing Nun. In the UK I Want To Hold Your Hand by The Beatles was in the top 5 hits. 

From the Pages of "A Million Tomorrows...Memories of the Class of '64"
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

December 25

    Dec. 25, 1963 - Today's Christmas.  The snow's still on the ground so this is the first white Christmas I've ever seen.  Grandmother got me up early and we went out Aunt Helen's.
    All of us went over to my second cousin, Harry Roden's, house.  I met a new cousin I didn't know before.  She's Suzy, a third cousin and in the eight grade.
We all went back over to Aunt Helen's and ate around 3:00 P.M.  Then Mother, Clozell, and I left for Memphis.  The roads weren't too bad.
    Got here around 9:45 P.M.  Set up and watched "Wonderful Life" on the late show.  There's approximately 13 inches of snow left here.  I made two big bowls of snow cream to eat while I watched TV.  It's late now.  Time for bed.  Sign off.

    We've all been brainwashed to believe that you must have a white Christmas for it to be Christmas.  That might be a great idea for the North, but down in the South, they are few and far between.  If Irving Berlin hadn't written the song, we probably would never have felt that way.  He did and so we do.

    There is something special about a white Christmas for sure.  They are nice, but they just don't come around that often.  Perhaps that's what makes them special.  The newspaper story of the day reported that the coldest temperature was thirteen below zero and that set a new record for Memphis for this date.  

    The Christmas dinner table was spread with ham, turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, sweet peas, and rolls.  On a separate table in the kitchen sat a collection of pies and cakes for dessert.  Some things never seem to change.  At Aunt Helen's we ate on her good China in lieu of her everyday dishes.  She did not have a special set just for Christmas like people do today. 
    The trip to Memphis was uneventful, even if we did drive through the snow.  We arrived safely and tried to eat all the snow off the ground.  We ate snow cream and watched  "It's A Wonderful Life" a Christmas classic.  We watched it in black and white, not colorized as it is today.  Some things of Christmas must remain, suspended in time, immune to new technology and fashions.  The basics of love and family must remain.  Without love, Christmas cannot survive.

    In the homes of 1963, as in the homes of today, Christmas was a time for love and for family.  It's a time for the young and the old.  The presents under the tree and those who put them there change.  New technology affects one, and the fundamental facts of life affect the other.  Neither can be stopped.  Still the basics survive, as we hope they always will.  Peace on earth, good will to men.

Some Hits from 1961 and the Memories They Invoke
Tommy Towery
LHS '64
    For me, the places and events most often associated with the songs I hear usually fall into distinct categories. Some which make me smile the most are the songs which take me back to the early boy-girl parties held at people's houses. The record selection was "pot luck" with each person bringing what music they had available - usually identified with initials or names written on them with nail polish. I got curious and had to look up why we relied on nail polish and found out the Sharpie pen was originally a name designating a permanent marker launched in 1964 by the Sanford Ink Company. The Sharpie also became the first pen-style permanent marker. Although many of these parties were classified as dances that was just to throw off the parents who should have been chaperoning, but actually were very seldom seen. I suppose they felt they could trust us since we were in a group and not on a one boy to one girl setting. There were express dangers in those times at that age. The music was good, the dancing was okay, the kissing games were the things of which a teenage boy’s dreams were made. This is especially true for me, based upon the girls who attended the parties to which I was invited. But, I will not rule out some times when I was alone with someone and the music would cast its spell on me to never forget the moment I heard it.

    The next place songs transport me back to is of course Carter’s Skateland, and I need say no more at this point about that. It comes up enough in most of my writings.

    Public dances were another place where the music was prevelent. Most notably was Bradley’s Cafeteria, but there were others. The National Guard Armory, the Big Springs Park Recreation Center, the Coliseum, and the Aquatic Club all sponsored dances at one time or another. I have fond (and some not so fond) memories of all those places, and the songs often remind me of my nights there. These times more often featured live bands and not records.

    Then, there are the other places and events. Movies I saw, school occasions, my church fellowship group, and my Boy Scout days. For my sentimental ways, those do not hold a candle to the times and events during my puberty days when I was first learning of the joys of a boy-girl relationship.

    I started thinking about the number of songs I hear each week while I am walking and have decided I would rather concentrate on a few of them rather than try to expand on every one I hear during my mile and a half walk. I take a notepad with me and jot down the songs as I hear them, and even though I may not comment on every one of them from now on, that does not mean they do not bring back memories.

    Here are the songs which caught my attention the most during this week's walk.

More Money for You and Me

    More Money for you and Me (1961) – The Four Preps - Charted at #17 on Billboard Hot 100 in September 1961.

    Thou this was the last song I heard on my walk, it brought back a lot more memories than some of the others. It was a parody done by The Four Preps of the songs of many of their contemporary groups. It starts off with a dialog explaining the establishment of the Peace Corps by President Kennedy and how people could volunteer to travel to different parts of the world and promote peace and not war. The concept was a good one, but I was more interested in the military than the Peace Corps. I do not know if any of you classmates were ever involved in the Peace Corps or not, but if you were, I’d like to hear from you.
The funniest thing I find about this song is that I actually forgot about it, but all my life I have sang some of the parody verses without knowing where I had heard them. Take a moment and listen to the lyrics of this collection of slams.

Rain Drops

Rain Drops (1961) Dee Clark – Released in April of 1961, this ballad peaked at position 2 on the Hot 100.

    I do not know why, but for some reason this song always transports me back to the Lee High School auditorium and an assembly meeting offered to entertain us as students. You may recall that periodically we would have assemblies offering some entertainment that was not on the normal syllabus of our studies. This song takes me back to one of those times, and while I am sure we did not hear Dee Clark sing it, I have a vague memory of something to do with this song and someone performing it for us. It may have never happened, and it may not even be Rain Drops, but there was some “rain” song presented to us by some one or group and this song has since hijacked that real memory from me.

Tossin' & Turnin'

Tossin’ & Turnin’ – Bobby Lewis The record reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 on July 10, 1961.

    When thinking about the lyrics of Tossin’ & Turnin’ I cannot forget the daily routines I, and probably many of you, endured while going to high school. I was constantly busy from the time I drug myself out of bed on a school morning until I went to bed at night. First it was getting up and grabbing a bite for breakfast. Next for me came the turmoil of trying to get to school in an age when there was no school bus, no close friends with cars living near, and a 1953 Ford Custom that would not start three out of five school days. The result was often walking the distance (ironically it worked out to a mile and a half) and being late for first period. Then I spent the day in school, went to Mullins after school, came home and changed clothes and then went to a scout or church meeting and finally came back home and did homework.

    When I went to bed at night was the only time my day stood still and I was alone with my thoughts. That was the first time I would have a chance to thing about important people, things, and events and dream of the future. So, although I did not actually spend those quite moments of my life tossing and turning, I often lay awake well into the midnight hour just letting the thoughts bounce back and forth in my brain until Mr. Sandman finally made his appearance.

Angel Baby

Angel Baby (1961) Rosie and the Originals - The song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1960 and remained on the charts for 13 weeks, reaching No. 5 on January 28, 1961.

    What is serenity? By the dictionary definition it is the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil; sereneness. This song epitomizes that state to me. I hear it and I want to just time-travel back to my teenage years and close my eyes and rest my shoulder on a cute teenage girl of my past and drift peacefully into a state where we are the only two people in the world. It is such a calming song, from the first notes of the guitar to the closing verse. When I was a disc jockey this was one of the few songs I could play and guarantee I would fill the dance floor with couples embracing the moment. I don’t even worry about the uncertainty of the verse “Please, never leave me blue and alone: if you ever go, I'm sure you'll come back home.” For me, Rosie could just hum the words and I would be content. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I absolutely loved slow dancing to this song back in 1961.

Blue Moon

Blue Moon (1961) The Marcels -  A classic popular song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934, and has become a standard ballad. It may be the first instance of the familiar "50s progression" in a popular song. The song was a hit twice in 1949 with successful recordings in the US by Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé. In 1961, "Blue Moon" became an international number one hit for the doo-wop group The Marcels, on the Billboard 100 chart and in the UK Singles chart.

    I can’t help saying a few words about this version of Blue Moon. I am sure our parents hated the version of this song we teenagers loved. It was one of their tunes and we had the Gaul to put in the “Bom, ba, bu, bom, bum” background beat. Hey, what can I say. Forgive us moms and dads, but this was the version we liked. “Ding a dong ding, Blue Moon!” 

Wooden Heart

Wooden Heart (1961) Joe Dowell - At his first recording session (backed by organist Ray Stevens), Joe Dowell sang the tune "Wooden Heart", which had been a hit for Elvis Presley in Europe but which was never released as a single stateside. In 1961 "Wooden Heart" became the first single released on Smash Records to shoot to #1 on the Hot 100. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. The song was a hit single for Presley in the UK Singles Chart, making No. 1 for six weeks there in March and April 1961, but was not released on a single in the United States until November 1964. 

    Perhaps our classmates with German backgrounds understood this song more than the rest of us did. I never really questioned the translation until hearing it this time and so I had to go see what I was missing.

    The Elvis Presley version featured two parts in German, the first one is the first four lines of Muss i' denn zum Städtele hinaus.”

Muß i denn, muß i den,
zum Städtele naus, Städtele naus, 
und du, mein Schatz, bleibst hier.

Translates in English to 

Do I have to, have to
Leave the city, leave the city
And you, my dear, stay here

    The second part appears towards the end and is based on a translation of the English version (therefore not appearing in the original German folk lyrics). This part being 

Sei mir gut, sei mir gut, 
sei mir wie du wirklich sollst, 
wie du wirklich sollst... 

Be good to me, be good to me, 
be to me how you really should, 
how you really should...

        Memphis, TN - I reach back and call upon my journal covering the Christmas of 1963 to remind my classmates of that day. It was a White Christmas and a rare event in Huntsville.

    I am continuing looking back at the music and memories of my Lee High days and hope they bring some smiles to your faces as well.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Music

Jim Betterton

LHS '64

    Tommy: Music played a large part of my early years.  My grandfather, A.C. Betterton passed away the spring of 1958. Dad decided to move the family from Boulder, Colorado, that summer.  We moved to the middle of a cotton field west of Hazel Green.  I was the eldest of us kids (5 of us).  I got a small transistor radio for my birthday, August 7th.  So, everyone that saw me after that saw my radio in my hand.  Dad would listen to the Saturday nite Grand Ole Opry.  I became a rock and roll nerd and a country music nerd in those years.  I love all of that kind of music even today.  What is even more unusual, while I was in the military,  Armed Forces Radio Network played  some good music.  I worked in some top secret, special compartmented information, areas and we had “cover music”. The music was on 24/7 in our compound, so we were exposed to the rock of the day. So, today, if I hear one note of a song I can tell you what it is. That is how big music has been in my life. Thanks for the series about music of those earlier years.  


Subject:    Music Articles

Dianne Hughey McClure

LHS '64

    These songs and stories are taking me back to the "good old days" well mostly good. I am enjoying the reminders and memories these songs bring. So for my part keep the good work up. The song "Will you still love me tomorrow?" Comes to mind when I think of all the skating we did at Carters. 



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