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201012 October 12, 2020

 My Personal Top 10 
Important Places While Growing Up in Huntsville
The Countdown From 10 To 1 
#10 The Grand News Stand
#9 The Lyric Theatre
#8 Central Presbyterian Church 
#7 Goldsmith-Schiffman Field
#6 The National Guard Armory
#5 Mullin's Cafe
#4 The Parkway (Shoney's to Jerry's)
Last Week #3 - Lee High School
This Week #2 - Bradley's Cafeteria

Memories of Bradley's
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    The runner up in my favorite places is Bradley’s Cafeteria, and not because of the food they served. I don't think I ever ate a meal there. While it was officially named “Bradley Cafeteria,” without the apostrophe, we all called it “Bradley’s.” Rather than redo some previous writing, instead I will use the text some friends and I wrote about Bradley's which I include in The Baby Boomer's Guide to Growing Up in "The Rocket City." (Now available from

    If there was a question in anyone’s mind about my love for the dances in Huntsville when I was a teenager, then let me present my case. In my journal I recorded the other dances I attended and most of the bands that played for them from January to the end of May during my senior year in high school in 1964. It is also a testament to the plethora of local bands we had in Huntsville during the Sixties.

Fri. Jan. 10 – Bradley’s – Comets
Sat. Jan. 11 – Bradley’s – Continentals and Tempests
Fri. Jan. 17 – Bradley’s – Vibratones
Sat. Jan. 18 – Bradley’s – Chevells
Sat. Jan. 25 – Bradley’s – didn’t stay – no band noted
Fri. Feb. 7 – Bradley’s – Spinners from Nashville
Fri. Feb. 14 – Bradley’s – Continentals
Sat. Feb. 15 – Bradley’s – Tempests
Sat. Mar. 7 – Bradley’s – Continentals
Fri. Mar. 13 – Bradley’s – Spinners
Sat. Mar. 28 – Bradley’s – Cobras
Sat. Mar. 18 – Bradley’s – Continentals
Fri. May 1 – Bradley’s – did not stay
Fri. May 29 – Bradley’s – Jesters and Continentals

    These are just the ones from January 1, 1964 until graduation the first week of June 1964. We danced to songs like this.

Are You Alright

    Bradley Cafeteria – So what was so magical about the dances held in the basement of this building that sat on the north side of the Courthouse? It was a melting pot for all the teenagers of Lee, Butler, and Huntsville, so it always had a good crowd of fun-loving teenagers. It was a place where we met others, and had great times. The music was good and because Bradley’s was smaller than most of the other places, it was LOUD. It was an icon of our teenage years, matched only by Shoney’s and Jerry’s on the Parkway in our memories.

    Jerry Brewer, the drummer for the Continentals, says that he and his band played for the first dance there. He thinks that the band sponsored it themselves. Escoe German Beatty, a 1965 graduate of Lee, remembers it just a little differently. She claims that she and her friends were instrumental in starting the legend of Bradley’s dances and hired the Continentals to play.

    Escoe says, “There were 16 of us girls from the Lee High classes of ‘65 and ‘66 who formed a social club called ‘The Amber Ashes.’ There were no high school sororities allowed in schools back then, so we formed this as a private social group. The only reason that the club existed was to raise enough money so we all could go to Daytona, Florida, on Spring Break.  We did many things to raise money like selling Stanley products, donuts, and having car washes.”

    Well, Escoe says her group was the first group to start holding dances at Bradley's Cafeteria. She remembers seeing the basement of the cafeteria on the north side of Courthouse Square and talking to the manager about renting it for a dance the first time.  “I can't remember for sure what we paid for it, but we also rented an off-duty cop for security as well.  Of course, the band we hired for the first dance was The Continentals.  I think we charged 25 cents a ticket to get in but it might have been 50 cents.”

    Later the price for attending the dances went up to $1.00. You had to pay at the top of the stairs before you could go down to the dance in the basement, but since everything else was closed the music could be heard all around the Square on those quiet nights,. Dances were held most Friday and Saturday nights.

    Escoe remembers songs like "Long Tall Texan", "Are You Alright? (response: Hell Yeah!)", "Rebel Rouser," and can never forgot the emotions when Jimmy Gentry would sing "Talk to Me."

She recalls, “We all had so much fun, and it was all clean fun.  We thought it was risqué just to sing along with the lyrics that went "See that girl dressed in..." and "Nuts, hot nuts…." We had all heard of dirty dancing but when I watch the movie now I know there is no way any of us would have been able to show our face if we had danced like that!  The closest thing we got to dirty dancing was our favorite dance - the "Dog."

    I made a trip to Memphis in September or October of 1963 and attended a dance at a VFW club there. I didn’t know anyone there but I loved the music and I loved being a part of the crowd. 

    There was a local Memphis deejay, Rufus Thomas, who turned singer and had just released a record getting a lot of air play in town. His song was called "The Dog.” I was standing in the crowd at the VFW and all of the kids gathered around in a circle and one or two couples were inside the circle. I looked in and they were doing "The Dog." Well, if you remember the look of Babe in Dirty Dancing when she saw the teenagers doing their dirty dancing, that was the same look on my face. 

    It was a chaperoned dance and the female chaperones quickly got inside the circle and broke up the dancing. Everyone went back to dancing normal dances but before long, the couples started in doing “The Dog” again. This happened several times during the evening and each time the dancers were threatened to be kicked out of the building, but they never were. 

    I watched them enough to learn the moves, because I knew I would never see that dance on American Bandstand. I don't know where else it was being done outside of Memphis, but when I returned to Huntsville and went to Bradley's I knew I may have been one of the first, but I wasn't the only one, who had seen and learned the moves. Dirty Dancing had come to Huntsville..."Do, the dog...Do the dog...everybody do the dog!"

    Patsy Hughes Oldroyd’ only regret about Bradley’s is that she did not get to dance with some of the greatest and cutest guys because they were already taken. She distinctly remembers the time she was watching some couples doing a very raunchy dance in her opinion. “Since I was somewhat shy and not very worldly, I asked someone what in the world they were doing,” she recalls. “I remember him saying they were doing a dance called the ‘Dirty dog’.”  All Patsy knows is that her mother would have killed her, or she would have been put on restriction for the rest of her life if her mother had ever gotten wind that she was dancing like that. “And back in those days, Mother knew everything I did before I could even get back home!”

    Yes indeed, the dance got its design from the amorous moves of two dogs in heat in the backyard. It was dirty...but fun. Usually the boy and girl danced facing each other, but at some random moment the girl would give a hop and turn around putting her hand on her knees and lean forward a bit. The boy would move in and sometimes put his hands on the girl's hips and sometimes on the girl’s shoulders. Whether or not actual body contact was made with the thrusts he did...well, you remember your way and I'll remember mine. I loved that dance. For an Eagle Scout, it was the definitive Dirty Dancing - Huntsville style.

    There is a great possibility that I was the person who could have been the male component of the couple that was doing that raunchy dance Patsy saw. I wish I could take credit (or blame) for being the one who introduced “The Dog” to Bradley's, but I can't prove it. I will say that I was one of the first to “do the dog” at Bradley’s.

    Everything that was fun was thrown together in the dances. The bands were a mix of guys from Huntsville High, Lee, and Butler but most of my dance crowd was just Lee in the beginning. That crowd soon grew to include many Huntsville High and Butler students as well.

    At midnight, when the band was forced to quit playing at Bradley’s, you usually walked out into the quiet night air, ears ringing from having stood directly in front of the speakers.  It seemed when you walked out of Bradley's downtown the silence always had the most startling effect on the ears.  Downtown was deathly quiet late at night and the ringing in your ears from the music was obvious.

    I would not want to try to name all the beautiful young teens I danced with at Bradley’s. Let me say this, if you were female and ever went to a dance at Bradley’s, then I probably danced with you. I even fell in love with some of you. Most of the time I went to the dances with other males, and met the girls inside. On the good nights, when I had my own car, I left the dance with a girl, either to take her home or to head out to Jerry’s or Shoney’s. It always bothered me when the last song and last dance of the night was not a slow one. I liked to end the evenings with a sweet young thing in my arms and her body pressed against mine. Oh, those were the days, and Bradley’s created the memories.


        Memphis, TN - Well, you have followed my countdown of my top 10 Huntsville places. Do you have any idea what ranks number one in my memories? This has been a fun trip down memory lane, and I will hate to see it come to an end next week. However, if you have a special place you remember I would love for you to share it with the rest of us.

    Also, I am winding up my Veteran's Day Tribute and hope everyone has responded. If you did serve in the military or was married to someone who did, then please submit your information below. We have just over a month to get things in.

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        And, if you are a veteran and feel your name is not on the list we have shared for the last couple of issues, then please fill out this form.

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