(Author’s note: Took last week off due to the fires in Oregon. Back today. Enjoy!”)
Dance Hall Days
by Miles H. Rost
A staple of New York youth. A way for the kids of the neighborhood to have fun and forge long lasting friendships.
When us kids needed to hash out things, we didn’t take to our fists. We took to the sticks. Whoever ended up scoring the most, or when our moms called us in after the sun went down, they would carry the day.
Once we moved to the west coast, there was no more stickball. You moved up to the sandlots. The skills learned translated well for the batting, but the running killed us.
Becky “Spins” Hoffman was going for maximum effect.
The captain of the women’s baseball team at the local uni, her arm was well known as a lethal weapon.
What people didn’t know is that when challenged, her pranks were the other weapon she would use.
Using a little chemistry knowhow, she prepared the eggs sitting in the carton to the right specifications for this night. As her teammate sped, Becky fired egg after egg. Red, white, and blue splatters showed themselves.
They contrasted the red of the fluttering Soviet flag, and the face of the angry professor who owned it.
“Alright, boys. Let’s get out there and do what we do!” Coach said, as he looked into the eyes of his players.
The Keneely Knickerbockers were the #1 Junior League baseball team, for the first time in 87 years. It was a feat. Coach didn’t know how it happened, but they just started playing well this season. And now they were there, in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the Junior League Championship.
As the 16 and 17-year-old boys ran out of the tunnel, they looked to the stands. They saw the girls who traveled across the country to see them play.
They lovingly gazed at the girls who made them the Boys of Summer.
Little Vincent was known for being an explorer. He was rambunctious, raucous, and any other “r” word you could come up with. He was the town runner, as he would run everywhere in the no-name, no-reputation town that he lived in. A small town it was, but for Little Jimmy it was home. And he would run every square inch of the town in one summer if he could.
It was on one of these journeys that he would be exposed to something glorious and wonderful that would eventually take him away from that small town. It all started on a run through a field behind his elementary school. The grounds he ran across were meticulously kept, as the man every affectionately called “Groundskeeper Willie” (many years before the crude scotsman of the Simpsons, mind you) made them his pride and joy.
He ran across the field, imagining that he was a fighter plane in World War II. War was fresh in the mind of the people of the town, and sometimes Vinnie would get scolded for his playing. However, he didn’t care. His world was big and wide, and full of endless possibilities. He kept running and firing his imaginary guns against the Luftwaffe that was in front of him.
Until his foot hit a firmly planted rock, and he went tumbling head over heels down the side of a creek bank. He stopped short of the creek itself, but was in the cool shade of trees. He looked around and smiled. This was new and exciting, and somewhere he had never been or knew. He scrambled over to a tree and sat underneath. The sound of the creek was quite different from what he was used to, but he still loved it. It was a calming sound. And he would dream of sitting lazily back like Frodo Baggins before his adventures in Lord of The Rings.
He looked over to his side, trying to get his back comfortable against the old tree, when he saw something shiny and metallic. He scooted over to it, and picked it up. It was a small box, about the size of a small cigar box. There was mesh on the front of the the box with a circle of black underneath it. The box also had a metal piece sticking up out of the top, that would turn 360 degrees when Jimmy moved it. The front of the box also had a few buttons and knobs, and what looked to be a thermometer with the numbers 53 to 161 on the front of it. One of the switches on the side said “On/Off”.
What’s the harm? he asked himself, as he turned on the switch.
He heard from the box a hiss. The thermostat-like display showed that it was positioned somewhere between 80 and 90. He saw a dial that said “tuning”, so he turned it to the right. A few muffles later and he suddenly heard the sounds of cheering.
“Coming up to the plate for Detroit, Right fielder Al Kaline. He’s had a pretty good year so far, and with Oyler as the go-ahead runner, he’s got a little pressure on him.”
Vinnie knew what this was. It was the Detroit Tigers! And he didn’t have to be there to hear it!
He heard what sounded like an organ, and cracking drums. It sounded eerie, like it was recorded in a church but with a slight bit more ethereal wonder. The lyrics of the song started coming through:
You know that it would be untrue You know that I would be a liar If I was to say to you Girl, we couldn’t get much higher
Vinnie gasped in shock. This was forbidden music. It was music that didn’t mix with his family or his society. It was rock music! And he fell for it. Hard. He knew he had to have more, but he knew that as the sun was starting to move towards the horizon, he needed to get home for dinner.
He took the box and carried it home with him. Just before he got home, he put it in a cut tree trunk. It was his hiding place for contraband items. Later that night, he would bring that box into his bedroom, and quietly watch his music on the radio.