Our home was spared but lots of people in Montello sustained thousands of dollars damage. In the 50’s, a brand new home with an attached garage was only $8,500 dollars.
1954 Hurricane Damage (Albion St)
In the 60’s, what card game was complete without a Top-40 personality radio station playing in the background? It still warms the cockles of my heart when I think back to the first time I heard my radio heroes and the songs they were playing and the comedy bits they were performing. I’m glad it does because it’s no fun getting cold-cockled. I logged lots of time listening to my all time favorites: Ed Hider, Jess Cain, Ron Landry, Joey Reynolds and Jack Burns. I later became friends with most of these performers and even got work on the same station with a couple of them.
I was hooked on all the entertainment coming out of my little transistor radio, musical and otherwise. AM was king with teenagers who wanted to hear their favorite tunes and radio celebrities. Naturally, I had those teeny, tiny speakers just low enough so my parents couldn’t hear. We knew all the songs, the stations and the dj’s. In 1956, I really got a kick out of WBET’s Jack Burns during his short stay in my hometown. Nine years later, I was playing his Burns & Schreiber Columbia Comedy Album on WBET. Jack Burns teamed up on the radio in Los Angeles with George Carlin and they called themselves, “The Wright Brothers”. The station was KDAY where Alan Freed landed after the dj payola scandal. Lenny Bruce loved Burns and Carlin and he acted as their agent getting them bookings.
(Left to right) Jack Burns and George Carlin
Click Play to hear The Wright Bros. on KDAY.
At age 14, a student at North Jr. High, I spent endless amounts of time on the weekend hanging around radio stations. But I also got my pop music education, from a classmate named Andrea Martin. She and I often played the records Friday nights at Father Harkin’s Dances at St. Edward’s Gym. To this day, every time I hear, “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison, I remember the red-faced father enforcing his famous “all dance” policy. He and several burley police officers grabbed non-compliant boys by the neck forcing them to box step with some plain Jane. Every fourth song was slow and all boys had to dance. I’ve often-wonder how many weddings happened because of those early pairings. In any case, it was a great way to meet girls. Andrea Martin, whom I met at the Winthrop School, loved music and bought every popular 45 at Billy Burke’s High Street music store. In February of 1959, she was the person who broke the news to me that Buddy Holly’s plane crashed and the music died. My favorite radio hangouts were WOKW, WBET, WCOP and WMEX. It all started around 1961. The only reason the year stands out is because no matter which station I popped in to visit, the Tokens, “Lion Sleeps Tonight” was playing. Later when I left home, those stations were on in all the rooms I rented. In a strange way, Brockton is the reason I got interested in music and radio. There weren’t many choices. When you’re 5’6” and 135 pounds, you won’t make the starting football team in a class of 750.
Steve Perry and Journey featuring drummer Steve Smith (far right) (1981)
For that reason, I took trumpet lessons from Dick Johnson at the famous Billy Flanagan Music School. Just across the hall another student, Steve Smith, was taking drums from, Mr. Flanagan. Billy Flanagan was a famous big band drummer in the 40’s working with the Tommy Dorsey Band among others. His school was on Center St. and almost directly across from the original and now famous W.B. Mason Office Products Building. As fate would have it, Steve Smith went on to become the drummer in the band Journey. On the radio, I played all Journey’s hits and later received a Gold Record from the band. Journey’s, “Don’t Stop Believing” is the song that ended The Sopranos Series on HBO. Steve and I crossed paths again backstage in the early 80’s when Journey played the 4 sold out nights at the Worcester Centrum.
New North Jr. High was fine in 1959
In the early 60’s, Brockton High School went on double sessions. Juniors and seniors in the morning, sophomores in the afternoon. Upper classmen loved leaving the building shortly after noon because they could hold down a job. But split sessions, kept the BHS football team out of the record books. In 1963, my senior year, the team that went 5 –3 -1. At the time, Armond Columbo was a teacher at the North Jr. High.
I had the most fun traveling out of town to giant record hops. If you were lucky and knew an upper classman you might be asked to “cruise the drag” or take in a dance outside the city. Travel was inexpensive, leaded gasoline was 31 cents a gallon. Weekends found a continuous line of cars on Main St. cruising from the clock at East Main Street (in front of what is now the Louis F. Angelo School) south to the Congregational Church in Campbell. The kings of the drag were custom car owners. People such as “Red” Hawkins, Mike Donovan, “Bobby” Wall, Walter Scott and his brother Ralph, who often gave me a ride. All car club members displayed their polished aluminum VEIGHTS Car Club Plaques below their de-chromed trunks. The colors of choice for custom cars were: Gold Flake Candy Apple Red, Gold Flake Copper and Silver Flaked White.
Bobby Wall’s 1956 Mercury (owner of Wall Auto Body, Elliot St.) – Photo courtesy of Les Lucier
Brockton’s Custom Car Club from 1959 – 1963, the VEIGHTS
During the day, several of the custom car fanatics worked at a car wash on Court Street. But after sundown, they were king of the cool cars. In the 60’s, even without a high school diploma you could find a job and actually live on your income. Times have changed. Today, you kill yourself so you can live.
North Jr. High was fine in ‘59
Baby boomers who enjoy music all remember their first concert, but we never called them concerts. In the early days of rock n’roll, there were no assigned seats, $200 tickets, $70 sweat shirts or Beatles. We just went to hear the music that we embraced. My first live rock show was in 1959 and like so many things in life, it happened because I did something of little interest. A group of friends under the direction of life long pal Joe O’Sullivan decided to take in the Brockton Fair and it was extremely easy to slip under the fence. That evening, I was drawn to live rock n’roll while listening to Johnny & The Hurricanes wailing up a storm on “Red River Rock”. The price was right because once inside the fair grounds, all entertainment was free. We simply stood around the stage 50 spectators deep and enjoyed the sounds. This was a time when kids made music for kids.