My summers growing up in Havelock through the 1950s were mostly about beaches and music. We had moved to Cherry Point from California at the insistence of the Marine Corps, and I fell in love with our beaches.
My immediate attraction was water temperature. Our Atlantic waters are warm, California waters are cold. Also, my arrival coincided with emergence of what would later become known as "beach music."
Throughout my teenage summers, I pretty much kept my feet in sand and my ears plastered to jukeboxes or radios. At home in my bed, I could hear the Quick ‘N Tasty’s jukebox tunes from down the road floating through my open window whenever breezes herded the notes into Slocum Village.
I wrangled every opportunity to get to the Atlantic Beach Pavilion, where music and good times lived. We laughed and sang songs along with the radio to and from and danced weekends away. Those were unbelievably good times.
As parents are wont to do, Dad and Mom didn’t share their kid’s appreciation of Wilbur Harrison or Billy Ward. I thought they had weird preferences: liked Elvis yet had no use for Bill Haley. Go figure.
In hindsight, their generational disconnect is understandable. My parents developed their musical tastes through the big band era of Harry James, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Jimmy Dorsey and a host of others.
That music became an especially important medium of contact during World War II when there were few other alternatives. It might be impossible for modern folks to imagine the level of isolation that was the wartime norm.
My dad was in the Pacific for most of the war. In some years, Mom received less than a half dozen letters and had no idea where he was much less how he was.
Communication was zilch, so about the only messaging of emotions or "sweet nothings" were through music and lyrics of the day. Everybody had "their" song or songs that spoke sentiments they wanted to say but couldn’t personally deliver. The only tweets back then came out of birds.
I was born 10 months before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, but somehow appreciative seeds of that music sprouted inside me. Lyrics were more than rhymes.
When I hear "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer," I see smoke trailing from the warplane. This brings me to my reason for even mentioning stuff that every reader either knows already or doesn’t care about at all.
For all of you music lovers out there — especially we older folks — I want to direct you to a site that will bring smiles and even a few tears from deep memories.
Go to upchucky.org (don’t worry about the unappetizing site name) and when the homepage appears you’ll see a box at top left that says "Jukeboxes." Click and prepare for a musical goldmine.
On your screen is a jukebox of each year from 1940 through 1999. Click on any and you’ll hear the jukebox favorites for that year.
Rocky and Bullwinkle’s Sherman was right. There is a WABAC machine.
Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.