Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The 1968-69 Katahdin Lodge and Camps Music Soundtrack

My Aunt Martha Clarke At Katahdin Lodge In 1969.

pssst: is she a tree?

One good thing about the times when my Uncle Finley, Aunt Martha and I were the only ones at Katahdin Lodge, and we all had work to do inside of the main building, was that they had a record player in the dining room that was often spinning out some good tunes.

When we were working, the music sure helped us maintain a good pace at what we were doing.

Fin and Marty had some of the usual record albums middle class Americans bought back then. Mitch Miller, Sinatra, Dean Martin, New Christy Minstrels, Smothers Brothers (I went Marching To Pretoria many a time when that song came on), Patsy Kline, Readers Digest Collectors Edition Original Recordings of Glenn Miller and other Big Bands and Swing Bands, I think there was a Wayne Newton record or two, no Elvis?, and the best of theirs for me was Johnny Cash.

Sometimes, I was hustling between what I was working on inside the Lodge and out to the tool shed, for more nails or something, I'd pass that spinning Johnny Cash album, and I'd go boppin' along like a contented rooster "going, down, down, down into a burning ring of fire" for a few yards to the beat of the music.

What a way to get along. We were working to the rhythm of the singer and the band.

That record collection was often fully enjoyed when family and friends were there at the Lodge to visit. Fin and Marty and other couples did do a little bit of dancing, now and then, but mostly we'd be diggin' the music while playing some Yatzee, Cribbage or another non-betting card game. I don't remember any gambling at all, but they may have played some penny anny poker a few times. Whatever the game was, I sure liked tappin' my feet to the beat of the music while formulating my game playing strategies.

I had brought some of my record albums and a cheap stereo up to Maine from my home in Dundalk, Maryland. I was a dedicated record collector and music listener. Dedicated to Rock and Roll, Blues, and Rhythm and Blues music.

I had that cheap stereo out in my tiny sleeping cabin. Out there, the toads living under the floor heard a lot of Eric Burdon and the Animals, the Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Them (featuring Van Morrison) and the Best of Muddy Waters.

I'm in a real good mood, so I'll tell you something no one else remembers.

Keep this to yourself, OK.

This here Rolling Stones Fan and Born Again Beatle Maniac from Kladnud (Dundalk spelled backwards) Junction actually requested his favorite Dean Martin album to be played on the Lodge record player a few times. Admittedly, I did dig on Deano's swinging tunes more than I ever thought possible.

Fin and Marty graciously allowed me play some of my albums sometimes on the Lodge's little fold down record player with the fold out speakers attached.

But, naturally, hardly any of my listening library was their cup of tea. So it was usually only barely heard when the vacuum cleaner was roaring.

I had a good sense of proportion though. The only time I played them anything so radical as Frank Zappa and the Mother's of Invention's Help I'm A Rock was when they asked me what Freak Out meant. The Mother's first album is titled Freak Out. And no one up there had heard that now world wide famous piece of slang yet.

Marty had pulled Freak Out out of my record case, because she saw the avant-garde graphics on the album cover, and asked, "What's this Beatnik bullshit? David! What does freak out mean? C'mon, show us what a freak out is."

My parents and sister happened to be there visiting, so I put on an impromptu demonstration of freaking out for them.

On went the album cut Help I'm A Rock. I plopped down cross legged on the dining room rug, started waving my hands and arms into the air way above me, dropped my chin onto my chest and did a Laugh In TV Show comedian style rendition of some basket case burnout trying to bust out from the inside of an invisible boulder.

Marty slid off into the back office and comes out with a double barrel shot gun. She broke it wide open, so everyone could see that it wasn't loaded. We had no tolerance for people screwing around with firearm safety rules, so Marty had made dead certain that the gun was obviously incapable of firing. Then she just pointed it down at the floor right next to me and went "Bang!".

That worked well, the whole joint erupted into roaring laughter.

When I was in high school, there had been a stereo in the school cafeteria, and I was the record committee most of the time. I also brought in most of the records that I played during lunch periods.

Some of the albums that I had with me in Maine were ones that I had played for my schoolmates.

Every lunch period, at Dundalk High School, I parked myself on the end of the table right underneath the locked stereo cabinet that was up about five feet off the floor and bolted to the wall. The turntable and amp were kept in there. I waited by the stereo cabinet till the cafeteria monitor, the male driver's ed teacher who wore hip white shoes, unlocked the cabinet for me. Then I put on a couple of my record albums.

Across the lunch room table from me everyday sat my friend, Edna Galiano. She was a short, well built girl, with very long, pretty hair and a hip sense of style. Edna played bass guitar in an all girls Rock band. She and I never dated, but we were a steady presence around the record machine. We guarded it from Top 40 Billboard Chart 45 RPM records only fans and other lesser minded music owners. We listened to entire album sides at a time, and that was it. So she got her lunch tray first, then I went through the line and got mine.

As the record committee, I turned Dundalk High School onto the first albums of Hendrix, The Doors, Cream, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Country Joe and the Fish, and the ever-obscure West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.

Most of the other kids at my high school were not only often hearing the albums for the first time, they were learning of the musicians for the first time. In those cases, I had often just learned about the band and the album myself, a day or two before, when I had discovered the album sitting in some retail record rack; like amongst the young, fertile isles of the humongous record department at Two Guys Department Store.

The Doors were well received by the kids in the DHS cafeteria, and Cream's first album was an instant success. All kinds of people were coming up to take the Fresh Cream album cover back to their lunch room table full of best friends, so they could all check out who the new, exciting Rock group was.

I don't recall the particulars of any other times I played a new record at school, except for when I played The Jimi Hendrix Experience for the first time. That, now famous, first album caused a near riot of angry protesting.

When I had captained the superb Rock music of The Jimi Hendrix Experience's first album on its maiden voyage into the ears and minds of the DHS school cafeteria music listening audience, it was BOOOED off the turntable. Because all except for about twenty of my good friends, guys and girls who would sometimes turn me onto new music, the kids in the cafeteria all banged trays, plates, forks, knives and spoons, while yelling, hollering and booing at a steadily increasing, very loud decibel level.

Like Jack Crabb - aka Little Big Man - used to say, "That is a true historical fact."

There was a solid percentage of hard core Soul/Rhythm and Blues music fans amongst the white students in many Baltimore area high schools at the time, in 1967.

It was some of the white guys amongst Dundalk High School's Soul/R + B fans who had started the ruckus. It wasn't black kids from Dundalk's all black (in '67) neighborhood Turners Station who started it and made the most commotion. Sure, they were mostly Soul/R + B hearted teens, and they eventually did add a little something to the loud, thick cloud of rude noises too. But they had not yet experienced their God given, previously denied by man, unbridled freedoms of school desegregation long enough to feel strong enough to protest against a white student's choice in what got spun on the lunch room record player. It was the white guys who went wild and rude at Jimi first. Then their good lookin' white girlfriends started jumpin' up and down and adding fuel to the conflagration.

I was so deeply angered by the rude, closed minded antics of the crowd, that I refused to take the record back off the turntable myself.

A buddy of mine sitting next to me, on the lunch room table bench seat, had leaned in close and quietly said, "Dave? What are you gonna do?"

My terse lipped reply was, "Let 'um listen to it. They don't know what the #@*& they're missin."

The record continued playing, while the riotous objections to it roared louder and louder.

It wasn't but a minute more, when the cafeteria monitor, the driver's ed teacher who wore hip white shoes, had to come take the Hendix album off of the turntable and hand it to me.

I looked around the cafeteria, and those twenty or so music sharing friends of mine all had their heads bowed low, with their young faces hanging down near the partially eaten food on their lunch trays. Those faces showed sheer, sad, disgust and disappointment at their couple of hundred classmate's combined first opinion of the, soon to be considered, by many, the best Rock guitarist who ever lived, James Marshal Hendrix.

Six or eight months later though, Jimi Hendrix was roundly appreciated by many at the old green and gold--DHS school colors.

You could tell the percentage of white kids in my school who were hard core Soul and R + B music fans by the way they dressed. The boys wore Wing Tip Shoes, Glenn Plaid Pants and some famous name brand casual/dress shirts that I don't remember the brand names of. But I know it was a style that could be fashionably worn with or without a tie. The girls all wore Saddle Shoes. And they all wore the same kind of skirts and blouses as each other, but I don't know the names of those styles or the brand names. The school dress code dictated that skirt hems be no higher then two inches above the knee, but the Soul music girls wore their skirts with the hems just at the bottom of their knees. I saw that as a straight up self righteous fashion statement against the new coming of the Mod mini-skirt. I didn't want to date any of the Soul fan chicks, but I did want them to show us guys all the leg allowed.

In 1966, '67, '68, the Baltimore/Washington corridor was the Soul Music capital of the world. More of it was listened to and bought there than anyplace else. Hendrix ticked off a lot of Soul/Rhythm and Blues fans at first. DHS's Soul fan base peaked in the fall of '67. Right when Hendrix's first album was made available in our record stores.

My friends and I wore Mod type British Rock and Roll Invasion style clothes. Most of you have only seen that style in an exaggerated form in Austin Powers movies. But we did not look that far-out and colorful. We had much better sense of style and taste in clothing than that.

At our high school dances, the school had to hire a Soul/R + B band and a band that played Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Beatles, etc music. The dance chaperone's soon learned that the Soul/R + B band had to play first, because the fans of those bands hated our music and made a lot of rude noises and fights started. Most of us American Mods liked soul music a lot. But we liked Rock and Roll and Blues Rock better. The side I was on never started any crap, when the Soul band was playing, but we never ran away from any either.

I was fortunate enough not to ever get into any fights at or after a dance myself. But I was always in the half circle of guys who were there to prevent anyone from the opposing half circle of the other guy's friends from jumping into the fight. Those fights caused us to loose out on a lot of future school and teen center dances, because the trouble it caused cancelled upcoming dances.

But I must say, in defence of my generation, it was almost always one on one fights that I was any part of. There wasn't gonna' be any kicking a guy when he was down, either; not by their guy our ours; we'd stop our own from doing it. And there was never a weapon involved, and no retaliation later.

But it still wasn't a nice activity to be involved in. I'd rather be friendly with everyone.

1968-69 Katahdin Valley area social scenes were quite peaceful and non-violent, in amongst the sparsely populated American communities located there.

The fact is, I only witnessed one fist fight/wrastlin' match the entire time I lived in Maine. And that wasn't much 'uv a fight at all.

The big fight occurred on one Saturday evening in Patten, when there was a live Rock n' Roll band playing at a dance, in the Patten Town Hall.

My best friend at the time, Gary McCarthy and I, were standing just outside the front door of the town hall, while finishing off a cold beer apiece, before going into the dance. When all of a sudden, three young teenage boys come poppin' out the door, and two of them 'locked horns', and started to furiously goin' at each other. They fell, with their arms, hands and legs all wrapped around and grappled to each other, just like two young buck deer with their impressive racks of late fall antlers all locked together in territorial combat.

Let em tell ya' now, them two boys were kickin' up some dust from the dry, bare earth they were rolling around on there. But they weren't actually hurting each other very much.

Gary and I thought that it was hilarious, because no one was actually getting hurt, and it was a fair match-up. Gary and I never would have stood there and allowed some bigger kid to beat up a smaller, less evenly matched guy.

Due to the fact that I was not a natural born native of Patten, if I got into a fight there in town with a guy who was also a native of Patten, then Patten native Gary would have had to back up his life-long fellow P-townsman. But I could have helped Gary hold two fighting Patten boys apart, to peace'ify them.

Welp', the larger of them two battling lads says, "Stop! Hold on now!"

The combatants both relaxed their 'death grips' that they had held onto each other with, and the bigger guy lets go of the other boy.

They both stand back up, and the bigger kid asks, "What are we fightin for anyway? You just walked up to me and said let's go, we gotta go outside and fight, but you never said why. I don't wanna fight you. Why are we fighting?"

The smaller, former combatant says, "Because I shot your brother in the ass with a BB gun. And he said that he was going to get his bigger brother to beat me up. So I figured that we might as well get it over with right now."

"What!" Replies the larger, former combatant, "We're fightin' because you shot my dumb-ass little brother in the butt? I don't give a crap if you shot him in the butt or not. Next time, you can shoot him once for me too. C'mon, let's go back inside to the dance and have some fun. I ain't gonna fight you because of that little twerp. I'd rather go kick my dumb little brother's ass, than fight you. I do it all the time."

At that, they each slapped one of their arms around the other's shoulders and proudly walked back inside; to where some girls were most certainly waiting to be asked by one of them to get up and dance. They were proud to have proven that they each could fight fairly hard and take, and that they had shown common sense in choosing not to continue the brief battle.

In the later 1960s, in and around Baltimore, my closest friends and I were painfully aware that Baltimore was averaging one year behind New York City, and two years behind California, when it came to clothing trends, music and 1960s life style changes. One of Jimi Hendix's 45 RPM single releases, either Hey Joe or Purple Haze, was a number one hit in NYC nearly a full year before it was ever even played on a Baltimore radio station. I can't remember which song it was, I just remember some other original Hendrix fan telling me about it, right after I told him about The Great DHS Cafeteria Jimi Hendrix Fiasco.

The well known song Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream was the first Cream song played on Baltimore's only Rock station at the time, WCAO AM. And that song is off Cream's second album. I had that second Cream album, Disraeli Gears, for 3 or 4 months before any of it was allowed on the airwaves in Baltimore.

Several months after that, when I moved to northern Maine, most of the teens up there had never heard of Cream or Hendrix yet. Those cutting edge musician's albums were already for sale in Houlton, the largest town around, a small college town, but it was 35 miles away from Katahdin Lodge. And in the summer of 1969, there was even a few of my kind of albums for sale in a little country store in tiny Sherman, Maine. I was happily surprised to see that. The records weren't selling yet, but they sure did in due time.

Many of northern Maine's young people eventually got into my kind of music. And the very first time I heard one of my favorite Cream songs, Badge, was when it was played by a live band, made up of Maine kids from further south in Maine who played at a dance in the Patten Town Hall. (bawuwm-bawumm-bawumm-ba-wumm-bwumm-bwumm-bwumm-bwumm-bawuumm-bawumm Thinkin' 'bout the times that you drove in my car)

Patten Maine teens were some Rockin' and Rollin' kids, Top 40 records only, but them kids had a natural 4/4 beat poundin' in their hearts. They were some dancin' Top 40 fans too. 1968 Baltimore teenage dancers didn't have a thing on them Mainer kids.

Maine kids were cool in their own ways, that's why I dug 'um so.

It was all Top 40 at the town hall record hops, cabin parties and on the Patten Drug Store jukebox, of coarse.

At the cabin parties and town hall dances rarely were any of the all-white folk there afraid to get up and boogie. Northern Maine was the only place I'd ever been where most young Euro American men at social affairs got up and danced more than they sat around and hoped they didn't do anything to embarrass themselves.

Anytime that I was sitting at the lunch counter in the Patten Drug Store, and a good 1967-68-69 Rock n' Roll song was playing, I could watch out the huge windows there and spot at least one passing pedestrian who was walking to the beat of the music--that could not be heard out there at all.

I conducted controlled social experiments on this phenomena.

I would spend the longest periods of time sippin' sodas and eating tuna sandwiches at the lunch counter, while pretending to have the hots for the sweet, curvy, young thang' working behind the counter; but I was actually confirming my hopeful expectations that Patten did indeed have a Rock n' Roll Soul.


Copyright 2008 David Robert Crews
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1 comment:

MrLee said...

Interesting! Thanks for letting me know about it. Those were VERY interesting times!!

My best,

Lee
www.lincolnmaine.us