strains of Tommy Dorsey's big band pulsating from the corner jukebox
at White's Restaurant on Pitt Street East (just east of the present
Royal Bank building). The early 1940's...
students huddled in the booths. Girls in Sloppy Joe sweaters with
the sleeves pushed up stylishly just below the elbows. Boys in
pork pie hats and fraternity cardigans (with BIG letters) and
pant cuffs rolled up to reveal argyle sox.
malts and Bar-B-Q's. 1 a.m. Finishing off a big night of jitter-bugging
in a sweaty school gymnasium or at the "Y" or the Masonic Temple
or Coral Gables (on Ouellette Avenue, south of the Vanity Theatre).
Music by the orchestras of Tom Crowley or Bill Carrigan or Bill
Richardson or (would you believe?) Robin Hood and His Merry Men.
on warm summer evenings ("I've got the Old Man's jalopy tonight")
trips to the country-cool dance floors of Leamington's Seacliff
Park or Casper's Pavillion on the Point Pelee Road or Swingland
if you wanted to save wartime gas (recently increased to $0.25
per gallon) dancing at the foot of Ouellette Avenue on the dock
of the former Windsor-Detroit Ferry Company (the Cadillac and
LaSalle ferries had given up the ghost on July 19 1938.)
if you really wanted to impress your girl, there was always the
downriver trip on the streamers Columbian and Ste. Clair to breeze-kissed
Bob-Lo Island to dance to the Big Name Bands in the huge stone
pavillion (billed as North America's largest).
you attended Walkerville Collegiate Institute in those days, you
could take your chance at the annual Gamblers' Gambol. (Draw
your ticket at the door and pay from one cent to 75 cents.
Per couple.) Or (fanfare, maestro, please) the social event of
everyone's year the Military Ball. Where, jammed into
the world's smallest gym at the rear of the second floor (not
the big new gymnasium) a few hundred boys in itchy Cameron kilts
whirled blushing and beautiful, long-gowned angels, magically
transformed from the plain-faced girls who had sat beside them
in Latin that afternoon.
got a gal in Kalamazoo.
Don't want to boast
But I know she's the toast
Of Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo˛ (Tex Beneke arrangement)
by the ritual visit to White's. And, if you played your cards
right, a trip to Heppenstall's to watch the fairyland lights wink
on and off on the graceful lakers gliding silently down the Detroit
River under the Ambassador Bridge. (They were only deck lights
on grubby freighters? Don't tell me. I don't want
to hear it.)
if you were very lucky a chance to kiss a lovely ball
of fluff in her taffeta dress, scented with her mother's best
perfume. ("Careful, don't crush my corsage.")
sessions at George's on Ottawa Street (north side, between Windermere
and Lincoln long gone). Girls sitting up on stools.
Pleated knee-high skirts and Betty Grable legs. Holding their
cigarettes oh, so blazé. Girls in sweaters. Every
one a Lana Turner.
after 4. Heintzman's at Ouellette and London Street (University?
Very well, if you say so. But we called it London.) Where
First City Trust does business in the 1980's. A half-dozen students
jammed into a single-seat record booth, playing 35-cent 78's.
Glen Miler's "A-Train". Bing Crosby's "Bells of Saint Mary's".
The Andrew Sisters. The Mills Brothers. The Ink Spots.
Harry James, Carmen Miranda. Spike Jones. Jerry Colonna.
on that new one, Charlie."
sleepy lagoon, a tropical moon, And two on an island˛