Category Archives: A to Z Challenge 2021

Halloween Hijinks: Teen Version #AtoZChallenge

H is for Halloween Hijinks: Teen Version. Eighth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

When I wrote about my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y., I described Halloween Mayhem — when the 50-odd kids on my street tormented the adults with endless bell ringing and window soaping in the weeks before Halloween.

By the time I reached my teens, though, the mayhem was more subdued as many of us were now adolescents and beyond such Halloween hijinks. Instead, we concentrated on a new kind of teen fun —getting our costumes together, then devising a street-by-street plan to maximize our candy haul. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/halloween-holidays-mystery-72939/
Grounded for going down to the creek

Yet the best Halloween ever during my teens was the year my parents grounded me and I couldn’t go trick-or-treating at all. The reason: I had gone down to the creek at the end of our block after school and was hanging around (innocently, I might add) with some of my neighborhood girlfriends’ older brothers.

To compound my crime, Mom may have expressly told me “don’t go down to the creek after school” — practically an engraved invitation to do just that.

https://pixabay.com/photos/nature-creek-landscape-flowing-4579049/I might have gotten away with it, too — if, when she called down from the street above, I had sneaked home the back way and appeared magically in our back yard. But I lacked street smarts then, so I foolishly yelled back, “Yes?” And that was it, Mom was hopping mad.

My punishment: No Halloween!

There were some hot words exchanged — followed by a sentencing meeting when Dad got home from work. The punishment: I could not go trick-or-treating on Halloween AND I would have to stay at the house and dole out candy when the kids rang the bell.

Ugh, what a humiliation! Still, what could I do? So I decided to stoically make the best of it and act like this was absolutely no big deal — even though I was privately green with envy at missing the Halloween fun with my teen friends.

Halloween night arrives

When Halloween night arrived, I took up my post in the living room by the big dish of candy. When the doorbell rang, I’d let the little kids in, try to guess who they were — then plop candy in each of their bags before doing it all over again with the next batch of youngsters.It didn’t help that the kids on the block, unaware of my grounding, kept asking, “What are you doing home? How come you’re not out trick or treating?” How embarrassing!

Still, everything went smoothly until a tall kid, dressed as a ghost with a sheet over his head, rang the bell and came in alone. I figured it was one of the older brothers — so I guessed one name, then another. But the ghost just stood there silently.

A silent and scary ghost

“Who are you?” I demanded finally, getting a little nervous. The ghost did not reply. Mom was escorting my younger siblings on their Halloween rounds — so it was just me at home with Dad, who was in shower. So I inched around the corner and banged on the bathroom door.

”Dad, can you come out? There’s a big kid here and he won’t say who he is,” I yelled through the door. Any disturbance in his routine could set my Dad off — and interrupting his shower was enough to do it. To top it off, all he had in there with him was a towel.

Pretty soon the door opened, and out stomped my unhappy dad. His hair wet and a towel around his hips, he confronted the ghost.

”You tell us who you are right now or get out of this house!” he bellowed. I looked over at the ghost and saw the sheet was shaking — then the ghost started laughing.

“Tell us who you are right this minute!” Dad yelled, but the ghost just laughed harder. Finally, the ghost pulled off his sheet, and it was Porch Sitting Dad from up the street — the one who sat out front to keep us from soaping his windows during Halloween Mayhem.

That year, Porch Dad apparently decided to create some mayhem of his own by fake trick-or-treating. But my dad was not amused.

Best Halloween ever

”What the hell is wrong with you?” Dad bellowed, when he saw who it was. But Porch Dad laughed even harder — and pretty soon my dad was laughing, too. And so was I.

Here I was, supposedly on punishment. But the sight of Dad dripping wet in his towel trying to unmask an “intruder” — who turned out to be his practical-joking neighbor — was too funny for words.

What a story this would make when I got to tell it! And to think, I might have missed it all if I hadn’t been grounded!

Like I said, best Halloween ever.

Up next, IBM Country Club and the great divide. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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G is for Gene Pitney and the Caravan of Stars #AtoZChallenge

G is for Gene Pitney and the Caravan of Stars. Seventh of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

Each summer during my early teens, Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars would stop in the Binghamton, N.Y., area as part of a huge nationwide concert tour of the performers we watched daily on American Bandstand.

That’s how I saw the Supremes, Garry Lewis, the Crystals, the Hullabaloos, Major Lance and others — and that’s how I ended up kissing Gene Pitney when he came to town in 1964!

The Fountain Pavilion

That summer I was 14, and the concert was scheduled for May 5 at the Fountain Pavilion, an indoor venue with a huge, open dance floor. The hall was once the George F. Pavilion,  where I had learned to roller skate in Girl Scouts the year before.

Gene Pitney program cover (1964). Not sure why it’s “Shower of Stars” instead of “Caravan of Stars” — but this is the program from the Fountain Pavilion concert I attended. Scan by Molly Charboneau

According to the blog A Rock n’ Roll Historian, “Clark would routinely use high school gyms, National Guard Armories, and State Fairs as venues and not always in large population centers as his bus of stars bounded across the country.”

Here is the lineup of Dick Clark’s 1964 tour, headlined by singer Gene Pitney, 24.

Talent: Gene Pitney, Dixie Cups, Dean & Jean, Mike Clifford, Rip Chords, Coasters, Brenda Holloway, Crystals, Brian Hyland, Kasuals, Major Lance, George McCannon, Reflections, Round Robin, Shirelles, Supremes.

A lively concert

A Press & Sun Bulletin report of the concert (below) describes several girls swooning, fainting and having to be carried out of the steamy concert hall. Oddly, I don’t remember any of that.

What I do recall is a packed pavilion with young teens dancing away to the pounding music and having a fantastic time — myself included!

I remember going with some of my Junior High girlfriends, and I recall seeing other Endwell teens there, too.

Finally, near the end of the concert, we made our way out a side door by the stage to get to the parking lot where our parents would pick us up.

I end up backstage

And that’s when the miracle happened! Outside in the cool night air I first noticed the bus, then saw some of the performers milling around — and then I realized that Gene Pitney was just standing there, with no one near him.

I had my autograph book with me in the vague hope of getting it signed. Now was my chance! So I walked over, handed Gene Pitney the little book with its pastel pages open and asked for his autograph.

He smiled and obliged — and when he handed the book back I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. That was it, no screaming, no fainting, no ambulance to the hospital — even though it was the first time I had kissed a guy!

After that, I moved on to the bus — where Major Lance (father of Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms) was just as nice about signing his autograph when I passed the book up to his window.

Wow, I had gotten backstage — what a story this would make at school!

My five minutes of fame

The next day at the Junior High I had my five minutes of fame as the Endwell girl who had kissed Gene Pitney. Everyone wanted to know every detail.

Zippered autograph book. My early teen autograph book had a turquoise zippered cover,  but otherwise looked much like this. Photo: diplomacoversource.com

How had I done it? How had I gotten backstage when thousands of others had not? Where was the autograph book? Could they see his signature? So I told the story over and over to anyone who hadn’t heard it.

But what I didn’t tell was how surprised I was that his cheek was so soft.

Before Gene Pitney, I had only kissed my dad and my grandfathers on the cheek. But after Gene Pitney — well, a whole new world opened up.

Up next, H is for Halloween Hijinks: Teen Version. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Family Fun and Farm Visits #AtoZChallenge

F is for Family Fun and Farm Visits. Sixth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

On weekdays during my early teens in the 1960s, my parents, siblings and I moved on autopilot through our own worlds of school, work and household duties — followed by family dinner together, then outside briefly, homework and bed.

Off to Page Lake

But Saturdays in the warmer months meant family time at our “lot on the lake” — a camp on Page Lake in New Milford, Penna., about 40 minutes south of Endwell.

Vintage post card of Page Lake, New Milford, Penna. During my early teens, Saturdays in the warmer months meant family time at our camp on Page Lake, about 40 minutes south of Endwell, N.Y. Image: Lakeside Outing Club, Inc./Page Lake

My parents grew up in New York’s Adirondack foothills – Mom in Gloversville, Dad in Otter Lake – where anyone who could afford it had a lakeside camp. So they wanted one, too.

Never mind that it was the  budget version — with a plywood lean-to for a cabin (I helped Dad shingle the roof!) and a separate building with a toilet we flushed with buckets of lake water (a handy skill even now when plumbing problems arise!).

Montrose memories

Movie theater in Montrose, Penna. (2019). When we had our camp on Page Lake in the early 1960s, my family made annual trips to Montrose, Penna., for fishing licenses. The town generated a wave of nostalgia when I returned in 2019 to research my Blakeslee ancestors. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Still, we had a dock, a row boat, and later a motor boat, and my parents were determined that we kids would learn to swim, fish, hike in the woods, cook on a campfire and generally enjoy nature —  which we did!

There were also annual trips to Montrose, Penna., for fishing licenses — a town that generated a wave of nostalgia when I returned in 2019 to research my Blakeslee ancestors.

A camp conundrum

In my early teens I enjoyed some aspects of camp – swimming,  rowing down to the end of the lake to park our rowboat and read among the cattails or sitting by the campfire as fresh-caught fish sizzled in a cast iron skillet. According to my diary, sometimes my school friends even came along.

June 28, 1964. Barb and Jackie came to the Lake!

Two Jacks and a Queen (1963). My grandmother snapped this slide of me with my brothers Jeff (l. ) and Mark (c.) at Page Lake — and titled it “Two Jacks and a Queen.” Photo by Liz (Stoutner) Laurence

Yet as my teens progressed, when we were at the lake I began to miss my busy life of listening to top-40 radio and chatting with girlfriends on the phone — a sure sign that I was growing up and away from the family fun I enjoyed as a youngster.

Farm visits

My other regular getaway in the early 1960s was summer stays with Boom and Gramps — my maternal grandparents Tony and Liz (Stoutner) Laurence — on their Alamont, N.Y., farm. And in my early teens, I began to have mixed feelings about these visits as well.

On the one hand, my grandmother tried to plan teen-appropriate activities. We went clothes shopping at Cohoes factory stores, she let me stay up late to watch her favorite mystery show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, she taught me crochet, and she drove me into Altamont or Schenectady to meet up with my teen friends — some from childhood, others from my new Dave Clark Five Fan Club.

On the other hand, my grandparents crashed my teen ideal of true love. Yes, they’d been young and in love once — and eloped to Detroit in 1924 to get married when my grandmother’s mom objected. But by 1964, they’d been married 40 years and were settled into a routine that bothered me.

Specifically, Gramps would get on with whatever he had to do (going to work, grappling with wood and metalwork projects out in the barn, etc.) and my grandmother would nag him the minute he hit the house (not to track dirt on the floor, to put his work clothes in the hamper, etc.).

My maternal grandparents at their Altamont, N.Y. farm (c. 1963). Boom is seated at left and Gramps is standing. They are accompanied by their friends Ralph and Margaret Petruska. Photo courtesy of Alicia (Petruska) Panetta.

I ask my grandmother about love

This was a far cry from what I thought a romantic relationship should be — and not what I was used to at home in Endwell, where my parents had a policy of not disagreeing in front of us children. So one day as we drove off in the car, I put it to my grandmother.

“Don’t you love Gramps anymore?” I asked. She looked startled and hesitated for a moment behind the wheel.

“Why, of course I love your grandfather,” she responded, pushing her foot back down on the gas. I wasn’t convinced and pressed the issue.

“Then why do you keep yelling at him all the time?” I asked her.

I don’t remember her exact answer, but I am sure it was along the lines of relationships changing over time and that a bit of directing of Gramps on her part didn’t mean she didn’t love him.

What I do know is this was something Mom would never have dared ask my grandmother — so my frank conversation with Boom marked another step in coming into my own in my early teens.

Up next:  G is for Gene Pitney and the Caravan of Stars. Please leave a comment, then join me tomorrow as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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