Tag Archives: Charboneau

IBM Country Club and the great divide #AtoZChallenge

I is for IBM Country Club and the great divide. Ninth 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.

During my elementary years in the late 1950s, there was a sense of egalitarian camaraderie among my Endwell, N.Y., classmates. We were all just one, great mob of youngsters crowded together in grade school trying to learn — and having a bit of fun after school and on the playground.

But as I entered my teens in the early 1960s, new divisions began to emerge — between the jocks and the nerds, or the River Rats (who, like me, lived down near the Susquehanna) and the Snob Knob crowd (who lived up on the hill by the high school), or the popular kids and the rest of us.

IBM Country Club and Recreation Center, Johnson City, N.Y. Photo: Pinterest

Yet the great divide that trumped them all was between the kids whose parents worked at IBM — and those like me, whose parents did not. And in the summers, that divide was epitomized by the IBM Country Club and Recreation Center.

A country club is born

IBM was founded in the 1920s in Endicott, N.Y. —  know as overtown to us Endwell teens, who went there on weekends to shop, see a movie, buy records and hang out.

By the 1960s, IBM was the biggest company in the area with thousands of employees — and one of the perks of working there was admission for employees and their families to the IBM Country Club, with its pools and recreation center and even a bowling alley!

https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2019/06/20/developers-wanted-ibm-country-club/1509049001/
IBM Country Club rec center (c. 1945). Photo: Broome County Historical Society/ pressconnects.com

A dawning awareness

At the start of my teens, I was not too aware of the IBM Country Club. My family went to our lakeside camp most weekends in the warmer months, or on vacation to Cape Cod when my dad’s General Electric plant shut down in the summer, or on car trips to visit family members — so we were pretty busy with our own activities.

But as my teens progressed — especially right before school ended — I’d hear my IBM classmates tell one another, “See you at the country club this summer.” Or in the fall, some teen girls would talk about guys they had met “at the country club.” And gradually, I started to feel left out.

Guest passes

https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2019/06/20/developers-wanted-ibm-country-club/1509049001/
IBM Country Club pool. Photo: Broome County Historical Society/ pressconnects.com

Sure, there was the GE picnic we went to every year — with a big cookout, raffle prizes and Bingo (where I once won a set of six tumblers in their own wire carrying case!). But this was nothing like the stories I heard coming out of the exclusive IBM Country Club when summer ended — and I longed to go there.

Finally, I heard that IBM teens who had access to the club could bring someone along with a guest pass — so I managed to wrangle an invitation from one of my female classmates.

The grass is always greener

I was totally excited to finally be getting in — and looked forward to swimming and sunning myself on the pool deck with my friend and checking out the boys. Yet after hanging around the pool for a few hours, I found myself wondering what the big deal was — it was not much different from En-Joie pool in Endicott, where I swam as a kid.

And that’s how I learned that my teen envy was just a classic case of the grass always seeming greener (and the pool water pristiner) on the other side of the fence — in this case, on the manicured grounds of the IBM Country Club.

Up next, J is for Junior High the Junior Prom. 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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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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