Happy Days

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     In the late ’50s, near the corner of 56th and Master, was a typical teen hangout. The juke joint was set up with booth seating, a soda fountain, grill, deep fryer, pinball machines and a juke box. It had the ambiance of the Happy Days sitcom ice cream parlor, but for black folks and not as cushy. The joint was packed with young thugs and bobbysoxers, who were snacking, drinking and listening to doo-wop. In the meantime, on the outside there was a mob waiting to get in. They were up and down the street, double parked in vehicles, and even sitting up in trees.

     One of the songs they played was the hit Zoom Zoom Zoom, by the Collegians. Me and some dude got in an argument about it, since I thought they were a black group.
     I told him with an adamant tone, “Those guys are black. Ain’t no white boys gonna sound that good.”
     He replied, “No man. Think about the name ‘Collegians’–they’re probably some college boys.”
     “Man–you is crazy,” I returned.

     One evening as I was passing by, I ran into “Baby Face” Eddy, an old friend of my brother. Eddy was one of the guys that had bee-bee gun shootouts with by brother and his crew in the basement of the first house we moved into. Besides looking so young, Eddy was light-skinned and short in statue. He sorta reminded me of Johnny the “Hack,” the cab driver from South Philly, but without the Cajun accent. Recently my brother had informed me that his early addiction to guns lead him to eventually become a cop on the Philadelphia police force.
     As I approached him, I hollered out, “Hey Eddy. What’s happening?”
     Before he responded, his eyes roamed about wildly as if he was in a state of shock; plus he also seemed to be scoping out the scene.
     Suddenly he replied, “Hey Sonny. I almost didn’t recognize you. Come and check out the car my father brought me.”
     After grabbing me by my arm, he promptly lead me around the corner; at which time he pressed me against the wall and commenced to clue me in on his assignment of working undercover. Immediately I understood his plight. Evidently, he was there to investigate the possibility of illegal activities in the ice cream parlor, and didn’t need me to blow his cover. Moreover, his youthful look allowed him to pass off as a teenage high school student.
     The following weekend the place was shutdown and boarded up. Evidently, his undercover work paid off, because the word was out that booze was being sold to under aged youths in a back room. Till this day, I assume that that’s all it was; since I hadn’t heard of illicit drugs being sold during those days. The popularity of this joint was not that of a soda jerk making ice cream sodas, but sales from 80 proof pints of hooch. Needless to say, in the end, the soda jerk owner wound up being the jerk.

     A week later I felt like a jerk when I found out that the collegians were white. At least I wasn’t too far off; they were from New York City, and they recorded for a studio out off Harlem. On top of that, decades later I found an admitted error on You-Tube. The group was first labeled the G-Clefs—a black group, but was later corrected to show the Collegians.

You Tube Video at left are images from American Graffiti posted by AceRebstaRockA.
You Tube Video at right shows corrected error posted from the istgone channel.

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