After posting Dope on Facebook last week, one of the comments came from childhood friend Bernie Branch.
This column was on top of a Christmas tree that was influential both figuratively and literally. It was huge, festive, and terrifying.
“So,” Bernie said, “Would you like to write a column for Santa’s jukebox?”
Oh yes. why?
Here’s the problem. Bernie is a lifelong musician/entertainer and a great guy at that. So it’s no surprise that he thinks of his column writing in terms of musicians.
For example, Bernie is in a bucket of blood, singing heartily while banging on a git-fiddle, and someone asks him to play. “Gentle to the heart” And he will gladly oblige. When Jamoke lifts up his lighter and shouts, “Skynyrd” He “Freebird” Or try and die.
But it doesn’t work that way with a weekly columnist, especially this columnist. Not only is there no column already written in Hopper, waiting to see the light of day, but you never know what to write from one week to the next. So if someone suggests me to write about this or that, I appreciate their suggestion, but it almost never becomes an actual column.
But My Home Town hosts Old Home Week every week, so this is for you, Bernardo.
In the heart of the city and the center of attention
So what was Santa’s jukebox?
It was a town facility much like the Berkeley Square Tree. And like the tree, Santa’s jukebox was a beloved institution — at least by most people.
It’s also in Berkeley Square and made its maiden voyage around the same time as mine – 1947 for me, 1948 for it. It was the brainchild of longtime police chief Bill Wallace, with the support of various town organizations and civilians. Its purpose was to raise funds for Christmas gifts for families struggling children.
In theory, people can drop enough cash advances on the jukebox to raise enough money for the giveaway. But that was not possible, so most of the money came from donations. In the 1940s and his 1950s, WNBZ played a major role in raising money by performing on-air talent his shows, with listeners calling and promising money when they heard their favorite songs.
It was then supported by service organizations and, of course, by private donors. “Baby,” Donations were delivered directly to the Policeman’s Shop (and then downstairs at City Hall).
When the money came in, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace bought presents to take home and have the whole family wrap them up.
To use restaurant terminology, it was the back side of the operation. But what about the front of the house, the jukebox itself?
Originally located in front of Endicott Johnson (later IB Hunt Agency, next to Roger Neal’s office). It was then across the street, in front of the Blue Line. Upstate Vending donated the jukebox and until its demise it was an old traditional mechanical one with 45’s and classic tunes.
Like I said, most people liked the jukebox both in concept and in practice. But it had its share of critics. And what did they criticize? The noise level, if you can believe such things.
So how loud was it?
Well, compared to The Waterhole Band from Party on the Patio, it was barely audible. It was thought to be a large decibel. Come to think of it, this was the idea in the first place. If you drop two bits, it’s that you can give a bunch of Townspeep a sweet serenade.
Loved the jukebox without reservations. As a kid, the jukebox was a quarter over my means. So for 25 cents he could get a chocolate eclair at Deissler’s Bakery, next door he could walk to Boynton’s candy store and wash it down with 16 oz. Royal Crown Cola. That being said, as a philanthropist Dumanc, I put in my share of the dime whenever I could.
As a wage-earning adult, I ate a lot whenever I was near the jukebox, and I confess my motivations were mixed. rice field. On the other hand, I just did it for me: That jukebox, chock-full of all those old things, was more of a time machine than a gramophone. Little accuracy, but great love.
Being a creature of habit, I played mostly the same tunes each time.
Among my particular Xmas selections are: “White Christmas” When “I’m going home for Christmas” By Bing Crosby. “Have a Holly Gory Christmas” By Burl Ives. “Merry Christmas” By Connie Francis, and “Santa Baby” By Eartha Kitt.i always played “Jingle Bell Rock” Bobby Helms. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas” Little Miss Dynamite’s tree, and last but not least, “Blue Christmas” by King.
There were other non-Christmas songs on the box, and I always played my favorite country music, all of which appealed to my melancholic side.Among them are Eddie Arnold’s “let the world go”; “For good times” By Ray Price. “There is my everything” By Charlie Pryde. “Just passing by” By Leroy Van Dyke, and “It’s four o’clock in the morning.” By Fallon Young.
I played them all out of order, but I always saved my two favorites for last. They were classics and top-notch tearjerkers by his two giants at C&W.
first i played “A good dream” By Patsy Cline.
Willie Nelson always ends “Time Slip Away”
Frankly, for anyone my age that gets their eyes dry when they hear that song, there’s only one reason.
Many years ago someone who I thought was an old man at the time told me that there are two kinds of funny things: one is funny, ha! The other one is funny, hmm…
For those confused about the difference:
for Ha! Ha! Funny, look at Blazing Saddles.
Hmm… that’s funny, ask Willie.
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