by Dick Mac
The 30 Day Song Challenge has been presented to me by my friend Beff. The month of April will be dedicated to those thirty songs.
The Hitching Post had the best jukebox. Better than the jukebox at Old Colony Yacht Club; but not as good as the jukebox in the teen center at Building 24.
In 1963, my parents separated permanently. In 1965, my father was granted visitation rights on Sundays between 2:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. We would spend the day at my grandmother's new lace-curtain house near the Pond, in Jamaica Plain. At Christmas, 1967, my grandmother died and the Sunday visitation pick-ups ceased for a while.
In the Spring of 1968, the visits generally meant he would pick us up on McGreevey Way and drive to Brigham Circle, where on the block of 777 Huntington Avenue, right after the Farragut School, was a locksmith, a medical supply company, a stairway down to the Brigham Bowl-A-Drome, and the most magical place in the world: The Hitching Post.
We never went bowling, and the locksmith and medical supply shops were always closed on Sundays. This was Boston in the sixties and there were blue laws forbidding the transaction of business. Well, forbidding the transaction of some business, certainly not forbidding the afternoon opening of a barroom.
The Hitching Post was made-up of two rooms: the bar on the right-hand side of the entrance, with heavy drapes on the small windows to keep the room dark. A long wooden bar on the interior wall, and some booths along the opposite wall. At the end of booths was one of those bowling machines with the polished wooden tabletop along which a heavy metal disc was slid over metal sensors controlling "bowling pins" that would mechanically click up depending on the accuracy of the shot. Ten frames for a dime. I loved that machine, but it was on the barroom side and kids were not really welcome. The bar room had a tavern feel to it, and women were generally not welcome, either.
The room on the left-hand side was the lounge (which was the barroom for women and children). It had plate-glass windows looking out onto Huntington Avenue with gold colored curtains that were open to let the natural light in. There were booths along the wall shared with the bar, and a service window for the cocktail waitress to place and collect drink orders. Booths also ran along the windows, and halfway up the opposite wall from the bar, and in between them, running up the middle of the room, was a double row of booths from the front of the room, halfway to the back.
The lounge was deserted every Sunday. I don't know if it was ever used by anyone besides me and my brothers.
The booths that stopped halfway left plenty of room for the magical part of the room: a dance floor with a jukebox. Three plays for a quarter. Every genre of music was available: Patti Page, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Nat King Cole, Beach Boys, Young Rascals, Rolling Stones, Supremes, Louis Armstrong, Chubby Checker, Anita O'Day, and more. Along with the teenagers in the projects, this jukebox helped shape my earliest appreciation of music.
Every Sunday my siblings and I would listen to a dozen songs, while my father drank himself senseless on a quick half-dozen boiler makers, before we would make our way to his apartment in Jamaica Plain to watch sports and have a big Sunday dinner, or to some event at a relative's home.
I always chose the same song first: "I Got the Feelin'," by James Brown; the funkiest song I'd ever heard in my life, and still my favorite of all funk songs.