BY BILL CLEARY
(cnbnews.net)Jerry Blavat, the Geator with the Heater, the Boss with the Hot Sauce, released his autobiography, You Only Rock Once, earlier this summer. Blavat, who grew up in South Philadelphia, reminisces about dancing on Bandstand at age 13. Building a career for himself as a DJ spinning records on the AM radio station WCAM. Holding record hops at MEPRI Hall in Mount Ephraim, the Starlight Ballroom in Wildwood, the L&M Ballroom, and Wagner’s Ballroom both in Philadelphia along with other venues in this area. His lifelong friendships with people like Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, U.S. Ambassador Walter Annenberg, Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo and his relationship with Philadelphia Mafia boss Angelo Bruno that resulted in a 10-year FBI investigation.
From the book’s jacket cover, “Jerry Blavat is a Philadelphia icon and major influence in the national music scene as creator of the “oldies” format and as the deejay who broke many top acts in the 60s. Blavat gained national fame hosting the Discophonic Scene on CBS-TV.”
Today the Geator lives in center city Philadelphia. He continues to host regular radio shows, and owns Memories nightclub in Margate. I recommend the book especially if you are over 55 years old. One negative, it wasn’t necessary for him to give so many details about his love life. The Geator played the best music in the 50's and 60's and continues to spin those same "oldies" today. If interested in his book you can find it on Amazon.
Reading Blavat’s story brings back many fond memories of growing up in the 40‘s, 50‘s and early 60‘s. I often think how lucky we were to have lived in Gloucester City/Brooklawn/South Jersey as a kid. There was so much to do compared to what is offered to today’s youth. If you ever watched “Happy Days” or saw the movie “American Graffitti” or listen to the song Cherry Bomb by John Mellencamp that is how it was to grow up during that time period.
We had the King Movie on King Street, The Savar and The Stanley in Camden, and two drive-ins...The Starlite (where Meadowbrook is located), The Talcony in Pennsauken.
Kids hung out in front of one of the many luncheonettes in the City without having to worried about being chased by the cops. There was Powell’s, Tuttie’s, Tucker’s Corner, Moxie’s a.k.a Glady’s, Gord’s, The Pine House, Kelly’s, The Venice, Jim’s Pizzeria, and who can forget the Gloucester Diner at Broadway and Ridgeway Street. In Brooklawn there was Cerrone’s on New Broadway at New Jersey.
In the summer we would meet at the Gloucester City Pool, where Proprietor’s Park stands today. Swim or just hang out there during the day laying under the trees. Or go to “Chicken Beach” to swim located at the back part of Almonesson Lake, in Almonesson. Every so often a bunch of us would head to the Wildwoods, sleep at Colliers on Maple Avenue or find a friend who was working on the Boardwalk and stay in their summer apartment.
Above the Gloucester Pool building that held the pool equipment, swim lockers and concession stand, was a large open balcony and an enclosed dance ballroom. Situated around the dance floor were French doors that would be opened to allow the breeze to blow in from the nearby Delaware River. In the early 60‘s Blavat actually visited Gloucester City on a couple occasions to DJ dances at the Park. Although he doesn’t mention those times in his book. One particular Park dance a fight broke out between Gloucester guys and some of Blavat’s teenaphonics from South Philly. The ballroom became a battle ground for a few minutes until the cops came an we all scattered.
Speaking of dances during the winter Gloucester High and Gloucester Catholic would each hold a Friday night dance. Both of them would be packed. Afterwards we would go to one of the luncheonettes mentioned above or to the Greenbriar Restaurant in Haddon Township. There was also Browns, Nicholson Road and Rt. 130. At Browns you would stay in your car and the waitress or “carhop” would take your order and bring it to you on a tray that hung on your car window.
Some couples would head to the Gloucester Park to park and watch the ‘submarine races’. A local cop we named ‘Flashlight’ Harry would sneak up on your car and peek in the window shinning his flashlight. He would hassle you for your license and registration and then tell you to move.
We see Las Vegas type shows at the Latin Casino, get dress up to eat at Chubby’s in Fairview, The Pub or head to Zaberer’s and The 500 Club in Atlantic City. Go to The Club Al Jo, in Mt. Ephraim, Dick Lees in Brooklawn, The Crown Point Inn, in Westville or The Harvard House, also in Westville. If you were under the age of 21, you had a a "forged draft card" to get in the door of these clubs. Some of the local bands that played in the area were "Bobby Moore and The Temps", "The McGraw Brothers", Billy Harner, of "Sally Saying Something."
I asked a few friends to write down their thoughts about being a teen in the 50’s and 60’s.
John Hindsley, who was raised in nearby Brooklawn and graduated from Gloucester City High School, Class of ’60, writes,
“Hey Bill, I remember a couple brawls at the park dance and at MEPHI Hall. The one at the Park dance, started when one of Blavits South Philly guys said something to one of the Gloucester girls that wasn't nice. Corky McNutt leveled Blavit with one punch !!!! I think it may be the same one that Gorecki got hurt at ? Anyway, there was a lot of South Philly boys laying on the ground !!! I don't think Blavit ever came back to the Park dance after that episode.
“You must remember when several of us would meet at the old pool hall on Burlington Street and go through the newspapers to see where the receptions were and ‘crash’ them that night. I remember one time we went to Moffa's Farms and hit all four receptions that were being held. I'm pretty sure you were there along with Pudgy O'hara, Joe Battersby and Earl Kaighn.”
Bill Gross, who lived in Gloucester City and graduated from Gloucester Catholic in 1963, recalls the Park dance fight.
“A couple of guys from Philly threw Johnny DeFilece in the river and beat up John Gorecki. The following week at the dance the place was packed with Gloucester guys. It didn’t take long for the fight to break out. Corky McNutt went after Blavit. Someone got thrown over the rail and broke one or both arms.”
If you wonder where I was during this fight, I always believed in Love not War. So I was either holding the combatant’ s coats, at the ‘submarine races’, or still dancing with my girlfriend (s).
Gary Marcucci GHS class of ’60 writes,
“We started going to the dances at Gloucester Catholic High School in their gym, Gloucester City High School and one place I remember in particular was St. Anne’s in Westville. As a matter of fact, a bunch of us used to hang out there at Beverly Hanson’s house. It was neat, their family had a monkey as a pet. Some of the girls we hung out with were: Beverly Hanson, Terrie Manion, Donna Barton, Lois Grossinger, Bernadetter Murphy.
“Middle Teens were spent at Tucker’s, at the corner of Cumberland and Joy Streets. Some of the regulars were: Bill Kimmey, Jake Miller, Dick Fitzpatrick, Frank Herman, George Cleary, Bob Bevan, Pete Pitzo, Albie Brandt, Joe and Ed DiGiacomo, Joe Battersby, Jim Fritz, Joe Brandt, Billy Underwood, Denny Stinsman, Larry Pusey, Bill Tourtual. And so many others that would drop by on a semi-regular basis.
“It was from about age 15 to 17 that we used to crash weddings. I still can’t believe how we got away with it. I remember one time Joe Brandt actually danced with the bride at the Gloucester Heights Fire Hall.
"After high school, we started going to some of the local bars, such as the Erin, Capp’s, Twin Bar and the Sand Bar. We would stop at these places before going on to one of the dances. From our twenties on, besides the shore, there was the Erlton Bowl and Al Jo’s.
"So, so many stories that we all have that would fill a book. I remember when I was away at college I didn’t tell a lot of the stories for fear of being branded a liar. Some of the stuff we did was absolutely nuts.
"Playing Little League Baseball and having your teammate (Dinky Brennan) drive himself to the game. Joe Brandt flushing Walt Sharp’s eye down the toilet and a thousand more."
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