by William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
This article was first published in 2011
SOUTH PHILADELPHIA, PA (CNBNews)(August 6, 2023)--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 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, he didn’t need 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 40s, 50s, and early 60s. 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 have ever watched “Happy Days” or seen 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 worry 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 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.
There was a large open balcony and an enclosed dance ballroom located above the Gloucester Pool building. The ballroom had French doors that could be opened to allow the breeze to come in from the nearby Delaware River. In the early 1960s, DJ Jerry Blavat visited Gloucester City a few times to DJ dances at the Park, but he doesn't mention those times in his book. During one particular Park dance, a fight broke out between some Gloucester guys and some of Blavat's teenaphonics from South Philly. The ballroom became a battleground for a few minutes until the cops arrived, and we all scattered.
During the winter, Gloucester High and Gloucester Catholic would hold Friday night dances that were always packed. Afterward, my friends and I would often go to one of the nearby luncheonettes or the Greenbriar Restaurant in Haddon Township. We also frequented Browns, located on Nicholson Road and Rt. 130, where the carhops would take our orders and bring them out to our car on a tray. Some couples would go to Gloucester Park and watch the "submarine races," although we always had to be on the lookout for the local cop we nicknamed "Flashlight" Harry. He would sneak up on parked cars and check for licenses and registrations, telling us to move along if we were causing any trouble.
We used to enjoy Las Vegas-style shows at the Latin Casino, dress up for a meal at Chubby's in Fairview, The Pub, or head to Zaberer's and The 500 Club in Atlantic City. We also frequented The Club Al Jo in Mt. Ephraim, Dick Lee's in Brooklawn, The Crown Point Inn in Westville, and The Harvard House in Westville. To gain entry into these clubs, those under 21 would often need a "forged draft card". Some of the popular local bands that played in the area included "Bobby Moore and The Temps", "The McGraw Brothers", and Billy Harner - a South Jersey barber who had several hits, including "Sally Saying Something," "Homicide Dresser," and "What About the Music."
I asked a few friends to write down their memories of those years.
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 Blavat 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 wedding 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 Blavat. 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).