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The Famous BLT

The Famous BLT

A BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) is a type of bacon sandwich. The standard BLT is made up of four ingredients: bacon, lettuce, tomato, and bread. The BLT evolved from the tea sandwiches served at a similar time to the club sandwich, although it is unclear when the name BLT became the norm.

HISTORY

A close-up view of a BLT sandwich

Although the ingredients of the BLT have existed for many years, there is little evidence of BLT sandwich recipes prior to 1900. In the 1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book, a recipe by a Dr. Kevin Zinter for a club sandwich included bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and a slice of turkey sandwiched between two slices of bread. Whilst the 1929 book Seven Hundred Sandwiches does include a section on bacon sandwiches, the recipes often include pickles and none contain tomato.

The BLT became popular after World War IIbecause of the rapid expansion of supermarkets, which allowed ingredients to be available year-round. The initials, representing “bacon, lettuce, tomato”, likely began in the American restaurant industry as shorthand for the sandwich, but it is unclear when this transferred to the public consciousness. For example, a 1951 edition of the Saturday Evening Post makes reference to the sandwich, although it does not use its initials, describing a scene in which: “On the tray, invariably, are a bowl of soup, a toasted sandwich of bacon, lettuce and tomato, and a chocolate milk shake.”

A 1954 issue of Modern Hospital contains a meal suggestion that includes: “Bean Soup, Toasted Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich, Pickles, Jellied Banana Salad, Cream Dressing, and Pound Cake.” By 1958, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise advertised their product as “traditional on bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches,” suggesting that the combination had been around for some time.

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Posted by on MonAmerica/New_York2018-10-08T14:46:46+00:00America/New_York10bAmerica/New_YorkMon, 08 Oct 2018 14:46:46 +0000 31, in culture, food

 

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An all-time American Favorite: “Beef Stew”

An all-time American Favorite: “Beef Stew”

Old-Time Beef Stew

Long and slow cooking on the stovetop makes this stew rich in color and flavor, and with ultra tender meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 6 medium carrots, bias-sliced into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1 pound small white onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Snipped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large pot cook all the meat at once in hot oil over medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until brown, stirring occasionally. Drain off excess fat. Add the 4 cups water, sliced onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, sugar, salt, paprika, pepper, bay leaf, and allspice. Bring just to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in carrots, halved onions, and potatoes. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 30 minutes more or until meat and vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf.
  3. In a screw-top jar shake together the 1/2 cup cold water and flour until combined. Stir into stew. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook 1 minute more. Season stew to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with snipped parsley, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Facts (Old-Time Beef Stew)

Per serving: 389 kcal cal., 13 g fat (4 g sat. fat, 82 mg chol., 338 mg sodium, 37 g carb., 5 g fiber, 31 g pro. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Source: https://amp.bhg.com/recipe/meat/old-time-beef-stew/

 
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Posted by on MonAmerica/New_York2018-10-08T14:35:50+00:00America/New_York10bAmerica/New_YorkMon, 08 Oct 2018 14:35:50 +0000 31, in culture, nostalgic

 

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The Famous 5-4 Ballroom (part two)

The Famous 5-4 Ballroom (part two)

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The two-story brick building was built in 1922 on what was then the corner of 54th and Moneta. In its early days, the upstairs dance hall featured primarily jazz and big band music played by whites for a mostly white crowd.

As the racial makeup of the area shifted from white to black, more black artists performed at the club before black audiences.

Within 10 blocks on Broadway–the new name for Moneta–numerous blues venues sprouted, including the defunct Dixie Club at 59th Street and Cotton Club at 50th.

In his 20s and early 30s, Thomas danced to live blues, jazz and R&B on a 4,000-square-foot floor cluttered with hundreds of people from all over Los Angeles. Performers included Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and B.B. King–for a $1.25 cover charge. 5-4 Ballroom – ES Updates

Couple at 5-4 Ballroom image source

Edwin N. Thomas chuckled when he recalled what the 5-4 Ballroom was like in its heyday some 45 years ago.

Tim and the Johnny Otis Band, mid-50s image source

“I saw James Brown here before he knew how to dance,” said Thomas, 76, a retired postal worker who earned the moniker “Mr. 5-4 Ballroom” for his dancing prowess.

The historic 5-4 opened the doors recently to its Bluesroom, a concert hall beneath the ballroom, where jazz and blues legends Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie performed to huge crowds.

The reopening Oct. 28 of the Bluesroom, which included a blues concert and presentation of 13 framed enlargements of jazz and blues commemorative stamps donated by the U.S. Postal Service, was a precursor to the ballroom’s slated opening in March, 1995.

Margie Evans, the club’s promoter and an accomplished blues singer, has lead the campaign to reopen the ballroom, working closely with club owner Oliver Wilson, a Cal State Dominguez Hills political science professor with a keen interest in the blues.


Ray Charles Video Museum

The 5-4 Ballroom is to South-Central Los Angeles what the Apollo Theater is to Harlem,” said Evans, who has performed extensively here and abroad and has five CDs out on European labels.

This photo, featuring Marilyn relaxing at the 5-4 Ballroom, Los Angeles, in 1952, with costume designer Billy Travilla and an unnamed friend, was uncovered .. for more info visit source
Billy Berg was a nightlife impresario. He didn’t just work as a promoter. He was a successful club owner, an MC and the grinning face of his franchise (he put it right on the matchbooks). The Berg brand meant music and dancing and drinking, a hip crowd and hipper bands. In less than twenty-five years, Berg came to own at least six different clubs in the Los Angeles area — Trouville, The Swing Club, Waldorf’s Cellar, Club Capri, The 5-4 Ballroom and the most famous, Billy Berg’s.
Berg ran integrated institutions, one of the first to disregard the color barrier onstage and at the tables and he booked big jazz musicians. Lester Young returned to Los Angeles in the early 1940s to play lengthy residencies at both Trouville and the Club Capri with his brother Lee. Louis Armstrong spent a month with Jack Teagarden and Big Sid Catlett in the summer of 1947. Billie Holiday described the 5-4 Ballroom in her autobiography — “a different kind of place, — not high class enough to be high class and not low class enough to be a dive.”

Holiday also rang in 1949 at Billy Berg’s, a gig that trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker likely did three years prior.
The talkers, the partiers, the spenders wanted something hip to listen to but also wanted to be shown a good time for their investment. Bird and Diz were serious young men looking to elevate a musical genre and that wasn’t conducive to selling drinks or souvenir photos for $1.50 per flash. It wasn’t that Parker and Gillespie couldn’t convince that crowd to bring a little high-art intellectualism to the scene. Nobody could.

A musician who succeeded at entertaining revelers at Billy Berg’s was the flamboyant Slim Gaillard. Gaillard was a showman. He could play multiple instruments, sing, dance, he had his own hipster language with a printed dictionary. He worked extensively with a bass player named Slam. He was Chico Marx reimagined as a black beatnik and Berg’s was a regular source of income for him.

Gaillard was the opening act for Gillespie and Parker when they arrived and records indicate that he kept the opening gig for at least a couple of months after the residency. He wrote pop hits (“Cement Mixer,” “Yep-Roc Heresy,” “Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy-Floy)”) employing his goofy self-invented patois called Vout that attached “ooti” to nearly every word he sang. Audiences loved his wild clothes and stage gimmicks like playing the piano with his hands palms up. He worked steadily through his life as an actor and a generally fascinating character but was also one of the swingiest jazz novelty acts until his passing in 1991.

Berg knew how to market Gaillard’s shtick. He hosted weekly shows on KFOX and KHJ from his clubs which often featured Gaillard alongside mainstays like Harry “The Hipster” Gibson and Frankie Laine. Gaillard even recorded a dual piano rocker called “Boogin’ At Berg’s” to immortalize the club. source

“All the greats and anybody who was anybody was here,” said Thomas, a Watts resident. “Ike and Tina (Turner) used to dance among us while they performed. On nights like those, you couldn’t even move.”
From the late 1940s to 1968, the ballroom hosted such legendary artists as Nat King Cole, Muddy Waters, Dina Washington and Otis Redding. They are portrayed in the enlarged stamps, which will hang atop the 5-4 building.”You’d have to come before 10 or else you wouldn’t be able to get in until midnight,” Thomas said.The crowds even kept out the club’s future owner.”I always attempted to go upstairs, but I never could because there were too many people. It was almost impossible to drive through here because of the traffic,” said Wilson, who had moved to the area in the mid-1950s from New Orleans, where he was exposed to the blues as a child.Until the club closed in the late ’60s because of an economic decline in the area, Wilson danced at the ballroom only a handful of times. In 1980, he visited his brother’s new garment-cutting business on Broadway. “As I walked around the building, my brother asked, ‘Do you know where you are?’ ” Wilson recalled. “I didn’t believe him when he said it was the 5-4 until he took me upstairs and showed me.” article source

5-4’s guest talents

“Hey everybody Ray Charles is in town so…” “Let The Good Times Roll”

https://youtu.be/v_tcBVXnCU4

 
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Posted by on MonAmerica/New_York2018-10-08T13:46:03+00:00America/New_York10bAmerica/New_YorkMon, 08 Oct 2018 13:46:03 +0000 31, in culture, dance, doo wop, jazz, nostalgic, r&b

 

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Have You Ever Wondered When Restaurants and or Fast Foods came to being? And, which came first…?

Have You Ever Wondered When Restaurants and or Fast Foods came to being?  And, which came first…?

The Worthen House, on 141 Worthen Street, Lowell, Massachusetts, is the oldest bar in Lowell, originally built in 1834 as the West India Goods Store. featured image source

Quite assuredly, restaurants and fast foods were born out of the USA’s Industrial Revolution. History tells of a time (Post American Revolution 1780 thru 1860 Civil War antebellum) when the vast enterprising and manufacturing of goods transpired. Factories opened in America’s cities as Lowell Massachusetts and Bothell Washington. Young people went to work in factories; however, after work, they socialized. The intermingling of these newly working-class of young people prompted food concessions to be established. This was the infancy of USA’s industrialization and the dawning of urbanization. This is an AmericaOnCoffee (AOC) Commentary!

The Oldest Restaurants in America

by Amy McKeever

Restaurants aren’t exactly known for long life spans, but every so often one comes along that stands the test of time. There are inns and taverns dotting the East Coast that have been around since — or even before — America itself was founded. But how old is the oldest seafood restaurant or steakhouse? Which of the country’s old-school diners and red-sauce joints are still in operation today? Here’s a look at 11 of the oldest restaurants in America, organized by category:

Oldest Cafe: Café du Monde, New Orleans, LA

Things have been kept pretty simple at the Café du Monde over its 150-year-plus reign. Chicory coffee and square beignets generously dusted with powdered sugar still win the morning, afternoon, and evening at this 24-hour cafe. Café du Monde has been a fixture for life in New Orleans since 1862, having halted operations only temporarily for Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.

800 Decatur St.; 504-525-4544

Oldest Diner: Horseshoe Cafe, Bellingham, WA

It’s been 130 years since the Horseshoe Cafe opened its doors to the miners who had rushed to the doorstep of Bellingham, Washington. Though it’s moved a few times in that long history — and just last year was remodeled and reopened under new ownership — the Horseshoe Cafe has been an all-day Bellingham fixture since 1886. Its menu is stacked with diner staples, from fried chicken and triple-stacked pancakes to burgers and patty melts.

113 E. Holly St.; 360-933-4301

Oldest Burger Joint: Louis’ Lunch, New Haven, CT

There’s some controversy over who gets to claim the oldest burger joint title. The late food writer Josh Ozersky neatly laid out the argument for why a White Castle founder invented the hamburger, but our money falls on Louis’ Lunch for oldest burger joint in America. This New Haven icon has been serving burgers between slices of toast (a disqualifier for some, although buns weren’t even invented at the time) since 1895.

261-263 Crown St.; 203-562-5507

read full article at source

 
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Posted by on MonAmerica/New_York2018-10-08T13:00:46+00:00America/New_York10bAmerica/New_YorkMon, 08 Oct 2018 13:00:46 +0000 31, in culture, historic, nostalgic

 

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Trulove Stories – A Reflection Of American, Romantic Wonders

The 1920’s was the decade of all things NEW — a new kind of economy, fashion, thinking and a new modern woman. Gone were the corsets, elaborate long hair, layers of petticoats, as well as Victorian morality. You were “not what grandma used to be. Oh contraire!” You worked, made your own money and had your own place. You were emboldened by the right to vote. Some say you pushed the boundaries too far — smoking, drinking, showing your knees, carousing at speakeasies. No longer tied to tradition, you redefined what it meant to be a lady. It was the perfect time to be young and thin (isn’t it always?) and still pretty heady even if you weren‘t. As a woman you now had freedom to choose. Who would you vote for? What career would you pursue? How would you dress? And most importantly, should you cut your hair? Read More

(Excerpts)

The women of the ‘30s proved it, even if the men weren’t ready to admit it. Despite everything that was going on, you saw to it that the deep desire — truly the need — for laughter, love, friendship, passion and fun prevailed. Read More

That Crazy Girl

that crazy girlLove is so beautiful—so terrible—so awesome a thing. It came to her like a tropical dawn—in a matchless sweep of breathless beauty and wonder, yet. . .

Love is so beautiful—so terrible—so awesome a thing. It came to her like a tropical dawn—in a matchless sweep of breathless beauty and wonder, yet. . .
Love is so beautiful—so terrible—so awesome a thing. It came to her like a tropical dawn—in a matchless sweep of breathless beauty and wonder, yet. . .

Dateline: April 1937

Hear The Audio Version of This Story!

They were falling deeply in love, but she held a secret: Myra was the cause of all his bitterness. She caused his plane to crash during the town air-derby, forever Read More


Life in the 40s

Chic and appropriately dressed for every occasion, the women of the 1940s were sassy, strong and adaptable. Think Katherine Hepburn! World War II created extraordinary circumstances, requiring exceptional women, and you didn’t disappoint. As men were shipped overseas, you took up their power tools (you knew how to operate an electric mixer after all!) and places at the assembly lines building ships and armaments. You succeeded at jobs no one ever dreamed a woman could do. Singles, married women, even mothers with small children, worked outside the home – to do so was patriotic. As food, gasoline and clothing were rationed, you organized the pantry, carefully planned meals and started sewing the family clothes. Uncle Sam needed you and you would do whatever he asked! Read More


Life in the 50s

Women faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read More

Women faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read More

Women faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read MoreWomen faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read More
Women faced many challenges in the 1950s. True, there was the comfort and stability that comes from peace, a booming economy, a happy marriage and a house full of children. Yet, there were so many contradictory messages. Happiness was supposed to come from being a homemaker – a wife, a mother, yet being a “career girl” was gaining popularity. Read More

Hold on to your seats, the 1960s were a wild ride! We eased into the decade gently, confident that conservative values, traditional roles, and classic clothes still prevailed. We were an affluent society, enjoying the fruits of a flourishing economy. Yet our new young president, John Kennedy, urged us to embrace self-sacrifice over selfishness, to work together to eliminate injustice and inequality. He set the tone for change, but no one was prepared for the social upheaval that would ensue. Read More


Life in the 60s

Hold on to your seats, the 1960s were a wild ride! We eased into the decade gently, confident that conservative values, traditional roles, and classic clothes still prevailed. We were an affluent society, enjoying the fruits of a flourishing economy. Yet our new young president, John Kennedy, urged us to embrace self-sacrifice over selfishness, to work together to eliminate injustice and inequality. He set the tone for change, but no one was prepared for the social upheaval that would ensue. Read More

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Posted by on MonAmerica/New_York2018-10-08T11:45:53+00:00America/New_York10bAmerica/New_YorkMon, 08 Oct 2018 11:45:53 +0000 31, in culture, nostalgic

 

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NOSTALGIC LADY OF GOOD TASTE

Carmen Miranda, GCIH • OMC (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈkaɾmẽȷ̃ miˈɾɐ̃dɐ], February 9, 1909 – August 5, 1955) was a Portuguese Brazilian samba singer, dancer, Broadway actress, and film star who was popular from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Miranda became a popular radio and film star in Brazil in the late 1920s. Her first albums soon made her a national star. Miranda’s career in Brazil as a singer of samba was established in the 1920s and 1930s, when she recorded gramophone records, performed regularly on the radio stations of Rio de Janeiro, and was featured in many of the first sound films or chanchadas made in Brazil. By the mid-1930s she had become the most popular female Brazilian singer. Lee Shubert, a Broadway businessman, offered Carmen Miranda an eight-week contract to perform in The Streets of Paris on Broadway after seeing her perform at Cassino da Urca in Rio de Janeiro in 1939.

In 1940, she made her first Hollywood film, Down Argentine Way, with Don Ameche and Betty Grable, her exotic clothing and Latin accent became her trademark.[5] In the same year, she was voted the third most popular personality in the United States, and was invited to sing and dance for President Franklin Roosevelt, along with her group, Bando da Lua. Nicknamed “The Brazilian Bombshell”, Carmen Miranda is noted for her signature fruit hat outfit she wore in her American films, particularly in 1943’s The Gang’s All Here. By 1945, she was the highest paid woman in the United States.[9]

Miranda made a total of fourteen Hollywood films between 1940 and 1953. Though hailed as a talented performer, her popularity waned by the end of World War II. She later grew to resent the stereotypical “Brazilian Bombshell” image she cultivated and attempted to break free of it, with limited success. Undaunted, Miranda focused increasingly on her nightclub appearances, also becoming a fixture on television variety shows—indeed, for all the stereotyping she faced throughout her career, her performances made huge strides in popularizing Brazilian music, while at the same time paving the way for the increasing awareness of all Latin culture.

Carmen Miranda was the first Latin American star to be invited to imprint her hands and feet in the courtyard of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in 1941. She became the first South American to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She is considered the precursor of Brazil’s Tropicalismo cultural movement of the 1960s.

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A museum was later constructed in Rio de Janeiro in her honor, in 1995 she was the subject of the acclaimed documentary Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business.

 
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Posted by on MonAmerica/New_York2018-10-01T12:00:17+00:00America/New_York10bAmerica/New_YorkMon, 01 Oct 2018 12:00:17 +0000 31, in 1950s, 1960s, culture, vintage advertisement, vintage tv commercials

 

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El Monte Legion Stadium The Story and Memories

El Monte Legion Stadium The Story and Memories

featured image

By Jude Webre

“East of East” is a series of original essays about people, things, and places in South El Monte and El Monte. The material traces the arrival and departures of ethnic groups, the rise and decline of political movements, the creation of youth cultures, and the use and manipulation of the built environment. These essays challenge us to think about the place of SEM/EM in the history of Los Angeles, California, and Mexico.

Radio Personality Art Laboe
Oldies stations are one of the most tried and true formats on the FM radio dial, seemingly ubiquitous if often absorbed subconsciously. Whether heard in the produce aisle at the local supermarket, planting an earworm for days, or while driving on the interstate through an unfamiliar city, “great hits of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, etc.” can reliably be found – or find you.

Depending on the depth of a station’s playlist, a warm, nostalgic doo-wop track by the Penguins (featuring Cleve Duncan) might float past. Over the same stately chords as the Penguins’ best-known hit, “Earth Angel,” Duncan sings of lost love and happier times: “I’m all alone,/ Feeling so blue,/ Thinking about you,/ And the love we once knew;/And each time I do,/ It brings back those memories,/of El Monte.” What in the fleeting 2:46 of a 45rpm vinyl record seems like standard sentimental Oldies fare, however, turns out on closer inspection to be a fascinating artifact and reminder of the interethnic promise that early rock n’ roll held for the youth of Southern California.

Curiously enough, “Memories of El Monte” was penned by Frank Zappa, later a major figure in 1970s progressive rock with his band the Mothers of Invention, and arguably one of the most innovative composers of the American avant-garde. The doo-wop track for the Penguins was one of the first songs that Zappa wrote, and reflects his adolescence steeped in the fertile rhythm & blues scene of the greater Los Angeles area. When Zappa wrote the song in 1962 with friend (and future Mothers singer) Ray Collins, he had been listening to Memories of El Monte, a 1960 re-issue compilation of singles from the mid-’50s heyday of doo-wop put out by Original Sound Records, the independent label of local radio celebrity and concert promoter, Art Laboe. Zappa in turn brought the song to Laboe, who agreed to pay to record and release it as a single on his label. Laboe used his connections to help Zappa recruit the lead vocalist of the Penguins, Cleve Duncan, backed by tenor Walter Saulsberry and the Viceroys, another local doo-wop group, with Zappa on the xylophone.

Ever the shrewd, understated impresario, Laboe asked Zappa to include mentions in the lyrics of classic doo-wop songs that also happened to be tracks on the Original Sound compilation. As a result, the second verse, spoken by Duncan, is a poignant call-and-response recollection of dances past:

If only they’d have those dances again,

I’d know where to find you, and all my old friends.

The Shields would sing…”¨’You cheated. You lied…’

And the Heartbeats… ‘You’re a thousand miles away…’

And the Medallions with “The Letter” end… ‘Sweet words of his mortality…’

Marvin and Johnny with ‘Cherry Pie…’

And then, Tony Allen with… ‘Night owl…’

And I, Cleve Duncan, along with the Penguins, will sing,

‘Earth angel, Earth Angel, Will you be mine?’

At El Monte.

The resulting single is at one level a curious postmodern pastiche of the doo-wop genre, not out of place with Zappa’s later affectionate parodies and homages to American popular music genres. But the central role that Laboe played in its making as well as the evocation of El Monte tap into a deep reservoir within the cultural history of Southern California, and in particular the Chicano community.

El Monte Legion Stadium ca. 1957 | Courtesy of Art Laboe Archives.

Beginning with dances he threw at El Monte Legion Stadium in 1955, through a half century as a beloved Oldies DJ connecting with his audience on a nightly basis, Art Laboe has become an iconic voice for Californians who do not fit the glamorous conception many Americans hold of L.A. As author Susan Straight lyrically suggests, these are the people “cruising, boxing groceries, welding mufflers, changing tires, sewing prom dresses, picking oranges, teaching kids,” and calling Laboe every night to dedicate songs to their loved ones.

By his own telling, Art Laboe grew up with the medium of radio broadcasting. He was born Art Egnoian to immigrant parents of Armenian descent in Salt Lake City, Utah on August 7, 1925, three years after Marconi first began regular wireless radio broadcasts of entertainment programming. From an early age, he remembers being “completely enthralled by the box that talked,” a fascination that became a hobby and then a profession when he moved to Los Angeles in 1934 to live with his sister after his parents divorced. As a teenager, Laboe became involved in ham radio circles and even started a station out of his bedroom in 1938. As Laboe related the story in an interview with Josh Kun, it was during his service in the Navy Reserve during World War II that he received his first break in commercial broadcasting.

Art Laboe, age 14, standing in front of his HAM Radio shack, 1940 | Courtesy: Art Laboe Archives.

While stationed on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay in 1943, the young Art Egnoian showed up one day at local station KSAN to ask for airtime. Despite his inexperience, he was able to secure a one-hour time slot – 11pm to midnight – because of a shortage of license-holding DJs due to the war; crucially he had acquired the relevant broadcast licenses during a brief stay at Stanford to study Radio Engineering. The station manager at KSAN suggested that Egnoian change his name, so Art took the last name of a secretary working there, “Laboe.” From his first program at KSAN, Laboe stumbled upon the technique that has become the signature of his broadcasting style: the personal dedication. In 1943, there were few records played on radio, which then focused on news, information, and live theatrical and musical performances. When there was airtime to fill, a station would play records, mostly of big bands and pop vocalists, the task that fell to Laboe in his time slot. He quickly discovered that a prime segment of his audience were young women who would call in to dedicate songs to husbands, boyfriends, and brothers in the military.

For Laboe, then as now, the personal dedication was a tangible form of connection between the DJ, alone with his microphone in his studio, and the invisible audience receiving his broadcast. But it also has helped to gain the loyalty and personal investment of listeners. When a listener calls to dedicate a song to a loved one, Laboe serves as an intermediary between his listeners, connecting two points across space, while offering recognition by his voice for a personal emotion or experience. Throughout his career, the dedication has been fundamental to Laboe’s approach. Bridging the distance of military service has been extended to other absences – for loved ones in prison, or those travelling for migrant labor, or even just the lonely worker on the graveyard shift.

Laboe’s focus on taking requests also helped him – again fortuitously – to anticipate the groundswell of rock n’ roll within postwar teen culture in the mid-1950s. After the war, Laboe had a difficult time finding work when more experienced DJs returned from the service. He bounced around stations east of Los Angeles in Palm Springs and the Pomona Valley before trying a mobile DJ booth for KPOP in L.A. His most popular remote location, and one that he would occupy for eight years from 1951 to 1959, was in the parking lot of Scrivener’s Drive-In at the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga in Hollywood.

Only a few blocks from Hollywood High, Scrivener’s was the epicenter of L.A.’s effervescent teen culture, which combined automobiles, mass culture, and discretionary income to set the standard for youth nationwide of a new mode of freedom through consumption. Laboe began at Scrivener’s doing a late show until 4 am, broadcasting to cruising teens throughout the region. He eventually added an after-school broadcast at 3 pm – what he called “record hops” – taking song recommendations from the kids he interviewed. When the national craze surrounding the first rock n’ roll hits of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard reached L.A. in late 1955, Art Laboe became the first DJ to play these singles on the West Coast, largely based on tips from his teen informants at Scrivener’s. While continuing to play the doo-wop and R&B records that had been the staple of his broadcasts until then, Laboe achieved local celebrity because of rock n’ roll, as his show became the highest-rated on L.A. radio and served as a promotional destination for this new brand of pop stardom.

Art Laboe and fans for KPOP Show at Scriveners ca. 1957 | Courtesy: Art Laboe Archives.

The runaway popularity of the Scrivener’s broadcasts created traffic jams around the drive-in, convincing Laboe to organize “dances & shows” for his radio audience. This led him to El Monte Legion Stadium, a non-descript, somewhat rundown boxy auditorium with a 3000-person capacity, which had been built as a wrestling venue for the 1932 Olympics and later hosted boxing, professional wrestling, roller derby, and jamborees. Laboe came to El Monte because regulations in the city of Los Angeles did not allow public dances for patrons under 18, who formed the core of Laboe’s audience. Starting in 1955, Laboe hosted an event on every other weekend at Legion Stadium, drawing enthusiastic teenagers from all over the region. The events alternated dancing to records with live performances, both by local artists such as rockabilly duo Don & Dewey and Rosie & the Originals, and rising stars that included Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and Ritchie Valens, the Latino heartthrob tragically killed in a plane crash in 1959.

Laboe cemented a bond with his audience by going into the crowd to meet people. He would talk with groups of teens and ask them about themselves and their favorite songs, as he had done at Scrivener’s. Laboe also visited those waiting in line outside to get into the venue. Shows at Legion Stadium typically cost $3, but when a big name-act such as Jerry Lee Lewis or Jackie Wilson appeared, the cover went up to $3.50, leaving some concertgoers short of the extra 50 cents. As Laboe tells it in an interview for the SEMAP archive, “I remember filling both my coat pockets with half dollars – there were a lot of half dollars around then – and I went outside where everybody was waiting in line and went up and down the line and I could see who was trying to dig up some money – people were real honest about it – and I was handing out these half dollars to some of these kids.” When the promoter chastised him for leaving the stage and giving away money before the show, Laboe replied that’s how he wanted to do it, allowing everyone the chance to get into the show.

New year’s eve balloon drop at El Monte Legion Stadium ca. 1957 | Image: from the back cover of the Memories of El Monte LP.

For the six years that Laboe put on shows in El Monte, he provided a venue for a spontaneous community of youth that cut across ethnic, racial, and class lines. While the shows drew the more affluent fans from the Westside who had made up the Scrivener’s crowd, the core audience for the events was drawn from the local Mexican-American enclaves in East L.A., the San Gabriel Valley, and El Monte as well as black and white working-class neighborhoods south and east. As historian Matt Garcia has described, radios and automobiles helped facilitate an informal network across Los Angeles, united by Laboe’s personality and love of the music, that converged at Legion Stadium for an intercultural exchange remarkably free of the racial tensions within social spaces that characterized their parents’ generation. Laboe remembers that the events were meant to be “fun, fun, fun,” and the atmosphere encouraged non-conformist fashion (due to lack of a dress code), self-expression, and a general good will that seems almost utopian in retrospect. And memories of El Monte Legion Stadium – only the recent past when Zappa wrote his single – have made a strong impression to this day on Laboe, the performers, and the youthful audience who went there. It remains an open question for further research whether the harmonious atmosphere that Laboe and others remember reflects a nostalgic veneer or a genuine collective spirit that tolerated and perhaps encouraged interethnic mixing, dancing, and dating in an era when crossing such boundaries was deeply fraught.

As with many such conjunctures in American popular music, an incipient moment of promise proved to be fleeting, as the emerging record industry in Los Angeles absorbed, elaborated, and transformed the energy of early rock n’ roll into a more predictable and manageable product. The El Monte shows had inspired a wave of local bands who enjoyed success as live performers in dancehalls across the Eastside, but these groups were increasingly overshadowed in the ’60s and ’70s by the popularity of national acts on the radio. One group that emerged from the late ’50s scene to achieve national success, and kept alive its multiethnic spirit, was War, whose 1975 hit, “Low Rider,” captures (if in caricature) one of the central elements of a night out in El Monte. By the time Legion Stadium was torn down in 1974 to make way for a post office, the concerts there had truly passed into memory even as the music of that time persisted on the radio with the emergence of Oldies stations.

WHEN WE WERE HOME: El Monte Legion Stadium
1957 Picture of Valley Teenager’s from Art Laboe’s Oldies but Goodies Album – from Legion Stadium in El Monte where teens from EVERYWHERE …

Art Laboe’s brand of nostalgia has never been rueful, however, and his career over the last four decades reflects the optimism and resilience that characterized his personality from the beginning. Laboe arguably invented Oldies as a format, coining the term on a series of compilations on Original Sound titled Oldies But Goodies, Volumes 1-15. According to Laboe, he came up with the concept at Scrivener’s Drive-In to refer to tracks only three or four years old that his audience would still request. The key point, in his words, is that “it’s old but it’s gotta be good,” which still serves as a core principle of his radio shows today. Laboe has also maintained longstanding “familial” relationships with several performers who appeared at El Monte, including the Penguins and Rosie Hamlin of Rosie & the Originals, acts whom Laboe continues to play on his show and presents at Oldies concerts in the L.A. area.

Through the many transformations of radio, from AM to FM to cable and into the era of Clear Channel, Laboe has always leveraged his popularity to retain full autonomy in the presentation of his show. As of 2013, Laboe appears 31 hours over 6 nights a week on Killer Oldies and Art Laboe Connection, and remains a Top 5 draw nationally in the ratings. In an era when many Oldies stations are automated, sticking to a limited, market-tested playlist without DJs, Laboe draws on his own deep knowledge of popular music and the musical affections of his listeners to intersperse perennial hits with singles more obscure to a younger audience. Nevertheless, he remains popular across a wide range of age groups, and proudly takes dedications from ten-year-olds as well as abuelas. As Laboe slyly notes, he puts people on the air “from womb to tomb.”

It is this intergenerational appeal, built off his affable stewardship of the El Monte “dances & shows,” that has made Laboe an honorary voice of the Mexican-American community in Southern California, his radio program providing a soundtrack of Chicano identity. State Senator Gil Cedillo vividly recalls cruising through Boyle Heights in the early ’70s with Antonio Villaraigosa in the future mayor’s canary yellow 1964 Chevy listening to Laboe, whom he likened to “everyone’s favorite uncle in the neighborhood.” Comedian Paul Rodriguez told the L.A. Times that Laboe “is more Chicano than some Chicanos, and everyone from the toughest vato to the wimpiest guy would say the same.” Yet Laboe’s reputation remains strong even among younger Mexican-Americans today, such as a 21-year-old student who told Susan Straight, “Art Laboe! Man, I grew up in Baldwin Park and the whole neighborhood listens to him! The women love him.”

Laboe typically demurs at such suggestions, however, and one has the sense that he is a universalist in his sense of the origin and appeal of Oldies: everyone chipped in over the years to make great music and have a good time. In the shark tank that commercial radio and the record industry can often be, Laboe’s serene, unassuming approach throughout his career is remarkably rare. But his longevity makes complete sense in that he seems to have a wise understanding of the meaning that the music has for his listeners – in their memories and their relationships – and he makes himself the conduit for that. If Art Laboe has led a charmed life in radio, he has shared it with many.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Art Laboe, concertgoers at El Monte Legion Stadium ca. 1957 | Courtesy of Art LaboeArchives, by klxadm
Laboe, concertgoers at El Monte Legion Stadium ca. 1957 | Courtesy of Art LaboeArchives, by klxadm

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HISTORY & SOCIETY
EAST OF EAST
Memories of El Monte: Art Laboe’s Charmed Life On Air

In Partnership with the South El Monte Arts Posse

featured image: PBS

 
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Posted by on TueAmerica/New_York2018-09-25T09:00:09+00:00America/New_York09bAmerica/New_YorkTue, 25 Sep 2018 09:00:09 +0000 31, in 1950s, classic music, culture, doo wop, nostalgic, r&b, rocknroll

 

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