You begin in a little room in a little house in a little neighborhood. You get to know your neighbors a few at a time. They are Sparr, Mruz, Vannis, Hawkins. Up the street, the Allisons. Over on Krameria, there’s even a kid from New York named Jerry Cohen. He knows about the Brooklyn Dodgers and people say he’s a Jew. Turns out the Sparrs are Jews, too. The DePriests are called Negroes, so are the Wagners. People say your uncle Freddie Bacca is a Mexican. Little Ernie and Puddy across the alley are shorter than you are and you’re only six. They are called midgets. You don’t know what all that matters, but it means different. Your family is Catholic, which might be strange, too. There’s a lot to learn.
The neighborhood gets a little bigger and you start to get around. There are kids everywhere, lots of them. Someday they’ll be called Baby Boomers, but now they’re just people you want to know. They live in little houses bought with the G.I. Bill by working class people after the big war. The dads go to work, the moms stay home, the kids have a ball.
Every Sunday, you went to your grandparents’ home on 5th and Meade for dinner. They had a television, little green screen in a great big console, but there were no programs. You’d turn it on and stare at the Indian Chief test pattern. One day in 1952, the screen changed and on came Gene Autrey all duded up, riding Champion, strumming his guitar, singing “Back in the Saddle Again.” It was absolutely astonishing.
Another day, a few years later, you and Doug Allison are in his bedroom listening to the radio and on comes Heartbreak Hotel. Elvis Presley!
Turn it up! Louder! We’re playing it full blast and jumping up and down on his bed, screaming at the top of our lungs, pounding on each other with pure joy.
His mother comes in, big busty blond in a slip, hair in curlers, hands over her ears, screaming, “Turn it down, turn it down!” Over and over.
We can’t hear her. We can’t hear anything but Elvis. Nothing was ever the same again
an excerpt from
What It Was: Growing Up in Colorado When the Music Mattered
by James Pagliasotti (c) 2019 All Rights Reserved
You can buy it here