By Terry Hughes
When growing up in the 1950s those of us who had been war babies experienced what could be called the best years of any generation. We had seen the sports world generate hockey and baseball favourites with radio and the advent of early television. The six team league in the NHL would generate names like Richard, Howe, Kennedy, Lindsay, Beliveau and Horton. The Maple Leafs won their share of Stanley Cups. Most baseball teams were found in the eastern United States including the Yankees, Indians, Dodgers and Red Sox dominating discussions held across the city by groups of boys as they entered their teens.
But high school would begin to refocus our attention to the opposite sex and our hormones would demand that it would be nice to partner with one. Boys have not changed much and like today, were not comfortable asking a girl to dance until the last record was about to be played by the disc jockey. Once you were received favourably by your girlfriend, it became common to go steady. That would mean having regular visitation with her not only at home, if you were on good terms with her parents, but at local restaurants, high school and church dances.
Comparing the two high schools, Notre Dame had the best dances although Welland High had some well known Disc Jockeys like Guy King show up. Sunday church dances became very popular. They included Holy Ghost Hall, St. Kevin’s and Our Lady of Hungary halls. To get in, all you had to know was the Our Father and Hail Mary! Port Colborne had dances at Morgan’s Point and Bethel Harmony Hall.
After school meetings were an opportunity to meet your girl for a Coke and fries. Many of us without a part time job had to go “Dutch” with your partner. Unfortunately, cigarettes became part of the equation so lighting up became part of the ritual. Dropping a coin into those interesting silver boxes on the counters or booths allowed us to play a favourite song on the juke box.
As shown in the accompanying picture, our generation pioneered rock and roll and many of these artists were the people we danced to. Record Hops became popular with Buffalo Disc Jockeys bringing in popular artists. At the Thorold Community Centre Freddy Clestine featured the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis and Paul Anka.
There were many popular places where teens would gather. On the east side were the Olympia, Terminal and Majestic Restaurants while the Normandy and Astor were found on the west side.
The Terminal Restaurant was next door to a record shop where you could get the latest hits. My sister claimed to be the third person in Welland to buy “Love Me Tender.” After school dances may find you and the gang at Shep’s at Turners Corners or the Kopper Kettle in Dain City. Hangouts in Port Colborne would include Walters on West St. and the La Jolla on Highway 3.
Our generation would make fashion statements that would endure for years. Blue jeans, wellingtons, drape pants, tight skirts and sweaters were “cool” while poodle skirts, saddle shoes and Ivy League fashions were worn by others. Although this movie came a little later, American Grafitti comes pretty close to representing those times we enjoyed. The disc jockey Wolfman Jack would represent a local favourite at WKBW called the Hound.
Many of us would date and go steady with several girls until you found the one who would become your partner for life. Luckily, that is how I found mine.
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading.)