Voices were changing, blemishes appeared and clothes no longer fit in either size or fashion. It was the end of an era of exchanging Valentines and confessing grade-school crushes. It was now the big time for many of us! 

Phase two of manhood began with short exchanges of words spoken in irregular octaves between classes at Edmund Meany Jr. High School. The hallways were the only place to socialize other than the mom-and-pop store across the street. Some met behind the store to smoke cigarettes.

For us in Madison Park, the Venetian theater on 15th Avenue and Pine Street (a parking lot now) was the place to meet on Friday nights, sometimes viewing the same movie more than once. 

There, in the lobby by the refreshment stand, we gathered and mustered the nerve to ask that all important question: “Wanna watch the movie with me?” 

Mr. Gillespie, the theater manager, would say loudly, “Let’s make room for paying patrons!” 

“The movie’s starting!” someone would yell, and in an instant, the lobby would be vacated with the question asked quickly before the flush set in: The date was made, and the night was spent innocently sitting next to each other.

Another way to meet-and-greet was by way of Ma Bell (AT&T). A call to a cheery, if not sexy-sounding, operator was easy social networking. Sometimes, it led to asking the helpful assistant out for coffee after work. 

The problem with the telephone was that during an involved mushy conversation, the party line would interrupt. Over and over again, someone would pick up, saying loudly, “They’re still talking!” 

Comments like, “Get a room!,” were typical. 


Getting around

The automobile industry was truly the best social mechanism as we entered our teen years. One night, with dates, we viewed the latest showing of the Hudson automobile, with push -button shifting at a dealership on Broadway and Union Street. 

A highlight down the street that drew crowds was some very impressive Clydesdale horses parading about. 

A block away, The Tucker was on display: a car that resembled a rocket, with six tailpipes. It was out of production in no time due to its unaffordability. 

By far, the best means for interacting was the Nash, a car that had a front seat that folded out into a kind of bed to innocently lay back with pillows and watch the stars or a movie. Surprisingly, to us, it was refused entrance to the Sunset Drive-In. 

While at Madison Beach, we noticed a crowd gathering around a new Mercury convertible that had a 45 rpm turntable in a middle armrest in the back seat — a major mood enhancer. The stack of 45s resembled hotcakes hanging over the edge of a plate. They had melted in the hot sun. 


Getting pressed

Chores before a night out on the town were made easier by the newly renovated washing machine. It had been a man’s job to lift the heavy clothes up to the motor-driven rollers to squeeze or wring the water out before hanging them to dry. It was imperative to be aware of keeping fingers out of the way of the rollers to guarantee clean clothes. The new washer made this unnecessary. 

The dryer came next, which lessened drying time to just a fraction of the old way of hanging clothes on a line. The only problem with the new dryer was that many clothes shrank, but they did suit younger siblings. 

Not to be forgotten was the short-lived mangler, a machine with hot rollers that ironed shirts, sheets and such. It came equipped with two special features: the button crusher and the zipper ripper. 


New media friends

When word spread that someone had purchased a new entertainment center with AM/FM, phonograph and state-of-the-art, round TV, they became known as “best friends.”

On the nights when a popular show was playing, everyone gathered, happy to be viewing the preliminary test pattern. 

Sometimes, a disclaimer appeared, stating the show was canceled, which rendered everyone speechless. Thunderstruck, many decided to leave due to lackluster conversation. 

Cigarettes were a common denominator at times. Some were mild and good for you or soothing to your throat. We learned a dating ritual from the movies about how to light a lady’s cigarette with flair. 

Surely, many more ways for social interaction are in the future. It is nice to have some old-fashioned neighborhood communing in Madison Park. 

RICHARD CARL LEHMAN is a longtime Madison Park resident.