August 14, 2018

   

Remembering the Conshohocken Hullabaloo By Jack Coll

REMEMBERING

THE CONSHOHOCKEN

HULLABALOO

By Jack Coll

April 10, 2018

The following is an excerpt taken from the book, “Conshohocken & West Conshohocken-People, Places and Stories” Volume One.  The Book is sold out with about a dozen copies of Volume Two remaining for sale at Coll’s Custom Framing, 324 Fayette Street.

The Hullabaloo

Seventh Avenue and Freedley Street

     The year 1966 was a time of change in Conshohocken, a change many of the town’s adults weren’t in favor of.  For the first time in more than a century the borough’s public high school students would not be attending school in Conshohocken, but going to Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. The Catholics of the borough were fighting a battle of a different kind, for the first time in a century there would be no more St. Matthew’s High School.  Adults and students were busy fighting a name change for their school, more than 1,000 names were gathered on a petition to keep St. Matthew’s High School from becoming Archbishop Kennedy High school, we all know how that turned out.

     The downtown stores were being boarded up one by one and a new college was starting-up with their headquarters in the old Conshohocken High School building, known as the Montgomery County Community College.  Pennsylvania Governor William W. Scranton dedicated the college in the fall of 1966, the borough would welcome 440 full time students into the borough and another 150 evening students.  Seventeen faculty members stood ready for the new school year, students paid $975.00 per year, actually students were responsible for paying one third of the tuition, ($325.00) the county and state shared the remainder of the cost.

     In the fall of 1966, more than 700 teenagers appeared at the opening night of Conshohocken’s Hullabaloo Scene, located at Seventh Avenue and Freedley Street.  The Hullabaloo Scene was a chain of teenage dance clubs owned by John Angel and Conshohocken’s Hullabaloo was the first to open in Pennsylvania.  The rules of the clubs were few and simple, “no drinking; no congregating in cars; and no readmission on any one night, if you went outside the club, you had to pay the $1.00 admission fee for a second time.  The club was open for kids 14-20 years old only, and only soft drinks were sold.

     Opening night for Conshohocken’s Hullabaloo was a great success as Hullabaloo girl dancers were spread throughout the club, singer Patrick Adiarte entertained the crowd and popular WIBG radio disc jockey Joe Niagara was the emcee for opening night.  Connie and Stan Packman of Havertown were the managers of the Conshohocken club.  John Angel hired an up and coming band called “The Oxfords” who played many nights at Conshohocken’s Hullaballoo.

     Within a month of opening area residents filed complaints about beer bottles being thrown onto resident’s lawns, and other activities that led to a resident’s petition with 75 signatures to shut Hullabaloo down because they considered it a public nuisance.  However, the Conshohocken Police Department reported that complaints of loitering had dropped to near zero since the dance club had opened.  The police reported that the borough had six trouble spots in the borough for loitering, but since the Hullabaloo opened the hot spots fell silent.  Police also reported that traffic to and from the dance club was no better or worse than a football game.

     In the spring of 1967 three local church Ministers spent an unannounced evening at the Hullabaloo Dance Club, in response to neighborhood complaints.  All three ministers found the Hullabaloo to be a “colorful, well chaperoned, thoroughly controlled place where teenagers seemed genuinely to enjoy themselves dancing their contemporary dances to the music of live local bands.”

     In an informal poll conducted by the clergymen, and overwhelming majority of the teenagers stated that they regarded Hullabaloo as a “fun place whose strict regulations guaranteed equal enjoyment for all.”

     Tom Wcisio remembers having a great time on Friday nights at the Hullabaloo, as does Linda Price Miller.  Linda remembers it as being the biggest year of her life at that time.  In 1966, it was her senior year at Conshy High and says her fondest memories were from dancing at the Hullabaloo.  “When you walked in it was absolutely the coolest thing we had ever seen!  Black Lights, Day-Glo paint, everything was glowing including anyone wearing white!  The music was blaring and everyone was on the dance floor having a great time.  Hullaballoo was an instant hit, my friends and I lived for the weekends when we could go and dance.  It quickly became our second home.  My favorite memory of Hullaballoo was the night Lee Andrews and the Hearts appeared.  They sang one of my all favorite songs, “Try The Impossible,” and after they performed they came out and mingled with the crowd so we could meet and talk to them.  That was pretty exciting for a 17 year old.”

     Linda went on say that other groups had performed there, (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Sam and Dave, the Formations, Soul Survivors, Delfonics, Intruders, Magnificent Men, Peaches and Herb, and Billy Harner among others.) But for Linda, no group topped Lee Andrews and the Hearts.

     Time has a way of moving on, and it did for Linda and all her friends, and time moved on for the Hullaballoo.  In the summer of 2014 the former site for the Hullaballoo and later the RDL Building once located on West Seventh Avenue was demolished to make way for a series of town houses starting in the $380,000 range built by Philomeno & Salamone.

 

     And that folks is the way it was more than half-a-century ago.  The Beatles, Elvis, The Supremes, The Four Seasons, Brenda Lee, The Beach Boys, Connie Francis, Chubby Checker, Roy Orbison, James Brown, Herman’s Hermits, Dion, The Monkees, Tommy James & The Shondells, The Mama’s and the Papa’s, The Troggs, Sam Cooke, Aretha, Dave Clark, and Bobby Rydell were all on the radio back in 1966, you more than likely were listening to WFIL, AM, with the “Boss Jocks.”

     And more than likely going to the Riant Movie House once located at First Avenue and Fayette Street checking out 1966’s greatest movies like “Batman,” “A Man for All Seasons,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” and Fahrenheit 451.”  A ticket to the Riant in 1966 cost you a buck.

     In 1966 a house on the avenues cost you, or your parents about $10,000, I know it sounds cheap but keep in mind if your father was working at one of the remaining steel mills he was bringing home about six grand a year and pumping gas in his car at a cost of 28 cents per gallon.

     Rounding out the year 1966, well you might have been watching “The Jackie Gleason Show,” “Green Acres,” or “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” on television.  If you were paying attention to the national news a women named Betty Friedan founded the National Organization of Women, eight nurses were murdered in Chicago by a nut-job named Richard Speck, the Black Panthers were formed, the Supreme Court protected the rights of a police suspect in the Miranda vs Arizona, leading to the Miranda Rights Bill and a company named “Pampers” introduced the first disposable diaper.

Yea, 1966, life was good!!

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