A Favorite From the Vault
The sizzling summer of 1960 was dominated by the equally hot Presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
Earlier in the summer Kennedy had boldly beckoned us to hitch our wagon to his train and be pioneers in a New Frontier. After the seemingly stillness of the Eisenhower years, Americans were anxious to get moving again.
The Presidential race – a spectacle of pure showmanship filled with hoopla and chutzpah, showboating and glad handling – paled in comparison to my grandmother’s beach club, itself crawling with glitter and glamor.
Beach Club Ballyhoo
In the years before I went to day camp, my days were spent at The El Flamingo Beach Club on Long Island NY.
The entire day was a step up and in to the good life, living proof that the American Dream was alive and well in mid-century America.
It was a world where your every need seemed to be anticipated and taken care of.
Immediately upon arrival at the club, handsome valets with exotic name like Silvio and Lorenzo sporting hi-rise pompadours lovingly lavished with Vitalis, would briskly park your car.
Not far behind, eager-to-please cabana boys with Big Man on Campus crew cuts and smiles, would rush to set up your chairs and umbrellas, later to appear at your beck and call to fetch you another ice tea or diet cottage cheese plate.
It was a rarefied world where the open skies at the beach always seemed Kodacolor perfect, not a mushroom cloud or the nose of a submarine on the horizon.
Like the other Beach Clubs that dotted the narrow spit of Long island, the club was always overrun with sun worshiping, jewelry glittering, deeply tanned women, their middle-aged matronly bodies newly trim from a week at the milk farm pummeled and pounded by a host of masseurs, squeezed into this seasons-must-have figure flattering swimsuit.
They teetered and tottered about on perilously high raffia straw wedgies slides, sun-loving fun-loving play shoes studded with colorful sea shells or a gay spray of red plastic posies to brighten their footsteps, a cold Pepsi in one well manicured hand and a glowing Kool in the other.
The scents and sounds of that summer would sizzle together creating the perfect summer cocktail.
Offsetting the slightly musty earthy dampness of the cabanas, was the tropical smell of Sea and Ski blending seamlessly with the bracing briny sea air already choked with the roasted woodsy leathery smell of cigar smoke, pungent chlorine, and the greasy snack bar burgers and fries, making my eyes tear and my mouth water .
While mindlessly singing along to a Rheingold commercial playing on a Zenith portable radio “my beer is Rheingold the dry beer” a new upbeat commercial came over the radio as high-apple-pie-in-the-sky-high-hopeful as any beer ad jingle.
It even caught my Mothers ear when she recognized that unmistakable voice of Swoonatra, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself belting out a swingin’ campaign jingle for JFK.
With unadulterated optimism dripping from every note, a swaggering Frank Sinatra plugged his pal with special lyrics sung to the hit song “High Hopes:”
Everyone wants to back….Jack
Jack is on the right track
Cause he’s got high hopes/he’s got high hopes
Nineteen Sixty’s the year for his high hopes.
Come on and vote for Kennedy
Keep America strong!
Come Alive You’re in the Pepsi Generation
The grinning cabana boys had an extra glow of enthusiasm about them that summer-their beaming faces echoing JFK’s own confidently smiling countenance blazoned on the flashy campaign buttons they proudly sported on their white polo shirts.
K–E–Double N–D–Y with his jet propelled, as-fine-tuned-as-a sporty-Corvette campaign machine, had just snared the democratic presidential nomination despite his being dismissed as more poseur than performer, and despite the “Catholic Issue.”
For these college boys, stylish JFK had the fresh air of progress.
His energy as effervescent as a bottle of Pepsi, his sleek, fresh, follow me flare had the mark of tomorrow stamped all over him.
I love the way you write.
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Thank you. That gives me great joy!
Seems like this was a far far away country from the one we live in now.
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It surely does. When was the last time “high hopes” were uttered with any conviction this cycle around
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Sally, I’m always impressed by the consistency and quality of your blog. Your narratives, combined with the vintage photos, put me in a time and place I never quite experienced, yet somehow feel as if I did. I also appreciate your various moral and political perspectives. Thank you, and best regards 🙂
That my pieces can move you is very gratifying to me. Thank you for your support.
I did live through these times, and Sally’s evocation of them seems brilliant to me, too. I’d almost forgotten Kool cigarettes, but their TV ad campaign came back to me as soon as I read this. I was attending a Catholic high school in 1960, so we were aware of the lingering anti-Catholic prejudice that might sway the election. (There was an anecdote about the previous Catholic candidate, Al Smith. When he lost to Herbert Hoover after enduring a vicious anti-Catholic campaign, the joke was, “Send a one word telegram to the pope: “Unpack.” ) http://mentalfloss.com/article/19897/dirty-campaigning-roaring-twenties-herbert-hoover-vs-al-smith
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Thanks for your comments Susan and thanks for the interesting link. Its hard to imagine today how much of a factor being Catholic still played in 1960. You must have interesting memories of the perspective of being in a Catholic HS at the time.