Thursday, August 31, 2006
Hello from the west and 'Oh Yeah' back at ya ! !
Heres The Fabulous Silver Tones in the best picture I have of them, though Mike Weakley is sort of hidden, so I am posting the one I took of him all by his lonesome. I talked to Michael today. He said for me to give his love all around to everybody and he wishes he could be here for the reunion at Knuckleheads tonight. He also said he would love to hear from anyone who wanted to correspond. His email and phone # is available from me upon an email request. When I wasn't on the dancefloor, you could probably find me standing right about here watching the drummer, whoever it happened to be. I spent hours watching Mike after helping him carry his stuff up to the stage and get it all set up. There was a drummers hump on the stage so that he sat up off the floor. And that was good, especially when the likes of little Danny Gregory came to play. And talk about play, Danny was the best soloist I ever saw. And now he is a heck of a singer, rockin out with Shelter and doing a very good JamesBrown. I expect to enjoy him this evening at the Reunion. I also spoke with Mr Roger Calkins today. He is living out in the city by the bay and said for me to give all his best to all those who helped make him successful and to get everyone to face west and give him a great big "Oh Yeah". We will see about that in a few hours. The picture is one of Roger's promo's. Anyway, here's to the Silver Tones and the great music they made. And I STILL enjoy them.......You never know what might happen - ProtoKaw ????
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The Silver Tones Rock
This picture was taken standing on the railing just behind the stairway. The Fabulous Silver Tones are on stage. Rich Stoy playing bass on the right, Roger Calkins playing and singing, Frank Plas lead guitar, and again, I don't know who this drummer is, but it is not the regular drummer, Mike Weakley, who must have been off this night. The stage was the re-constucted grain bin that was present when we leased the barn. If you look at the wood on the wall below the window you can see the lines where the wall studs were. We just tore it all apart and rebuilt it to look like a house front. There were actually two dressing rooms inside the door where the fellows went to - relax - during break. The sound equipment and amplifiers were pretty primitive in those early days, but with the ingenuity of guys like Buddy Ross, who evolved from a band member to the founder of Kustom Electronics, that quickly changed. Kudos to Mr Ross for all he has done in the music industry. It's hard to recognize the backs of any of these heads, but look at the cool hair styles. We were a cool bunch, we really were....Please feel free to download any of these pictures and use in anyway you see fit. And add comments anytime please. More great pictures to come......
Most Favorite Picture Ever
This is, without a doubt, my all time favorite picture of the SOC HOP. It was taken fairly early in the life of the barns days for us. The Fabulous Silver Tones are on the stage, however, the drummer is not Mike Weakley, the regular drummer. Must have been a night Mike was sick or had some other required activity. (Mike, by the way, lives in San Diego, changed his name years ago to Michael Fortune, and has been the drummer for The Electric Prunes and is currently deeply involved in the entertainment industry.) If you click on the picture it will enlarge. Anyone who knows who the drummer here is, or for that matter, any of the other people in this picture, (like Steve Woodrow smack dab in the center of the picture facing the camera and dancing, or Dennis Hedrick over on the right in the white shirt behind the girl in the horizontal striped sweater) or the the nameless girl with the scarf in the foreground, please post a comment and let us know a name. And for sure, if you would happen to spot yourself in this picture, please let us all know. It would be cool to be able to put a name on every face, but I suppose that is out of the question. If you were a regular SOC HOPper you had your favorite place to be. I was usually up around the stage watching the band, unless I was dancing, which I liked best at the near end of the picture as there was usually more room here. It was easier to cut loose where it wasn't so crowded and I remember lots of nights of between one thousand to fifteen hundred of us. I am hoping this picture draws lots of comments. Come on folks...hit the comment button and tell us your memory of dancing at the SOC HOP. Another great picture taken from the stage looking south coming soon. Yes, the SOC HOP will live forever.......
Sunday, August 27, 2006
A hundred thousand cups of ice
Oh yes, the Snack Bar. That is my Mom with her head turned, she never liked her picture taken, and my Aunt Angie, Lon's wife, helping her. One of the unfortunate things about being the son of the owner was that I had to work. Always, about ten minutes before the band took a break, I HAD to leave the upstairs, where the music was and the girls were, and go down to the Snack Bar and start filling cups with ice. I didn't keep track, but you can only guess how many cups I filled with ice. (We had a deep freeze at home where we stored the ice we made during the week in empty milk cartons and then broke up with a hammer on the Snack Bar floor before dumping the carton out in a big ice storage bin). Then I started filling cups with pop. We served Pepsi, Lemon/Lime, Root Beer, Orange Crush, & Lemonaide along with Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, and Tenderloins, as well as fries and rings. I spent many an hour working the grill. I guarantee you it wasn't all fun, being the owners son, but I wouldn't trade my memories for anything. Anyone recognize the backs of those heads? Oh yes, and trench coats?
The Cake Walk
The Cake Walk - this is the better one of the only two pictures I have of the downstairs of the barn. It was taken on a Saturday afternoon when the local grade school had a 'cake walk' there. It was taken from the front door looking north thru the barn. The front counter is in the foreground. I post it here in hopes of jogging a few memories. Like sitting at one of the picnic tables in one of the stalls sipping on a soft drink and trying to cool off before going back upstairs to get all hot again, or playing a game of pool with your best buddy while waiting for the girls to get there. The pool tables and pin ball machines were in the first stalls on each side, rest rooms and Snack Bar at the far end and stairway upstairs on the right far end just before the Snack bar. Wish I had a better picture, but this is it. Tell what you remember about the downstairs in the comments section below.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Stamp Me, PLEASE !
My younger brother Mark, who was about 9 then, is the short one leaning on the counter blocking the view of the black light lamp you had to put your hand under to get back in if you went out side to cool off (or whatever......). The office (where the police took you if you got into trouble) is just across the isle. You can barely see the door frame. I know a number of fellows that spent a considerable amount of time in there.
If you were one of the SOC HOPpers that went to 'the barn' you will remember this sight. Literally thousands passed through these doors. Once you got in this far, the rest of it was a cakewalk.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
I hadn’t even finished lunch yet, but there was Dad, holding my coat and saying, "Come on, Let’s go. I don’t want to be late for our meeting." Dad had promised to take me with him when he went to tour the old barn where he and my uncle, Ed Bowers, hoped to create a place for us kids to dance and have fun. I was thankful for a good reason to leave that Spam and cheese sandwich half eaten on my plate. It was still cold outside, which was appropriate for a winter day in Kansas City. So on that Saturday in January of 1960, Dad and I left our house there on eighty-sixth street just off of Metcalf in Overland Park and headed south. Metcalf, as a named road, ended at eighty-seventh street, as did most of the residential developments and from there south the road was known as 69 Highway. Of course, in those days it was all two lane, the old highway dissecting the farmland that is now south Overland Park as it passed the few cross streets there were back then; 87th, 95th, and 103rd then nothing until the old Martin City/Olathe Road, later to be numbered 135th Street, where Mr. Reno had a lake on the southeast corner. There was another lake I remember well. We passed it as Dad turned west on the gravel road where someone had posted a wooden sign that said 95th Street. The small lake was part of the Dickenson farm, known as The Glenwood. It covered about 480 acres mostly north of 95th and west of 69 highway and had been where the Dickenson family raised and showed their premium Angus cattle. Part of the pastureland between Lowell and Antioch north of 95th Street had been sold off and there was a new subdivision getting ever closer to the large white house where the Dickenson’s had lived. Behind the house to the north was a utility building used for storing the farms various equipment, and behind it stood the huge old barn.
I had seen the barn many times before as we passed by it on one of our Sunday drives, but had never really given it any special attention. This time was different though. As Dad turned the car up the driveway and we passed by the old house, my attention was focused completely on the barn. Dad had always told me that is important to see things as they are, but also to imagine how they could be. And my imagination was running wild.
Just a few weeks before my Uncle Ed had taken me to another barn. It was out off the east side of New 50 Highway, (now I-35), back behind the Standard Oil gas station at about 119th Street. He had taken me there to get my opinion as a teenager. Now this barn was owned by a man named Berry, or maybe it was Barry, I am not sure now. I just remember that everybody there called it Berry’s Barn. When we arrived there must have been fifty cars parked all around and Mr Berry was sitting on the stairway to the hayloft with a cigar box collecting fifty cents from all that entered. There was a live band playing that night, and as I recall it was a group called Larry Emmett and The Sliders. The music seemed to bellow out of the open hayloft doors. My uncle said hello to Mr Berry, who let us pass without payment and we went on in. My uncle had worked there regularly as a uniformed chaperone, so to speak. He was an officer with the county Sheriff’s Department and took the job as an off duty security guard. We did not stay long that night, but I will never forget the excitement I felt, recalling the months of conversations between my Dad and Ed about the possibilities of opening their own place for kids to go.
The old Dickinson barn was not the first place we had looked at, nor the second or third but another one of many, most of which were more modern buildings that would have been nearly ready to go but were just way more expensive than what Dad and Ed thought was affordable
As we approached the barn on the rutted old drive, I could see Ed and another gentleman standing out front and talking. The gentleman turned out to be Glen Dickenson, the property owner and also the head of the Dickenson Theater chain. (A few years later he would build and manage the Glenwood Motor Lodge and Glenwood Theater at 91st and Metcalf.) Mr Dickenson greeted my father and acknowledged me, then continued talking. He had been telling Ed about the history of the barn. It had been built in the early 1920's to house and show the champion Angus cattle his family raised.
This was a barn of barns. The side walls were constructed from heavy duty concrete blocks. It had a concrete floor, both downstairs and in the hayloft. I don’t remember the dimensions now but Dad says he remembers the barn to be about 120' X 50'. The upstairs floor was supported by concrete I-beams with steel support beams downstairs. These support beams became the corner posts for the twelve stalls down each side inside the barn, leaving a center isle open from one end to the other. There was a hay rail down the center of the open ceiling in the hayloft that was used to move hay bales about. A huge grain bin was located at the north end of the loft. It was connected to the twin silos outside, and there were holes in the floor where chutes from the grain bin were that allowed for obtaining feed downstairs. The upstairs had two windows high on the wall of the south end with a loft door centered below them and there were three loft doors on the east side that were used for loading the hay in. The north end of the downstairs was one open room that had been used for equipment storage and there was a stairway that started just inside a door on the side and led to the upstairs just in front of the grain bin. There was very primitive electricity and no running water, except what could be pumped up from an old cistern and, of course, no restroom facilities. When the barn was cleaned last, and who knows when that was, all the cow manure was piled into one of the stalls downstairs. It was about four feet deep. Early on in the barns history, Mr. Dickenson said they had problems with the cattle slipping on the concrete floor and falling down and getting hurt, so they had spread rock dust on the floor. As it got wet, then hardened, it provided a rough texture which gave the cattle better footing. I originally thought the floor was dirt, but soon learned otherwise.
The Dickensons had quit the cattle business as their theater business demanded more and more of their time and the old barn had sat empty for nearly ten years. During our 30 minute tour, I remember seeing a couple of big black snakes in the years old hay upstairs and several scurring rats and at least one coon. I went to sit in the car. I thought, "You’ve got to be kidding." If it had been brand new, that might have been something - but who would want to go here. When Dad got back to the car, he asked me what I thought. I just shook my head, and said, "Not sure what to think." Dad said, "Have a little vision - use your imagination - I think we can make a pretty nice place there."
When we got home, Mom got a plate out of the refrigerator and said, "Finish you sandwich. Did you like the barn?" Dad and Ed signed a two year lease the next week and began talking to the local officials about permits. And so the plans began. Dad told me to talk to my friends and see if I could come up with a good name. I don’t remember now for sure who decided on the term sock hop, but it was me who said, "Let’s leave the ‘k’ off sock and just make it the SOC HOP"
The SOC HOP officially opened in April of that year and as you might well imagine, the Bowers (Ed, Doris, Penny and Linda) and the Weavers (Mike, Alice, John, Mark, and me) spent the rest of January, February, March and most of April getting the place ready. We spent hours scrapping the old rock dust off the downstairs floor, cleaning out the stall of old manure, which to my chagrin was still damp in the middle. We spent every spare minute painting the walls and stall rails, doing the plumbing and electrical work necessary. Some professionals were hired, of course, but most of the hard work was done by our two families. Dad bought some old wagon wheels and he and I made the chandeliers that hung upstairs and we used some old double trees from horse drawn wagons to make hanging lamps downstairs. The restroom mirrors were horse collars with mirrors in the center.
Picnic tables were put together and placed in some of the stalls downstairs, the feed bins along the walls were filled with gravel and dirt and small evergreen trees planted in them, a snack bar was built and equipped, a front counter and coat room were built inside the front door. We tore down the grain bin upstairs and rebuilt it to be a stage that looked like the front porch of a small cabin with two dressing rooms on the inside.
A flexible dance floor was installed and Mr. Dickenson provided us with old theatre chairs to line the walls with. A big water tank with a pump was placed outside the Snack Bar and the water was pumped in. Dad bought an old hearse, put a big water tank in the back of it, parked it at home in the driveway and ran the garden hose into it. When the tank got full, he would carefully drive it down to the barn and re-pump it into the big tank there. Later we got a big tank on a wheeled trailer that I would take over on Lowell and hook a fire hose up to a hydrant and the water company let us get water that way for a while. Hal Reno brought in truck loads of gravel and the old corn field became a parking lot, though when it rained, everyone still had to take turns pushing each other either in or out of the place. As both Dad and Ed had their own full time careers, I became the one who got to go open the place up, sometimes just to let the Pepsi man in, or to let the band in, or whatever needed to be done. I was the cleanup guy. Everyone new me, I was the kid in the SOC HOP shirt. All of a sudden I had a thousand friends. I was usually the first person to get there and the last one to leave, though often my buddies stayed to help me with the chores. (Thanks go to Bob Rigdon, Ernie Ashlock, Fred Allison, and my old friend Bill Cresto.) We all put in a hell of a lot of hard work. But looking back at it now, I know for sure I WISH I COULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
evening in the old barn. This was the pre-opening
flier that I took around to all the schools and stores
trying to promote what we hoped would be a good
thing. We had no idea ! It was way better than
good. It was great. It was Really Great.
Stay tuned for more memories... Michael Weaver
Friday, August 18, 2006
The Dusty Road
The plumes of dust from the gravel road boiled across the cow pasture like puffs of thick smoke as the cars turned west off old 69 highway, past the farm pond on the corner and then headed down the rutted road toward the aging white barn. A wooden sign on a post proclaimed the dusty road to be 95th street.
The Dickinson farm sat there west of the two lane road now known as Metcalf Avenue. As suburban sprawl began, the farmland was being sold off. The old Angus cattle show barn had long ago been abandoned, empty for nearly ten years. It took our families much hard work, but in early 1960 my uncle, Ed Bowers and my dad, Mike Weaver opened the areas greatest ever dance hall, bringing live music to the old barn they called The Soc Hop. The stalls on the lower floor were converted to dining stalls with picnic tables, though some contained pinball machines or pool tables. The grain bin upstairs was dismantled and rebuilt as a stage. A flexible oak dance floor about 100' X 40' was installed and theater seats lined the walls. Constant cleaning and lots of dance wax kept the floor slick like ice.
My Aunt Doris manned the front door, collecting your dollar and stamping your hand with invisible ink that you had to show under a black light to get back in if you went outside to cool off or to neck with your date in the back seat of the car. ( I often went outside to cool off, though my mom or my aunt were always watching to see that I went out by myself.)
My mom handled the snack bar, providing burgers, hot dogs, french fries and ten cent cokes to the throngs of sweaty teens who danced the nights away. When I wasn't upstairs dancing, I helped in the Snack Bar, filling cups with ice or manning the grill. I was usually the one who unlocked the door to let the band in to warm up and was usually also the one who locked the door after everyone else had already gone home and after doing some basic clean up. I usually waited until the next day to do the major cleaning, as it took several hours to get it ready after a really good night, which was usually a thousand to fifteen hundred of us really kool kids dancing to some really great music.
We were dancing to the sounds of Roger Calkins and The Fabulous Silvertones featuring Frank Plas on lead guitar, Rich Stoy on bass, Mike Weakley on drums or one of the other popular bands of those wonderful days of early Rock. Other great names that come to mind are Larry Emmettt and The Sliders, The Bygones, Gary Mac and The Mac Truque, The Holidays, Danny Gregory and The Roulettes, Jack Nead and The Jumpin’ Jacks and Paul Schlapper and The Night Riders, just to name a few. These were the pioneers of Rock & Roll in Kansas City and many of them live on today, if but only in the memories of those of us who were there.
The Soc Hop’s presence in the old barn lasted only a few years, as the encroaching housing developments required quieter Saturday nights than was allowed by the usual thousand or so teens
. So the Soc Hop moved to a new home in Lenexa, on the west frontage road south of 87th &
I-35, and continued for several years serving the dancing needs of hundreds of teens. When someone says, "Those were the days" it’s the Soc Hop nights that I remember.
The first ever Soc Hop reunion is being held on Thurs. August 31 at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City and will feature old timers Frank Plas, Danni Gregory, Gary Mac and others. Hope to see you there.
You know, we were kool, when it was really kool to be kool. There are literally thousands of SOC HOP stories out there. If your memory is still good enough to remember yours, please post it here and share it with all so the "The SOC HOP will live forever". Michael Weaver may be sixty years old, but the memory of those times helps keep me young at heart. Special thanks to Joe Sherrick for helping make a very old dream come true. See you at the SOC HOP reunion