Fun Relived
Off the Wall, Oct
24, 2013

I often read about gatherings where my favorite pastime groups have met and sung their hearts out, particularly the oldies which are dear to my heart. So when I heard that a number of my favorite musicians would be coming to town to celebrate ‘Hats Off to Harry” at Harry’s Danceland not far from my residence, this spelled opportunity. And why not? After all, it was blocks from my house within walking distance to boot. And folks my mind was blown from here to kingdom come! Wow, what a concert!

And to think that I would no long have fun in my life, boy was I mistaken.

I got there early, scurrying up 71 steps hoping I could get a ticket. After all, I read in The Latrobe Bulletin that all tickets would be sold at the door. In my mind, a lot of “oldies” lovers and good friends of Harry Lattanzio for whom the celebration was geared toward would be lined up along the street. When I saw no one there, I got a bit worried. I really wanted to become a part of this celebration and hear the songs that made me the fast dancer I used to be. But praise be to God, I was sold a ticket, number 171 – in a sense my lucky number – if you want to think of it as that.

It wasn’t supposed to start until 7 p.m. with the doors opening at 6:30. But by that time, all the good seating was taken. I had found a nice padded bar stool behind an elongated table where others sat and could place their drinks. I decided to sit on the end, that way others who came in groups of two or more could sit together.

When things got underway, it didn’t take long to sense the surroundings. I was in heaven. There could be no other explanation. Showing up to honor Harry were some of the Shondells, most of the Sonics and some members of Johnny angel and the Halos.

Looking all around me, I felt as though I was 50 years younger, sitting in a stag bar. To my left were three beautiful blonds, and on right, two women, up in years, whom were sitting in seats provided for them by an employee. As the groups did their thing, I started to “shake to the beat of the drums,” working up a sweat that soaked my undershirt – without ever leaving my chair. Talk about being blown away. This old geezer was rockin’!

And then it happened. I detected the pickin’s on a guitar that brought a shake to my upper torso and words accompanying the singer. The song – “Hey, Bo Diddley.” That was a household name when I was growing up. There was a part of the stanza requiring audience participation. This crowd was into it as was yours truly. Wow! Super! Fantabulous! There are no words to describe how great I felt. This was definitely ‘fun” relived! I kept thinking, “I don’t want this thing to end.”

As I looked down on the dance floor, there were a good many people “movin’ to the groovin’,” “working out,” “shaking a tail feather,” all terms we used when the hits were at their peak. It was a sight to behold and I loved every minute of it.

Teasing the older lady beside me a bit, I stated, “You’re much too serious to get out there on the floor and dance like those folks, aren’t you?” With that statement, we had a go-round several time that went something like this – “Who me?” “Yes, you.” “Me?” “You.” “Me?” “You.”

“I came to this place for 40 years,” she said.

And to top it off, the Platter Pushing Papa, Dadio of the Radio, and Pork the Tork, Porky Chedwick, was in attendance to honor Harry during this very festive occasion. Now 96, he said he used to attend many of the past dances here in Latrobe. You know, you wouldn’t think this past DJ of the former radio station WAMO was past his ninety’s. He appeared as though he could be in his seventy’s, at best.

And even though the name of the establishment has changed over time, from Illusions, Planet bubba to Club Ice, I have a feeling to many, the name Harry’s Danceland and the various musicians will be in many memories for a long time to come.

Hats off to ya’ Harry for making me feel young again!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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