In the wake of disc jockey Alan Freed's fall from radio broadcasting grace due to the late 1950's payola scandals, New York's WINS radio came up with a new voice of Rock & Roll, the memorable “Murray the K.” In an attempt to maintain the momentum that had been created by pioneer, Freed the new show format was “The Swingin' Soiree,” with “Murray the K” whose real name was Murray Kaufman.
Catchy “Murray the K” innovations included phrases like “Blast from the Past” “Golden Gasser”, and the non-nonsensical “Me-u-surray,” which we thought sounded cool and worth repeating. Not highly publicized, Murray also dabbled in recording and was in fact “The Lone Twister.” To his legacy, he co-authored the break-out Bobby Darin hit record “splish-splash” and dubbed Frank Sinatra “Chairman of the Board.” Sprinkled in with his broadcast was an event he called “The Submarine Races” which was spirited along with the chant, “Ahbey-uh!” The Submarine Races was really a euphemism for “making out” as we called it. The greatest generation called it “necking.” By any moniker, it's been going on since the beginning of time.
Following Murray the K, there was WINS radio's “Mad Daddy.” The dialogue went: Do you believe in the hereafter? The hereafter? Yeah, if you ain't here after what I'm here after, then you're gonna be here after I'm gone! The tradition continued, but this time the hook was in the audio echo which made the broadcast sound a little psychotic. Mad Daddy was singin' and swingin' (straight jacket and all) from "Sponge Rubber Tower" . . . boppin' and blastin' funny-farm broadcastin'. Hippity zippity dippity zorch, music for chasing your girlfriend...up and down the porch.
Our radio heroes encouraged Submarine Race Watching and we were only too happy to participate. We were what they called a “target audience” and in time, had morphed from Captain Video decoder rings to Submarine Race Watching. The “Happy Days” character of Arthur Fonzarelli would have been proud to be part of our group.
Time trials and feature races took place (in part) at Crab Meadow Beach, Scherer's Ponds, Makamah Beach, Steers Sand Pit, and “Passion Pit”, a sparsely traveled tree-lined boulevard near Laurel Hill Road. To be a “race watcher,” a guy had to have a suitable car. Those big boulevard cruisers like the Buicks and Cadillacs were the best, but my shoe box Chevy, was cool and reasonably adequate. In those days, monaural AM dashboard radios were the ultimate in mood music for Submarine Race Watchers. FM, stereo, cassettes, eight tracks and CDs hadn't even been thought of yet. It's amazing to acknowledge that we sat in school back then learning about historical events and in one short lifetime, we have become the history lesson.
Those disc jockeys, the music, the gags, the lazy hazy crazy days of summer were all part of our passage into adulthood. Some of us took the “extended summer cruise” while others settled down and had families or went on to higher education but eventually, most of us landed at a reasonably equal place in society, carrying on the tradition of community. Many of us who danced in the sand, attended those submarine races and generally enjoyed the last days of irresponsibility are now grandparents and even great-grandparents.
As a young child, I remember lying in my sleeping bag in a tent pitched on the summer lawn, talking to my camping buddies at twilight discussing our futures. One guy thought he would be lucky to make it to age 21. Another thought he might live long enough to get married. The general consensus was that we would all perish before we were old and thirty. Those days of innocence lapsed into the cosmos with the lightspeed of Michael J. Fox and the magical DeLorean. In transit, many of us have learned that life is not always fair. Some of us have triumphed while others have not, but the memory of our youth in Northport is a lasting and irrevocable gift. I was never thought of by my educators (or anyone) as brilliant, or even above average but in my own humble way I've come to realize that I am, after all...gifted.