OPINION: How the music of summers past can really take you back

This undated postcard shows Canatara Beach, possibly from the 1950s, before the arrival of paved parking lots, lifeguard building and other amenities. Dave Burwell Collection, Sarnia Historical Society

 

Nadine Wark

Nadine Wark

Music and summer just seem to go together.

Just as today’s generation will retain music from the summer of 2019, the older crowd can look back and relate to the music of other times and places.

I remember the dancers on the TV show American Bandstand having strict criteria for a hit song: “It has a good beat and you can dance to it.” (and host Dick Clark always agreed with that).

In the 1940s and ‘50s local youth had Kenwick Terrace on Christina Street and Kenwick-on-the Lake in Bright’s Grove, venues where professional orchestras and big bands performed.

Both were owned and operated by Jack Kennedy, who had his own orchestra. Many who ‘danced the night away’ recall with fond memories the “music this side of heaven” — songs like Moonlight Serenade and In The Mood. First-class entertainment that came to Sarnia included the likes of Les Brown, Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey and Lawrence Welk, to name a few.

The Kennedys sold Kenwick-on-the-Lake in 1951 but it thrived for many years after, with my generation attending dances there in the ‘60’s. Along with many local bands it featured go-go-girls dancing in their fashionable go-go-boots.

Out-of-town acts also performed there, and I remember attending the night Freddy ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon sang his big hits, including Palisades Park and Tallahassie Lassie.

In addition to roller skating, Rose Gardens in Point Edward hosted record hops where you could hear the Top 40 tunes of the day. Some of that music can still be heard on the airwaves today.

The Beach Boys’ Surfer Girl and I Get Around may have been invoking the sandy beaches of California, but we had our own right outside at Canatara, and still do!

Around town, the cars seen included hot rods and family vehicles on loan — “Dad, can I please have the keys” — and if they had radios the windows would be down and the tunes cranked up for all to hear.

So many generations have spent leisure time at the beaches of Canatara and Bright’s Grove. They were certainly regular spots for my friends and I, who would pack snacks, towels and suntan lotion and at least one transistor radio.

Lying on our towels, it was hard to keep a quiet demeanor when Beatle songs like She Loves You and Twist and Shout came across the airwaves.

Yes, the music of summers past is woven deeply into the memories of my youth.

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia