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James R. Stout

Christmas Vacation 1966

            Christmas vacation when I was a kid was almost as much about being out of school as Christmas. Well, maybe. But Mom was always trying to find things for us to do that would keep us out of her hair. 1966 was no different. One of my favorite things about the week leading up to Christmas that year was that I had truly become a diehard pop and rock music fan. Oh, I had liked a lot music before that including bands such as Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Animals, The Monkees, and so forth. I had been an Elvis Presley fan to some degree, but as nutty as it may sound, I kind of considered him and “old guy”. I had seen many of his old movies on TV and enjoyed most of them, but I really hadn’t paid much attention to him. Well, his latest movie was released on December 14, 1966. Just in time for kids to go see it during Christmas vacation. We had a theater not far away (I would end up working there for about 8 months in 1973) that was going to show that new movie. In those days, movies didn’t stay at theaters for weeks at a time unless they were huge hits such as “The Sound of Music”. They pretty much were there for a week and then gone. Sometimes they came back as a second feature. Yeah, in those days you got two movies for the price of one ticket.

            That movie was “Spinout”. I had already fallen deeply madly in-love with Shelley Fabares from her days on “The Donna Reed Show” and an earlier Elvis movie that she also starred in. My aunt dropped me and my cousin off at the theater about 2 o’clock one day to watch two movies. There was “Spinout” and another Elvis movie from earlier that year called “Frankie and Johnny”. It was “Spinout” that I was most interested in watching. The Oak Village Theater was a big theater compared to the theaters of today. It had a capacity of about 800 people and on that day, it was nearly full. The ticket price was 50 cents unless you wanted to pay an extra 50 cents to sit in the section with seats that rocked. I had been given $2 for the outing. I bought a regular ticket which left me with $1.50 for snacks. That was a fortune in those days. Candy bars were a dime. A soda was a dime. Popcorn was 15 cents. The fact of the matter was I would have some money left over. In fact, the plan was to have enough money left over to buy a 45-rpm record. We watched the movie and I fell in love with Shelley all over again. Elvis was cooler than usual (in my 11-year-old opinion) mainly because of the cars he drove in the movie. We watched the second movie and by 5:30 it was time for my aunt to pick us up. We had a great time.

            Fast-forward to June of 1968. My old pal Darwin Trevena and I went to see Elvis’ current release, called “Speedway”, at Garden Oaks Theater in the Heights area of Houston, Texas. The second feature? You guessed it. “Spinout”. Darwin was always a huge Elvis fan, much more so than me to be honest, but we both enjoyed the double feature.

            Back to December of 1966. That $1.15 was burning a hole in my pocket and there were a couple of records that I wanted. Well, more than a couple, but I was going to be lucky to afford two. A 45-rpm record cost about .75 cents with tax in those days. That meant I was going to need another .35 cents. So, I got on my bike and rode down to an area where they were building some new houses. The main road was a boulevard of sorts. Two lanes on each side with a deep ditch between the two directions. I had a basket on my bike, and I started looking for soda pop bottles. There were plenty to find. I had that basket filled up in no time and when I cashed them in at the grocery store down from our house, I had another .45 cents. The next day I went with my mother to the Memorial City Mall. The big store in the mall was the Sears. I made my way upstairs to where stereos and records were sold and began my search for the two records that I would buy. There were so many good ones to choose from. My sister Barbara had already bought “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, so no need to spend my money for it and my other sister, Debbie, had bought “Last Train To Clarksville” by The Monkees and “Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits. Some of the choices included “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan, “Lady Godiva” by Peter and Gordon, “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra, “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians, and “Talk Talk” by The Music Machine. But when it came time to pay the clerk, I had two other records in my hands. They were “Winchester Cathedral” by The New Vaudevillian Band and “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by Royal Guardsmen. I suppose if I had been 16 instead of 11 the choices might have been different, but in the end, I would buy all of those songs more than once. First on 45 rpm’s, then on albums, cassettes, CD’s, and for the last 15 years or so MP3’s. All of that fun, two movies and snacks, plus two new records and it wasn’t even Christmas yet!

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