Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Episode 11 - The Chatterbox - Ninth Street Scene and Seaview Party

Episode 11 – The Chatterbox and Ninth Street Scene and the Party at the Seaview

Ninth Street and Central Avenue was like Grand Central station in downtown Ocean City when Petula Clark's “Downtown” song was a hit on the charts in the Summer of '65.

There was a take-out only hot dog and ice cream stand on the Southwest corner, the Galley Sub shop across the street, the Greek joint popular with the hippies and the Chatterbox, which was Ground Zero of the teenage social scene.

The Chatterbox soda fountain and grill had been there for some thirty years and had a storied history even then, still run by the same family and was pretty much the same in '65 as it was when it opened in the 1930's, not like it is today. Before they remodeled it - around 1969, the “Box” had a big stainless steel and formica soda fountain that ran along the west wall, similar but bigger than the one at Ready's Coffee shop on 8th street that's still there.

There was a juke box, a dime a song, three for a quarter, and maroon and white vinyl seat and formica booths against the other walls, booths that were moved to the Varsity Inn when it relocated from the 14th Street boardwalk to 8th Street at the same time they renovated the Chatterbox.

The Chatterbox, where both of  the mayor's daughters worked, was famous for its celebrity alumni, as a number of former employees went on to fame and fortune, including Grace Kelly – Princess Grace of Monaco, popular TV commentator Chris Mathews, and Pittsburgh history professor Donald Goldstein, best selling author of Pearl Harbor books including “At Dawn We Slept.” Both Goldstein in the fifties, and Mathews, in the sixties, flipped burgers on the Chatterbox grill when they were still in college, with Mathews also working at Watsons and nights as a singing waiter at Your Father's Mustache bar in Somers Point.

Even after she became a famous movie star and then a princess, Grace Kelly always came back to Ocean City every Labor Day weekend to be with her family. Sometime while she was in town she would bring her kids to the Chatterbox for lunch and a ice cream float, play the juke box and fraternize with the waitresses like she was just another shoebee.

This year however, word on Ninth Street was that Grace Kelly's husband, his royal highness the Prince of Monaco, would accompany her, and bring all of the international rigamorale that came with him. It would not be a normal Labor Day with the Prince in town and the Barbarians on the way.

In the Summer of '65 most of the high school and college kids who worked as waiters, waitresses, short order cooks, pizza makers and retail clerks either lived with their parents, in a group rental house or apartment, or in one of the cheap hotel rooms at the Biscayne, the Strand with its large wrap around porch, or the Lincoln, next door to the Chatterbox.

The five story wood clapboard Lincoln Hotel was pretty quiet most of the year, its conference room a comfortable and secluded enough for the members of the private, members only Riverboat Club to meet at noon for lunch each weekday.

While Ocean City was technically and officially a dry town, its blue laws forbidding the sale of liquor, there were some private clubs like the VFW, American Legion, Elks, there was even a black Elks club on the West Side, and the Riverboat Club, a lose confederation of local Ocean City businessmen who enjoyed having a drink of beer or wine with their lunch. So they met every weekday afternoon at noon and had food catered over from the Chatterbox or Watsons, and ordered a shipment of beer, wine and booze that was delivered in a white van from DiOrio's Circle Cafe in Somers Point. Three trips daily, one in the morning, one at noon and another at six, the Lincoln Hotel was the first stop.

There wasn't a problem in the spring and fall but after late May, when the college kids hit town, they occupied all of the 2nd floor rooms around the Riverboat's conference room and they drank beer by the case and kegs on weekends, and blocked the halls with their bicycles, surfboards and skateboards, and on the whole, provided a stark contrast to the straight, suit and tie businessmen of the Riverboat Club.
The College Kids formed their own clique and called themselves the “River Rats” to mock the RiverBoaters, but they all tried to get along.

Both camps enjoyed drinking however, and the college kids were surprised but happy to learn from the Riverboaters that they didn't have to drive over the causeway to the Point to buy more beer, but could just pick up the phone and call Joe at DiOrios and get on the shipment list for one of the three deliveries of the day.

Eventually the Riverboat Clubers would get tired of the College Kids and their silly antics and move into more permanent quarters in the big old rooming house on the southwest corner of 8th and Wesley, where it is today.

But in the summer of '65 the Riverboat Club was still meeting at the Lincoln Hotel, and putting up with the college kids. The ranks of the Riverboat Club included the Mayor, Bob Harbough of Bob's Grill, Roger Monroe the bookstore owner and Michael Rozet, who owned a hip cheese shop that was wedged between the Chatterbox and the Lincoln Hotel. Rozet was friends, and later business partners with Bill Hamilton, an Ocean City high school teacher who also owned the Rock Box record shop on Asbury Avenue, and coached soccer and taught a summer school literature class.

Harry Anglemeyer was a member of the Riverboat Club, until he was murdered, and the other members of the club tried to keep up with the latest developments in the case, but after awhile, they stopped talking about it.

On this particular mid-week afternoon in late July 1965, as the Riverboat Club met for lunch at the conference room of the Lincoln Hotel, surrounded by a motley crew of River Rat college kids, most of the Chatterbox waitresses piled into a couple of cars to go to the Seaview Country Club on the mainland for a surprise 18th birthday party for the eldest of the mayor's daughters.

The mayor had learned, from Elwood Kirkman, that John B. Kelly had a special Sweet Sixteen birthday party for his daughter Grace in the Rainbow Room at the Seaview, so he arranged for a similar party for his daughter Kate, a move he would come to regret.

The exact circumstances are a bit blurry today, but from what can be pieced together from those who were there, a dozen or so teenage girls had lunch in the Rainbow Room, played some popular 45 rpm records on a little square record player and were dancing among themselves when they heard, from a busboy cleaning the tables, that the Rolling Stones were guests at the hotel. In fact, it was Mick Jagger's birthday too! And at that very moment Keith Richards was throwing a birthday party for Mick downstairs in the basement Game Room.

Katie was led downstairs by the bus boy, and introduced herself to Mick and told him it was her birthday too, and asked him if he would come up and meet the girls at her party upstairs.

When Duncan, who drove some of the girls to the party, checked in the Rainbow Room, he found a group of giggling girls standing around Mick Jagger.

“Is that Mick Jagger?” he asked a passing waiter.

“Yes, sir it is,” came the reply, and Duncan rolled his eyes and walked over to the lobby bar and ordered a rare shot of whiskey and sat down.

It later came out – you couldn't keep such a thing secret, it later came out that Mick invited the girls downstairs to his party, and so as not to cause suspicion, one by one the girls meandared down the steps to the game room where they played pinball and pool, drank beer and smoked cigarettes and pot with the Rolling Stones.

The mayor's daughters thought that was the greatest thing after a Bay Shores rainy day matinee, and knew they were going to be grounded for the rest of the summer, but were quite surprised at their father's reaction.

They were in the other room and could hear him talking with Mister Kirkman, yelling at Kirkman - “How could you let my daughters, and the daughters of my best friends drink and smoke pot with the Rolling Stones!?”

They couldn't hear Kirkman's excuse or what he said, but in the end, in no uncertain terms, could either of them leave the house on Labor Day weekend. The party they had planned was off, and they couldn't leave the house.

And they knew why. It wasn't because they partied with the Rolling Stones at the Seaview, it was because the Barbarians were coming, and the mayor didn't want them out on the streets when the bikers were raping and pillaging the town.

Next : Episode 12 Conway Twitty Returns as King of the Point -

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