Aside from an occasional disagreement, during which we wouldn’t speak for a couple of days, Vern was far and away my closest friend. From the day we met this was, and remained, a lifelong constant. But for a while, in our middle High School years, it was not just Vern and I, but a slightly larger group.
Vern had met, and befriended, a fellow named Dennis S. who was a year older and had both a drivers license, and an actual car – a 51 Plymouth. And then we were three; and a now mobile three, at that. At about that same time I introduced Vern to my old grade school, and current homeroom friend, Mark S. And three became four. Occasionally joined by Dennis’ friend Jerry S, we were now a group (or perhaps a gang, though more in the old-time sense of “Our Gang” than what the term implies today). We even had a cool, if somewhat obvious, name for ourselves; “The Five Esses”, and with matching jackets we were, or so we imagined, just too cool for words.
My memory suggests that we, as a group, spent more of our Friday nights at the CYA dances than at the “Y”. These events were held in the gym/theater on the second floor of the Knights of Columbus building at Lincoln Avenue and Galena – conveniently right across the street from Prince Castle (good burgers and great ice cream), and just down the block from the original “hole in the wall” Don Walker’s Sandwich Center (absolutely the best Italian beef sandwiches on the planet, then or now).
But the main attractions of the CYA functions were that the place was small, compared to the “Y”, and more importantly that it was popular with a lot of girls. We would cruise in sporting our fancy jackets, hair neatly combed, breath newly freshened by “Binaca”, hoping to make an impression. This we usually did, and occasionally a favorable one.
We would circle the perimeter, just as at the “Y” – although a complete lap took a lot less time – and would even dance now and then to songs like “The Way You Look Tonight”, by the Letterman, “Close To Cathy,” by Mike Clifford, or “What Would My Mary Say?”, by Johnny Mathis.
I know they played a fair number of up-tempo rock ‘n roll songs as well, but for some reason I mostly remember the gooey stuff. Maybe it was the dancing part.