My first job paid $4600 a year in 1964. The only affordable housing I could find was a back room at Mae Hollowell’s Beauty Shop. A plumber named Luther Goff occupied the other rented room. Luther liked philosophy aided by Ancient Age and whiskey, “Sex won’t kill you, but running after it will wear you down.”
Joe Robinson, Carolina tight-end on the 1963 Gator Bowl, was rooming with a Tar Heel family. They charged him $5 a week. Joe and I decided to look for an affordable bachelor’s pad.
I found one. In a new concept for Wilson, North Carolina, Briarcliff Apartments were new and quite nice. My good friend, Jean Peake, suggested I move in with a guy named Phil Nordan. Phil was a liquor salesman.
We were having a great time, car, Briarcliff, twenty-six years old and coaching. I was paid little. Sometimes that bothered me, but mostly I was doing okay.
Then a bump. Joe got drafted. Phil got married. I was back on the street.
I moved into all I could afford. Varita Court, downtown Wilson. I slept on a chaise lounge until Jean heard about me. She sold me two single beds for $12.50 each from hospital storage. The beds and the jukebox were my only furniture.
The juke box featured a green light bulb. I located it so I could sit on the fire escape and throw beer cans at the Shell Station chimney located below me. “Like a Rolling Stone” was #1, “ A Whiter Shade of Pale”, “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and other great 60’s music were my roomies. I was very lonely. The total utility bill was $3.48 one month.
I was the only male in the three story building, in apartment “R”. There was an elevator with a stroke-ridden black man named Jesse sitting in it all day. Most of the tenants were widows. They peered out their doors as I put the jukebox on Jesse’s elevator. Jesse giggled.
Everyone ought to live alone for some period in their lives. It’s not all bad, but I didn’t like it in Varita Court.
–excerpt from “Play is Where Life Is”
The jukebox mentioned in this passage was a “god-send” of sorts.
One of our basketball stars was a young man named Larry Jones. Jones was called “Chief” because he was a handsome, “Indian-looking,” 6 foot 5 inch, 210 pound stud from Mt. Olive. I casually mentioned that I would like to find a jukebox. Maybe that would help with my loneliness in Varita Court. Jones said, “I’ll find you a jukebox.”
A week later he said he’d found one.
“How much do they want for it?” I asked.
Surprised he asked, “You want to pay for it?!”
We did find one, to buy, for $100 from a black guy named Kay Wooten in Fremont, North Carolina. It was a 1945 AMI Woolden. Not the Wurlitzer Double Bubble Circler but it would play. Loud. It was too big to mount in a Corvette, but I do believe that I could have competed with the Wilson “Boom Boxes of 1968”.
I painted it red and kept it throughout my kids’ stay with us. When they left, I sold it to my good friend Bill Morningstar, the golf coach at Elon. “Star” is a pinhook, he’ll buy anything. Mostly old cars. He painted it black. Macho. And he still has it.
You could rotate 40 records. The list below are some of the AMI Selections of 1968-1988.
1. Like a Rolling Stone-Bob Dylan
2. Cleo’s Mood-Jr. Walker and the All-Stars
3. Whiter Shade of Pale-Procol Harem
4. Since I Lost My Baby-The Temptations
5. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-Joan Baez
6. Yesterday-Ray Charles
7. The Weight-Jackie DeShannon
8. Light My Fire-Jose Feliciano
9. Any Day Now-Chuck Jackson
10. Ain’t That Loving You Baby-Jimmy Reed
11. Silver Threads and Golden Needles
12. Walk On By-Dionne Warwick
13. I’ll Be Doggone-Marvin Gaye
14. Hey Joe-Jimi Hendrix
15. Sweet Baby James-James Taylor
16. Rescue Me-Fontella Bass
17. Baby Love-The Supremes
18. Good Golly Miss Molly-Little Richard
19. Don’t Be Cruel-Elvis Presley
20. Fire Lake-Bob Seger
21. What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am-The Tams
22. Born to Run-Emmylou Harris
23. Get Rhythm-Johnny Cash
24. Get Back-The Beatles
25. Honky Tonk Women-The Rolling Stones
26. I Still Miss Someone-Emmylou Harris
27. He Stopped Loving Her Today-George Jones
28. Knock On Wood-Eddie Floyd
29. Take Out Some Insurance-Jimmy Reed
30. Little Help From My Friends-Joe Cocker
31. Lay, Lady, Lay-Bob Dylan
32. Roll Me Away-Bob Seger
33. Still the Same-Bob Seger
34. Stand By Me-Ben King
35. America-Ray Charles
36. Georgia-Ray Charles
37. Busted-Ray Charles
38. Maybeline-Chuck Berry
39. Somewhere Over the Rainbow-Jerry Lee Lewis
40. I’m Walking-Fats Domino
41. Jim Dandy-Lavern Baker
42. Rave On-Buddy Holly
“Music can save your very soul.”
-Don McLean, “American Pie”