I can well recall 65 New Years in my life. But what was it like 65 years ago? I can only address this question based on my own experiences.
Some years, our neighbors, John and Florence Pierce came to our house for New Year’s Eve. They always brought their daughter Shirley, who was younger than me.
John was a construction boss for one of the major construction companies in the area. Florence “Big Floss” as my mother called her ran a taxi. They lived off the intersection of High Street and Dodge Road.
Celebrations were meager by today’s standards. I don’t recall anything like shrimp, but we did have potato chips and different dips. Ma made clam dip with Philadelphia cream cheese and a can of minced clams. There was a limited selection of alcohol. Us kids drank soda.
I was talking with Jo-Anne DeBenedetti about how her family celebrated New Year’s. Jo’s father had three siblings who brought their kids. Jo had eight cousins, along with aunts and uncles.
The adults sat down at the dining table at 2 p.m. and began eating at 3 p.m. The kids sat in the kitchen. Dips, chips, olives, pickles, and other munchies were served first. The food kept coming throughout the day. Lasagna or other pasta was the main course. Sometimes a roast was served. Wine was readily available. Jo said they would sit at the table and eat into the evening. The salad was eaten last.
Jo told me they would have their New Year’s Eve celebration at an aunt’s house, stay up, watch Guy Lombardo and the ball drop, drive an hour home, and return the next day to do it all over again. Christmas and New Years were two-day holidays.
A few years ago Sue Kibbe invited me down for Seven Fishes one Christmas Eve. I had never heard of it. I took an Italian lady friend with me. I had never seen such a feast, nor was I ready for it. My Italian lady friend knew what to do and how to pace herself.
I ate the first course and was full. The food kept coming for hours, lobster, shrimp and other shellfish. And lots of garlic! I was so sick after. Italians are accustomed to eating like this. It was so foreign to me. I watched in awe as everyone feasted. “They must have hollow legs” as my father used to say.
“Guy Lombardo’s first New Year’s Eve radio broadcast was in 1928; within a few years, they were heard live on the CBS Radio Network before midnight Eastern Time, then on the NBC Radio Network after midnight.
On Dec. 31, 1956, the Lombardo band did their first New Year’s TV special on CBS; the program (and Lombardo’s 20 subsequent New Year’s Eve TV shows) included a live segment from Times Square. Although CBS carried most of the Lombardo New Year’s specials, from 1965 to 1970, the special was syndicated live to individual TV stations instead of broadcast on a network. By the middle 1970s, the Lombardo TV show was facing competition, especially for younger viewers, from “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” but Lombardo remained famous among viewers, especially older ones.
Even after Lombardo’s death, the band’s New Year’s specials continued for two more years on CBS before “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” came into prominence. The Royal Canadians’ recording of the traditional song “Auld Lang Syne” still plays as the first song of the New Year in Times Square.”
I remember Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk. Ma says, “Arn, (Arnold) Guy Lombardo is going to be on Channel-8 this New Year’s.” “We’ve got to have a get together!” And so it was.
I can still see the adults toasting each other with a glass of cheap champagne, while singing Auld Lang Syne.
American Bandstand was a popular television show when I was young. Dick Clark hosted the weekly show. Most of us kids watched it as teenagers.
On Dec. 31, 1972 Clark hosted the first “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” I remember staying up and watching Clark and the ball drop. This was much better than Guy Lombardo, I thought.
I stayed up this New Year’s Eve till 1 a.m. I didn’t watch the ball drop but instead watched reruns of Barney Miller.
This week’s old saying is from Martin Scorsese: “If your mother cooks Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?