The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Columnists

January 4, 2014

Best New Years Eves ever

— Happy 2014!  2014? How did that happen?

In the 1950s, clubs and taverns sprang up everywhere.

My Uncle “Shux” already had a successful “mini-Wal-Mart” on Chestnut Street, but decided to try running a restaurant.

Probably every Christmas gift I received until I turned 16 came from Mikesic Amusements. To celebrate the grand opening, we partied New Year’s Eve 1958 at the Hi Hat on Broad Street, where First National Bank sits now.

Dad wasn’t a shopper. He’d phone the store and ask the manager to “select two pieces of jewelry and wrap ‘em.”

That year Mom and I got identical bracelets: two heavy, gold chains with rhinestone-embellished music boxes dangling from them.

Wind the box and it played “Stardust.”

How cool was this? I was the only kid there; Mom loaned me a cocktail dress (at age 8, I was 5 feet 9 inches tall).

And I wore my first piece of actual grown-up bling!

“Stardust!” After I rewound and listened to it 38 times, Mom removed it from my bony wrist and stashed it in her purse.

“I’ll give it back when we get home,” she hissed.

In 1976, Ted invited me for New Year’s Eve at the Monte Carlo, a swanky bar with a huge, plush banquet room.

I had purchased a fantastic, shimmery, ice blue floor-length gown a few months earlier. Now I had a chance to wear it.

“So, do you have any NYE traditions? Make resolutions or something?”

“No, just eat, drink, dance and party,” he said. “At 12, I excuse myself to call my mom.”

He rummaged through his pockets searching for change.

“That’s sweet. No change?” I asked. “Here.”

I retrieved two dimes from my evening bag.

He ended mom’s call and dropped the other dime in the slot.

“Who are we dialing now?” I wondered.

“My aunt. Holidays make her sad, too. She’s a nun.”

“We’re calling ‘Aunt Sister’?”

Ted winked and laughed.

Those ’70s women knew … you have to kiss a thousand frogs before you find a prince.

Harvey and I dated twice in the fall, but we had no chemistry. He invited me to his company party at the Golden Key (it’s now Szechuan on Main Street). I wanted to wear my blue gown again.

Kermit (aka Harvey) and I rang in 1977. I smooched him at midnight, but he remained green and slimy. Ribbett!

In 1982, Hubby and I celebrated with a group of his co-workers at Castle Farms, a little chunk of Pennsylvania history.

A spur off the Lincoln Highway, Somerset Pike, featured five roadhouses: White Star Hotel, Casa Nova, Green Gables, Castle Farms, and Jim and Jimmies. Visiting here was like looking into a mirror and seeing the ’40s and ’50s.

Gals in the office knew that big Boss Joe harbored serious five-alarm hots for the lady mail carrier (carriette?) who delivered to their building.

To surprise Joe, the office gals spilled the beans and invited her to the party.

Joe hadn’t had a date in 15 years. He had the social grace of a raccoon in a dumpster.

Flustered, he downed 14 gin and tonics in slightly over an hour. By 10 p.m. he could barely stand.

When a blood vessel in his eye burst, Ms. Carriette bolted for the door.

Four unforgettable New Year’s Eves: first “grown-up” night out; chatting with Aunt Sister; dancing with Kermit; and catching the outcome of a real, live soap opera.

I hope your NYE was filled with happiness, parties and laughter.

And, may stardust be generously sprinkled over all we do in 2014.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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