‘Summer in the City’ takes me to August 1966. I can see the title on the little card in the juke box in the local café with the big red and white keys that held down when you pressed them. I hear the sharp ‘clack’ it made as the keys released, taking my dime
The door to that old café is – was - 5 steps down from street level. The summer was brutal that year, but as the sign says, ‘IT'S cooler inside with air conditioning!’ By the door is the old red Coke machine, a chest type machine with 10 cent glass bottles immersed in icy water. That’s the price of the soda, not the deposit.
The summer of 1966 was hot, but not as bad as the previous year – August of 1965 we all watched on the grainy, black and white TVS as ‘Watts,’ wherever that was, went up in flames.
I first heard ‘Summer in the City’ at a record store downtown. Wait - we didn’t quite have record stores yet, did we? We got our records at shops selling Hi-Fi's that also sold records. I bought my first album there - THE ANIMALS! only a buck – it was in the discount rack. They were getting rid of the old stuff to make way for the new!
We heard the songs on the radio, but TV was where it was at. By 1966 we had Hulaballoo and Shindig – aimed just at us kids. TV also informed us – like about Vietnam – with body counts every night. Good thing we would not be there long – 6 months – a year, tops. That’s what they said earlier in the year. But 400,000 guys were already in country, and that draft card they sent you was a real reminder.
Sioux City was a major city – and Bill Turner, manager of KVTV, The Major 9, knew how to use TV. He did a special on the coming of ‘urban renewal’ to show us where the parking ramps would go. ‘Skywalks?’ Crazy!
I remember waiting to see To Sir with Love at The Old Capitol Theatre on Nebraska St. I admired the ornate stonework on the upper floors outside as the line stretched past Younker Martins department store, with that beautiful open second floor mezzanine inside.
Within a few years, urban renewal tore all of it down: the cafés, the theatres, Younker Martins. But that was progress. We were just getting rid of the old stuff to make room for the new.
And it did foster progress. Historic preservation groups were created to prevent old buildings from being torn down.We went over a decade without getting into another war. And the riots were calm for a while, too.
Like all great lessons, sometimes we need the reminder that doing something may or may not be the answer, but doing nothing teaches you nothing.
See, history may not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes. Especially when it has a great tune to keep it company.