Summer Fun: Working Lucky Leo’s Record Stands 1979
This ain’t no fuss. This ain’t no holler. Well maybe a little—though not in the manner Mr Jackson had in mind. And it definitely was about “… workin’ all summer just to try an’ earn a dollar.”
It was the first weeks of summer vacation. I was attending CW Post Center of Long Island University as a communications major. I had moved out of the dorms for the summer and back into my room at my parents house in Lanoka Harbor, on the coast of New Jersey. I was working 40 hours a week (7 AM to 3:30PM) in “Daddy’s Garage”, A.K.A. my family business “Shore Plating” in Lakewood, NJ. What a misserable job that was! But it helped pay for my schoool and living situation at Post.
Within those first weeks of summer vacation 1979, my artist friend Tom Quinlavin came to visit one Saturday. We went out and got pretty hammered at one of the many bars in Seaside Heights, NJ. At one point we started to roam the Seaside boardwalk. During our excursion I heard live Bruce Springsteen playing off in the distance. As we drew closer I saw a tall lanky vision in blonde bebopping to the music hawking passersby to “Spin it to win it!” There may have been a few people playing at the large Lucky Leo’s corner record stand—but they didn’t matter this warm summer seaside night.
It was late. The boardwalk was winding down. But Tom & I weren’t. We stayed and talked with that blonde “barker“—Carole Herscheit. We started chatting about the Springsteen boot she was playing, how many times we had each seen him, & where. Yeah Tom & I might have been a bit sloppy, but we were all having great fun. Carole was use to dealing with the usual weekend night drunks on the boardwalk. But this was no ordinary Saturday night in Seaside—it was magical—at least for me.
(I hear this and am transported…)
Something inside me clicked. I wanted to know more about this Bruce fan, this wonder-filled woman. I wanted to befreiend her—in some fashion. So that following week I went to meet with someone at Lucky Leo’s and applied for a weekend job working the record stand with Carole. I must have done or said something right—I got the job & started the following weekend—to both our surprise.
I’d work my 9-5 job at Shore Plating and on Friday I’d come home eat, shower, and drive from Lanoka to Seaside Heights & Lucky Leo’s record stand. I don’t remember being trained other than what Carole imparted. We always had to be aware of people’s hands & the quarters they placed on a number, to be certain they didn’t move it to a “winner”. Plus all the usual—how to deal with drunks & crazies, and other more practical things, like how to sweep money down the board properly, make change, etc etc. All in all it was a blast! How could it not be—all to a summer music soundtrack!
There I was, on Friday and Saturday nights, spinning records, singing, laughing, dancing, schmoozing people, barking, and having the time of my life—all while getting to know Carole. And hell … I was getting paid to boot! Needless to say my record collection grew that summer too as did my friendship with Carole—which became life-long.
On Sunday afternoons, I’d work the smaller Luck Leo’s record stand down the block (north) from the big corner stand I’d work on Friday and Saturday nights. It was a different crowd on Sunday afternoons. But it was still fun! I met all kinds of people during my time working Leo’s stands. But on these Sunday afternoons I had now become a fixture. I’d play lots of Bruce—of course‚—as well as other faves!
At one point it seems Bruce and I attracted 2 teenage girls, who would come play my stand most every Sunday afternoon. One of which was named , Christine Mathews. Christine would drop quite a lot of money and almost NEVER won. She’d come weekend after weekend. We’d talk about Bruce, music, and life in general—among other things. She was a sweet teen as well as a wonderful and intelligent person. During the course of those summer weekends I’d take pity on her “lack of luck at Leo’s” and throw her a Bruce boot or other record she was trying to win on occasion. And why not—she earned it! She spent so much money there & left with nothing. One weekend she brought a camera and took photos of me—doing my thing.
That was the only summer I worked Lucky Leo’s—or for that matter—the Seaside boardwalk ever again. After that summer I kept in touch with Carole & we became good friends. On the other hand, I never saw Christine ever again. Though may years later, Christine would find me on Facebook. She told me how much she respected me back then for treating her like an adult and not some “silly teenage girl”. She also wanted to send me scans of the photos she had taken—WHICH BLEW MY MIND! I had so very few photos of myself from that time period—one of the happiest in my life! Christine and I are still in touch—if only via Facebook. I still know she’s around & a friend—as is Carole.
I love these photos! Here I am, at twenty-two, sweaty, fit, mildly muscled, with sleeves properly “rolled”, and me so manic looking in my tight blue jeans, my Clash-esque “braces” wearing (from top to bottom) my Born To Run, Robert Gordon, and (Joe Jackson) Look Sharp buttons. Dollar bills between fingers, doing my “schtick” “barking” trying to get folks from the middle of the boardwalk to my stand to “Spin it to win it!” I’d call them, cajole them, point, wave, and bark: “it only takes a quarter!” It was like being on stage performing—and perform I did—to bring in people to “play & win.”
So thanks to my friends and all the boardwalk visitors for all those fun, fond memories—and records. Thanks especially to Christine for the photos, her touching story, and her friendship. They may have been grainy Instamatic drugstore prints, but they are gold to me! They take me waaaaaaaay back when I see them, to a time when life was simpler, new, and always exciting. Part of the reason I blogged about them now. We’re all in need of good memories!
Here’s to: Hot fun in the summertime!