A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY….

Author’s Note: After I finished the draft of this post, and read it through several times, I thought long and hard about whether to even post it at all. The story related below is not intended to glorify teen drinking. Rather it is an account of a bunch of young, and admittedly pretty stupid kids engaging in what a lot of kids did growing up.  The fact that no one was hurt in a car wreck, or got pregnant, or suffered any serious consequences as a result of this insanity, doesn’t excuse it.  It is a an excellent example of very poor judgment on the part of some of us, who didn’t stop to think of the risks we were taking for ourselves, as well as posing for our younger friends, who in many cases looked up to us as role models. I know I have thought about this over the years, and will freely admit it was stupid, and something of which I am not particularly proud.  Fortunately no one was shot, or stabbed, or broken apart in an automobile crash, but it could have easily turned out that way.

So I decided to post the story, with this prologue added: I hope that by posting this, it might give some young person pause, to think carefully about their actions, and the responsibilities that come with growing up. There’s nothing wrong with good clean fun, and having a good time. Just try very hard to be to moderate in all things, and conduct yourselves in a manner that would make your family proud of you.

I think I was about 15 when I discovered that I was so much smarter than my parents, and it took until about age 25 or so to realize that I was so sadly mistaken about that discovery.  Now that I have children and grandchildren, I’m thankful that the Lord looked after me during that 10 year span!

Take a look at some young fools below (who are now old fools)!

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A DATE THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY…

It happened 48 years ago, and folks still talk about it today (no, not Pearl Harbor, “The Blowout”).

I guess after all these years, it’s time to tell the sordid tale.  Those of you that were “involved” (you know who you are!!!) can just calm down, take a deep breath, don’t panic.  I do not intend to reveal your real names.  Not that most people haven’t known for years who the “ring leaders” were, but you can rest assured your secrets are safe with me.

The Legion Hut (after restoration) Greenwood, Mississippi

I guess I was one of the ring leaders myself, since it was my band that performed that sultry August night at the Legion Hut in Greenwood, MS, 1963.  I was there. I saw it all, the shocking, disgusting spectacle of it all.  Actually, it really wasn’t that big of a deal, to tell you the truth.  Just a whole bunch of high school kids (and maybe a FEW older college kids), teenagers mostly, dancing, laughing, having a few cold beverages and a really good time.  Nothing to really get worked up about.  Certainly not worth forming a “Parent’s League” the next week, and getting all bent out of shape! For crying out loud!

The band was my first high school group “The Sweet Nothin’s”, with me on lead guitar, Johnny Miller on rhythm guitar, Leland Rustle on bass, and Junior Joe on drums (see, I told you I wouldn’t reveal your names) !

The Sweet Nothin’s – L to R: Junior Joe, the author, Johnny Miller

(not pictured: Leland Rustle)

 

The REAL ringleaders however, were a bunch of older guys, freshman at Ole Miss and State, 6 or 8 of them altogether I believe.  They put up the money to hire us, to rent the Legion Hut, to purchase the beverages, arrange for the décor, everything.  We (the band) were just simple, completely innocent hired help.  We didn’t know really what they had planned, we thought it would be like any other plain vanilla Legion Hut dance we had done before, dozens of times, HONEST!

Apparently the gentlemen in charge of promoting the event were somewhat less experienced than we (the band) in the finer details of event management, and somehow overlooked the fact that they were responsible for arranging for the chaperones to be in place at the venue on the appointed evening of the dance.  The band had done this sort of thing many times, and had always attended to that small detail properly, so we were firstly, unaware that there were to be no chaperones in attendance, and secondly, quite appalled when it was discovered to be the case.

Fortunately, the day was saved when a fine young dentist in the community made his appearance, and offered to serve in that capacity pro bono, and since he was over the age of 30, it was thought to be a most excellent solution to the matter.  The fact that he had arrived dressed in a long black trench coat, socks, shoes and little else save his jockey shorts was somehow overlooked, in the rush to get the party underway.

The Legion Hut is a small, cozy venue, comfortably accommodating a group of 60 to 75 people, seated at tables, but as a larger crowd was expected, and a suitable dance area desired, no tables were in place.  As it turned out, there were probably 250 folks packed in there, pretty much wall to wall, shoulder to shoulder.  It made for a festive atmosphere!

Typical Legion Hut Dance Crowd (NOT the actual Blowout)

It has been widely reported that vast quantities of cold beer were sold to the mostly underage crowd in attendance that night.  It’s hard to be sure, since it was so dark in there.  The band had a few lights on the stage, but the rest of the dance floor was quite subdued, pitch black dark actually, so I really wasn’t able to see much from my vantage point, with a large microphone in my face, blocking my view of the kitchen.  I certainly was too far away to see if any money was changing hands back there.

If I recall correctly, the dance got under way about 9 PM, and the crowd was quite receptive to our performance, crowding the dance floor most all night long.  It was pretty hot in there (the Legion Hut was air-conditioned, but in name only – it certainly couldn’t cool off 250 stoked up teenagers).

The venue had been decorated with festive balloons (although they were a little pale, not as brightly colored as one usually sees at say, a birthday party – perhaps it was the subdued lighting), and a selection of lovely artwork from a private collection of one of the promoters, with both the balloons and the fine art pinned to the walls around the venue. (These would later be referred to not as party balloons and art, but by the more vulgar term “evidence”).

The Sweet Nothin’s really enjoyed the enthusiastic participation of the crowd, as they danced to all the old rock n roll favorites, “Twist and Shout”, “Mustang Sally”, “What’d I Say”, “Louie, Louie” (the version with the CLEAN words), and others.  At one point in the evening the promoters asked if we would play a particular musical selection in order to conduct a Dance Contest among the crowd.  The Contest was named “The Gross Dance Contest”, and the rules were basically, whichever couple that could dance the grossest, without touching each other, would win a full case of ice cold beverages.  The promoters stood on stage, and served as judges, and after a long version of whatever particular song we did (after so many years, I can’t seem to remember now what “old standard” it was), they declared a young lady and her escort as the winners.  I’m sure they must have been from out of town, as I don’t recall ever seeing them before at one of our performances.

Anyway, the evening continued, with much fun and abandon, until an older woman (translation: somebody’s Mother) appeared in the back of the venue.  With the lights from the street lamps outside streaming in from behind her, all I could see was a starkly backlit silhouette, and could not possibly recognize who it was. Nevertheless, she soon departed.  I guess the music was not to her liking, perhaps she was expecting some Glenn Miller or Bennie Goodman.

It wasn’t long however before she returned, with several uniformed men, who seemed in a great hurry to find the light switches, and that was the climactic moment made famous by Warren Zevon, in his song, “Send Lawyers, Guns and Money”…. well, you probably know the rest.

Things went RAPIDLY downhill from there.  Thankfully, there was enough of a delay in the discovery of the location of the light switches, and a large enough rush for the door by the patrons, that the band and most of the promoters managed to either slip out the kitchen door (I think the beverage vendors actually bailed out of the windows) or hide in the exiting crowd and make it to the parking lot.  As I was only a hired hand, I was able to return to my home that evening, without being escorted to the crossbar hotel by the authorities.

Of course, that was not the end of it, as you might imagine.   As it happened to be August, and I had recently graduated from Greenwood High School a few months back, I was soon planning to arrive in Oxford, to become enrolled at the University.  In fact, an older friend had called a day before the Legion Hut party to invite me to accompany him to a Sigma Alpha Epsilon rush party in Jackson that very weekend, at the Sun & Sand Hotel.  I had thanked him, but declined, citing the imminent party we had already planned, and explained I might be very tired the following day. He had said that if I changed my mind, to give him a call, I was welcome to ride along if I liked.

About 8 AM the next morning, my phone rang, and I answered to find myself connected to Chief Lary, of the Greenwood Police Dept.  He was very nice, but wanted to inquire if I was associated with “that band that played at the Legion Hut” last night.  Of course he knew that I was, so there wasn’t much I could say but “Yes Sir”.  He asked if I might be able to come down to the City Hall about 1 PM for a small meeting with several “interested parties”.  I told him that I would be happy to, he thanked me, and we hung up.  I had my friend that had called me earlier about the SAE party on the line within 4 milliseconds, and asked if I could still go to Jackson with him.  He happily agreed, and I soon disappeared over the southern horizon.  I stayed in Jackson for 2 or 3 days I believe, and when I returned I never heard another word, from the Chief, my parents, or anyone else.

I did hear later from “un-named sources” that the Chief was told in no uncertain terms by one of the “boys” mother, that “her son would not do anything like that”. In fact, a certain bald headed gentleman who was there representing the City allegedly asked, “Boys, I want to ask a question, and we’ll do everything in our power to see that it never happens again…. IS THERE ANY PLACE IN GREENWOOD THAT SELLS BEER TO TEENAGERS”?  It was at this point that the “mother” slammed her fist on his desk and said ” Hell No, they didn’t sell beer at that party.  Any fool would know they wouldn’t do that”!  And so ended the meeting.

I’m a little fuzzy on the rest, as to the formation of the Parent’s League, who actually conspired to bring it to fruition, and what amounts of sorrow it visited upon the sophomores and juniors we left behind when we went off to school, but I guess it all worked out.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

– – Joe Seawright – –

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15 Responses to A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY….

  1. Bob Caruthers says:

    I was there that night (sober as a judge–we started football practice on August 15th) and I saw the whole thing. I thought the pretty “balloons” were kinda funny and I’m pret-ty sure everybody knows who won the Dirty (or Grossest) Dance contest. One of the organizers told me once that his daddy told him to get back up to Oxford the next morning and don’t come back for at least two weeks.

  2. Tommy Cheairs says:

    Great story Joe, Thanks for sharing it with us. I know Leland appreciates your misspelling of his last name and thus insuring his anonymity in the ordeal, however I am sure he would have preferred the “alias” Paul McCartney!!

    Tommy

  3. jerry wexler says:

    Great story Joe! Do you remember the big fight at the Legion Hut with Buck and the boys? That’s a great story I would be glad to relive.

  4. Tommy Gregory says:

    I was probably the only GHS freshman in attendance (invited by my favorite cousin … no name revealed). I remember thinking how great high school was going to be if all the dances were like this one.

  5. BAE CASCIO says:

    Well I happened to be one of the older guys in attendance. Twenty years old and legal drinking age for beer was eighteen. See, I never broke the law.
    I remember everyone had a ticket with a number on it and the band would call out a number every so often. Boy they sure called my number a lot that night. DB and VL, sellers of beer, never figured it out.

  6. Charlie Swayze says:

    Let’s have a reunion. I have always enjoyed military huts, and it looks like we improved this one.

    • joeseawright says:

      Oh, I think we should. Charge big bucks, give away the beer this time, hire a few limos to take people home afterwards, and anyone with an official Parent’s League ID Card gets in free. The 50th Anniversary is coming up in August of 2013. so we have plenty of time to plan it!

  7. Jane Tucker Bond says:

    Joe, Maybe it could be part of our 50th reunion and we could charge admission to other classes to pay the band!

  8. Robert Johnson - Jackson, MS says:

    I was there that night, and it was, indeed, a night that will live in infamy!! I agree with Swayze. There should be a reunion!! The Legion Hut, Greenwood- what a great place for a party!!

  9. Bubba Johnson says:

    Joe, thanks for the memories of the “Blowout”. I was there for most of the dance, but I left a little early and missed the exciting conclusion. From my viewpoint it was a bunch of teenagers having fun dancing and drinking beer. We were too young to legally drink beer, but it was not required in order to attend. I really do think the Sweet Nothin’s are my favorite band. I admit being a little biased since I was friends with you, Joe Jr., Leland, and Johnny Milner. I have not seen Joe Jr. in many years and I miss him. I also miss Johnny Milner who passed away about 2 years ago. I wish we could all see more of each other. As far as I am concerned, we are all very lucky to have grown up in Greenwood together.

  10. Joan Nored says:

    It was a great dance that night at the Legion Hut because we all liked to dance, especially to good bands! I’ll always remember someone running in to tell us they had just seen Dr.& Mrs. Alford walking down the sidewalk toward the front door. We immediately told John Alford at which time he jumped out the window on the west side of the building. It was pretty far to the ground. I guess that was about the time we next year seniors left. The next morning my mother came into the kitchen where several of us were sitting and asked what had happened at the dance at the Legion Hut. We asked her what she meant, so she asked if we had seen any kind of decorations in the restroom. I told her I remembered seeing some balloons on the wall. Why? She said she had gotten a phone call about a meeting to form a ‘parents’ league’, so something must have happened! By the way, it was called the ‘dirty dance contest’ but wasn’t anything like the movie Dirty Dancing. I don’t know who the boy winner was, but I’ll have to take up for the girl winner since we are still very close. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both of your write-ups, Joe! It’s fun to laugh about those times!

  11. Armstrong Hart Pillow says:

    Oh, my gosh! I howled when I read Joe’s recounting of the “Blow Out”. It was so dark in there that somebody had to call my attention to the decorations. Would you believe that I had never seen balloons like that? My memories include looking up and seeing Virginia Alford walking slowly around the room gazing at the wall decorations. It was right after that that my date wanted to leave and seemed to be interested in some extended good night kissing. The “dirty dancing” contest I remember was won by one of your classmates, Joe, who had a sister in my class. The next day when my father accused Joan of winning the contest, I had to correct him. Joan would never do a thing like that. My only regret is that I left at 11am and missed some of the fun. Are we really up for trying to repeat the “night of infamy”?

  12. Maybe a bronze plaque should be put up at The Legion Hut as a historical site. Since Frank Stainback’s office is near there (this not related to the plaque on your teeth), perhaps he should make a donation.

  13. Earley Watkins says:

    Iwant every one to know tat sence i left for the army on aug.19th that Sharon and i were spending all our time with family before i left and would not have dreamed of going to such a sinful dance . No one ever told me there was a legal drinking age when we were in high school . I thought if you could pay for it you could drink it

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