Yesterday afternoon we drove 90 miles to a surprise party Brunch for a friend’s 65th Birthday. Despite it being well over 100 degrees in Modesto, we old folk boogied and danced the early hours of the afternoon. (Most of us don’t do the early hours of the morning any more.) I am an occasionallyenergetic, frantic dancer and one track, as it always has, moved me to the dance floor, imploring anybody to dance with me: Spencer Davis’ 1967 rocker Gimme Some Lovin’ – a hit that stirs strong memories of tea breaks.
In 1967 I was working at Cerebos Foods, in the grimy Borough of Willesden, London, as a trainee Systems Analayst- an unlikely job for a guy with virtually no math or head for computer logic. But I did have charm and wit, necessary skills for winning the secrets of the firm’s manual bookkeeping system, secrets guarded by scores of ladies who had custody of the customer account ledgers.
As a part of my training I worked in a department which matched orders to unpaid invoices. The group was several ladies, the boss Tony, myself and Robert. Robert was about my age; but he had left school at 15 whereas I had stayed on until I was about 18. Still, he was smarter than I. Robert had a strong London accent, a sharp wit, a dapper, trend-stetting sense of dress, great charm and a brilliant knack for coining words. I still often use his word “rockaboogie” to express enthusiasm. Robert also coined the word stoomer– which was his variation of the apple type Sturmer, said of a girl who was for a while the “apple of his eye”.
At the time, British workplaces had official 15 minute tea breaks in the morning and afternoon. A lady with a cart came to the group office with a canteen of tea, milk, sugar and a selection of chocolate bars, perhaps a few jelly doughnuts. We had our own cups. Tea on desks, folk would chat, knit, read the paper.
But for a couple of weeks in 1967 Robert and I did without tea during a few tea breaks. We raced to the transport cafe next door, where the lorry drivers congregated. (Cafe rhymes with “safe”, by the way.) We would head for the juke box, put in some money and play Gimme Some Lovin’, separately jigging and hopping to the rockaboogie music. (Well, we couldn’t dance together, could we?- gay people had not been invented in 1967, and certainly not in Willesden, NW London….). After the music had stopped, we raced back to the office to swig our lukewarm teas, still wiping the warm sweat off our flushed faces.
Such rockaboogie memories to have on a hot Sunday afternoon in Modesto…