Showdown at the Adventure Car Hop Corral
SB J’s (Mendocino Bonobos) memory of teenage hijinx taking place at the White Hut Car Hop stirred my own memories in the sub-folder labeled “Car Hop.”
By SB SM (Gilead Brook Silverbacks)
It was 1958. Cars had fins and breasts had points. Beer was yellow and bread was white.
Our family spent the school year in Alexandria, Virginia, then migrated north to spend summers in the sacred ancestral estate of Post Island, a seaside community that is located in Quincy, Massachusetts. Since my sister was three years older, I was exposed to teenage trends and habits a couple of years before my peers. When Elvis hit the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956, for instance, I was only 8, but old enough to pick-up to pick up on my fledgling teen sister’s excitement. Something was happening.
I became addicted to the Milt Grant Show, a local knock-off for the Metro DC area of American Bandstand. That show was immediately followed by Bandstand, the real deal. Through the Grant Show (His nickname was Uncle Miltie.) I was exposed to a lot of regional artists like the Kalin Twins and Danny and the Juniors before they became national acts. The first one that grabbed at a gut level was Link Wray. Oh man, check this out, and listen to the entire track:
Around this time the first “personal device,” the transistor radio, appeared. We returned to Post Island for the summer and, magically, now we could listen to popular tunes at the beach, sitting up by the sea wall with our friends. We listened exclusively to WMEX, 1510 on your radio dial, and especially to Arnie “Woo-woo” Ginsburg, sponsored by Adventure Car Hop in Saugus, MA. Their hook was a daily 2-for-1 special, which you could take advantage of by saying “Woo-Woo Ginsburg” into the speaker when you placed your order. The special changed every day, so you had to pay attention.
Saugus, however, was on the other side of Boston Harbor from Quincy, meaning effectively, that Adventure Car Hop was on a separate planet, connected only through the air waves and the voice of Arnie Woo-woo Ginzburg. But then one day, one hot summer day, we (the prototypical nuclear family, consisting of one Stoic Father, one Comely Wife, One Bratty Sister, and One Annoying Brother) went on a journey. Our destination is long lost to memory, but our travels took us up Route 1 and past the aforementioned Adventure Car Hop. This detonated a clamorous bomb in the back seat. Can we go, Daddy? Please-oh-please-oh-please? The whine machine went into high gear. We were quieted only by the promise that we would stop there on the way home.
Our adolescent prayers were answered! We were about to join the ranks of official teenagers. We were doing Woo-woo’s bidding. All afternoon my sister and I refrained the Adventure jingle, complete with Woo-woo’s signature sound effects:
We were in hormonal heaven we would be “out at Route 1 in Saugus.” We’d be “dressed just as you are.” We would “never get out of our car.” And we would be telling the kids on the seawall all about it!
The day passed slowly. What was it? A wedding? A funeral? I have no idea, but eventually we were heading back home, going south on Route 1, towards Saugus and the Taj Mahal of proto-teendom in suburban Boston, Adventure Car Hop.
My Dad, normally upbeat and mild-mannered, was a bit cranky. I get it now … a hot day, a lot of traffic, kids incessantly singing a stupid car hop jingle in the back seat, having to make a left turn across lanes of traffic … Finally, we were there, actually atop the hot, greasy-smelly tarmac of the promised land. Dad had to roll up his window partially so that the car hop could hang the speaker to it. After a few minutes of nothing, it crackled to life. Between the poor fidelity and mumbled teenage give-a-shit voice you couldn’t understand anything, but we guessed the speaker was asking for our order. My father, uncomfortable but ever-dutiful, relayed our orders: a hot dog, a hamburger, two chocolate shakes, and (the Woo-Woo Ginsburg 2-for-1 special of the day) onion rings.
The speaker crackled, probably “Is that it? Or anything else?” There was a moment of silence.
“Say Woo-Woo Ginzburg!” said my sister and I in unison.
“What?” said my father, oblivious to the underlying reason for being at Adventure Car Hop in the first place.
“SAY WOO-WOO GINZBURG!!” It was part command, part plea. My father, bewildered, turned towards us. ” You’ve gotta say ‘Woo-woo Ginsburg to get the free onion rings.” But it wasn’t about onion rings. It was about meeting the kids on the seawall back at Post Island and telling them that we had went to the famous Adventure Car Hop, but not taken advantage of the Woo-Woo Ginsburg two-for-one special, because our stupid-ass Dad had not said the magic words. Oh, swallow me earth. Take us from this vail of tears. “YOU’VE GOTTA SAY WOO-WOO GINSBURG!” It was a showdown.
My father was a patient man, a lawyer by trade, but he also very reserved, with a deep well of dignity. We had pushed him across a line. Eyes narrowed, nostrils flared. “I … will … NOT.” (Think Eastwood “Make … my … day.” Think Arnold, “I’ll … be … back.”)
“Argle-bargle?” crackled the speaker, a tone of impatience perceptible. Omigod! Our last chance for the Woo-Woo Ginzburg two-for-one special was slipping away, but we did not dare to push back any farther against our rarely-angered Dad. Tears welled.
My father-bless his soul- did not dither, but pivoted from over-the-shoulder towards the back seat to the speaker hanging off the window: “Woo-woo Ginsburg!” he spat out. But he said it, and in so-doing so he saved the Fifties, at least prolonged them. He rewarded himself with the obligatory cigarette, most likely an unfiltered Chesterfield.
Amazing what you can find on the Internet these days. Adventure Car Hop … where “you never get out of your car.” Give it a listen, all 17 seconds worth. The food, by the way, was predictably terrible.
Here’s my Dad, John Joseph Morris, with his ever-present Chesterfield King.
Say “Woo-woo Ginsburg,” Dad.