I have been blessed with an incredible memory. I can remember, in great detail, events that happened 20, 30, 40, even 45 years ago. Many of these memories are directly tied to music, as music was always on in my childhood home, in my parent’s car, and even in my grandparent’s home when we’d make our weekly Saturday visits there. For me, music is like a time machine, hearing a song takes me back to a specific event, a specific person, or even a specific conversation I had with someone.
I ended 3rd grade in June of 1980 and was excited to start grade 4 in September. That last day of school, especially in elementary school, was magical. Always a party on the last day of school, and then right before being dismissed for the summer you’d receive your report card and it would tell you what teacher you would have for the following school year. That year, I left Bayview Elementary pumped up because Mr. Carlson, the teacher I wanted for 4th grade, appeared on my report card….the summer of 1980 was off to a great start!
My dad was a huge baseball fan. He grew up loving the New York Giants and Willie Mays. When the Giants left for San Francisco, he was devastated. He was a National League fan so when the Dodgers and Giants left for California, my dad had no National League team from New York to root for. My Dad despised the Yankees (from the American League) and rooted for anyone who played against them, so him becoming a Yankee fan was never going to happen. It wasn’t long until the Mets filled that void for many New Yorkers, joining the National League in 1962. They were horrible in their early days, but got better, winning the World Series in 1969 and going to the World Series in 1973, losing to the Oakland A’s in seven games. The Mets began a free fall after that and were horrible in the late 70s and early 80s, right around the time I started becoming interested in baseball.
By 1980, I started taking a real interest in baseball. But unlike most sons, I started liking the team my Dad despised, the Yankees. This happened because the Mets were so bad, my Dad would curse at the TV and change the channel to the Yankees game to watch what he called “competitive baseball” and root against the Yankees. Well, that exposure to the Yankees turned me into a Yankee fan. Had the Mets been good in the late 70s/early 80s I most likely would have been exposed more to them and been a fan of theirs. (I am very thankful things turned out the way they did….sorry Dad)
That summer I started collecting baseball cards, which I still have. When I wasn’t listening to music, I was riding my bike up to the gas station to buy packs of baseball cards, hoping to accumulate the entire set of 726 Topp’s cards by summer’s end. By late August I was ONE card away from the full set. I was missing the card of Geoff Zahn, some scrub pitcher from the Minnesota Twins. For some reason, no matter how many packs I talked my parents into buying for me, no Geoff Zahn! I was devastated. One day, a week or so before 4th grade started, I was chatting with a kid named Kenny who lived across the street from me, telling him how upset I was not having that Geoff Zahn card to complete my set. He ran up to his room and came back with not one, not two, but THREE Geoff Zahn cards. Of course, he had leverage and talked me in to trading my extra Reggie Jackson, Jim Rice and Mike Schmidt cards for the coveted Geoff Zahn. I pulled off the trade without hesitation. The 1980 Topps set was complete.
I turned 9 years old in July of that summer and the ONLY thing I wanted for my birthday was a bicycle radio to mount to the handlebars of my 1978 Huffy Thunder Road bike. I hated riding my bike around the neighborhood and not being able to listen to music. Even back then, I HAD to have music on just about all the time. I can vividly remember my grandparents pulling up to my house on my 9th birthday. My grandfather got out of his white 1975 Dodge Dart Sport and asked “Where’s your bike?” I answered “In the shed.” He said “Go get it!” I ran as fast as I could to get that bike, still not really knowing what was going on (come on, I was NINE!). I came around from the back of the house and my grandfather was standing in the driveway with a screwdriver in one hand and a white plastic bag in the other. He handed me the bag and told me to open it. In the bag was the bike radio, no fancy birthday wrapping, no gift bag, it was just sitting in a plain white plastic store bag. I remember the feeling of elation as I pulled it out of the bag and my grandfather saying “Let’s put it on the bike.” My grandfather put the 9 volt battery into the radio, then mounted the silver bracket on to the black handlebars of my Huffy, then slid the radio on to the bracket. There it was, my brand new Concept 2000 brand AM bicycle radio! My grandfather asked “Well, aren’t you going to try it?!” I didn’t even answer, I flipped the little power switch and turned on the radio, got some static, but once the dial hit 660 WNBC (NYC) “The Rose” by Bette Midler came blaring through that tiny speaker and I was on cloud nine!
I rode that bike in circles in front of my house and up and down the block until it got dark that night with that radio playing “Steal Away” by Robbie Dupree, “It’s Still Rock n Roll To Me” by Billy Joel, “Coming Up” by Paul McCartney, “Cars” by Gary Numan, “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John and so many other great tunes from that summer. When I rode by the other kids playing on the block, they looked up wondering where the music was coming from…but I knew…it was coming from that totally awesome radio mounted to my Huffy.
Summer turned to fall, 4th grade went off with out a hitch, my new teacher Mr. Carlson was even cooler than I imagined, and my childhood continued….but I never forgot that magical summer of 1980.