Summer of ’61

short stories

Doug Alt

 

Trampoline Center
at the Loew’s Drive-In on Rt. 35 in Hazlet, NJ

During the winter of 1961, I noticed some news articles about a new “Trampoline Center” that was being planned for construction, with an opening date scheduled for the beginning of the coming summer.

Being a gymnast at Springfield College at the time, I thought I might have the appropriate credentials, and applied for the Trampoline Center Manager position. An interview was arranged for a weekend when I could get home from college.

The interview went well, and the Manager of the Loew’s facility offered me the job. Once that decision was made, he unrolled the architectural plans for the proposed construction, along with the specifications for the trampolines that he was planning on buying.

I saw that the trampolines he was ordering were a very low grade product, from a third-rate comapany. I strongly advised him that he should consider changing his plans and order the trampolines from the Nissen company, since the quality of their product was the best out there, and since they also had a very comprehensive trampoline center marketing and business support package that was available to purchasers of their equipment. He thanked me for the input, but said that his budget was set and his order would go in as already planned.

With much excitement, I returned to Springfield after the weekend figuring that my next few summers were going to be fun and lucrative.

However, it soon dawned on me that doing this type of work might cause me to be considered a “professional athlete” by the AAU and/or the NCAA. Coach Wolcott did extensive communicating with the NCAA, during which it was finally decreed that I would indeed be considered a “professional athlete” if I took the job, and would therefore be ineligible to compete in gymnastics any more.

With much regret, I informed the Loew’s manager that I had to turn down the job offer. He understood completely, and, since we had hit it off quite well during my interview, he extended an invitation to “stay in touch”.

I was subsequently able to arrange an alternate plan, and lined up a good lifeguard job at an outdoor pool at Cliffwood Beach for the up-coming Summer.

Late in the Spring, when I saw the announcements for the “grand opening” of the Trampoline Center, I decided to drop in and see how it all had turned out. To my surprise, it was completely outfitted with shiny chrome Nissen trampolines, the very ones I had recommended! The Loew’s Manager was effusive with his explanation that he should have followed my advice “in the first place.”

What had happened was that the original equipment he had ordered had arrived during the Spring, but the quality was so poor the trampolines couldn’t be assembled properly, and it quickly became apparent that they had a shoddy deal on their hands. He threatened the supplier with a lawsuit, had them carry the stuff away, and picked up the phone and got the Nissen company on the line. He was so pleased with the Nissen product and with the business support they offered, he thanked me for my input on the subject from earlier in the Winter, then said, “If you ever find yourself in need of a job, give me a call; I manage several theaters, and I am sure there would always be a slot somewhere that could use a guy like you.”

Lifeguard job at Cliffwood Beach Pool

This was an old salt-water pool that had been a key fixture on the Raritan Bay beachfront for many years, but had seen its better days a decade or two earlier.

For commuting to this job, I purchased a mini-bike and added the features required to license it for use on public roads. In those days, all it needed were headlight, tail light, brake and horn.

This lifeguard job disappeared in the middle of the summer when the water filtering equipment broke down. The management decided it was too expensive to fix, so the pool was closed down completely, never to open again.

Loews Drive-In job

With the lifeguard job gone, and with half the Summer still left, I recalled the Loew’s Manager’s offer to look him up if I ever needed some work.

He was at his office at about noon when I dropped in, and, with not a moment’s hesitation, he said, “Come on back at 4:30 today, you can start work then.” When I asked what duties my job would consist of, he answered, “Just be here at 4:30; I’ll have something.”

The ensuing job wound up being “VERY demanding.”  I was to park my car right next to the Refreshment Stand in the middle of the drive-in theater, where I would wait for any patrons who might come to the building to complain about a problem with the speaker that attached to the window of their car so they could hear the sound portion of the movie. I would then spring into high-tech action, grabbing one large screwdriver and one box containing a new speaker and connecting wire from a huge stack in the supply room, whereupon I would follow the patron to the site of the problem.  The “high-tech” portion of the job consisted of unscrewing ONE large screw that held the old speaker to its post, screwing the new speaker to the post in its place, then bidding the patron, “Enjoy the movie!” My mission was completed when I returned to the supply room with the mal-functioning speaker and threw it on top of a small mountain of other miscreants that had been accruing.

In between repair missions, which only occurred a few times a week, I was to sit in my car, “on duty”, where I could watch all the movies!

Since this type of “tough duty” can actually get boring (the show changed only twice per week, so I would sit through any one particular movie 2 or 3 times), I soon hit on the idea of inviting dates to go with me to keep me company at the drive-in. The third time through watching a B-grade movie wasn’t quite so bad if it was in the company of a different girl each time…

The only wet blanket on this deal was that conditions were not too appropriate for getting very “cozy”, since my designated parking space was just feet from the Refreshment Stand, complete with its glaring bright lights and continuous stream of patrons walking by my car on their way to and from food purchases. But, HEY, I didn’t have to spend much money on dates that month!

All in all, it turned out to be a very interesting Summer!