Think about nothing
Now you're nice and high
I spent every night of the summer of 1971 at Nina’s Green Parrot in Galena, Kansas, drinking 3.2% beer and listening to the jukebox.
That’s an exaggeration, of course. Nina’s was closed on Sundays, so I couldn’t spend every night there.
But I could spend every Monday through Saturday night in Galena . . . and I did.
I was 19 years old that summer. I had just completed my freshman year at Rice University in Houston.
I worked that summer at a large grocery warehouse in Joplin, Missouri — where I was born and reared. (As one of my English teachers taught us, you raise animals but you don’t raise children – you rear them.)
My shift started at 7:00 in the morning and ended at 3:30. Most days, I unloaded rail cars for $3.25 an hour. (That was good money for 1971. The minimum wage back then was $1.60.)
Most of the products the warehouse stocked came in on trucks. But the warehouse usually received three or four rail cars each day.
One guy was assigned to unload each car, which was filled with items from a single company. You might have a car from General Mills (Cheerios and Wheaties cereals, Bisquick, Betty Crocker baking mixes), Scott Paper (toilet paper and paper towels), Clorox (bleach and cleaning products), or Ralston-Purina (dog and cat food, Chex cereals, Chicken of the Sea tuna).
When I got off work, I would go home, take a bath (never a shower – taking showers made too much of a mess in our one bathroom to suit my mother), and eat an early dinner.
After I ate, I’d grab my car keys and head for the front door, usually engaging in the following brief conversation with my mother:
My mother: “Where are you going tonight?”
My mother: “When will you be home?”
Me: “Not late.”
Fifteen minutes later, I would be sitting in a booth at Nina’s with a couple of friends and a quart of Falstaff or Hamm’s or Pabst Blue Ribbon or Stag. (Those brands were a dime a quart cheaper than Budweiser, Schlitz, or Coors.)
I was too cheap to spend much money on the jukebox, but I didn’t really need to – others fed it dimes continuously from about 8:00 pm until Nina’s closed at midnight.
There are a few songs that I vividly remember being played on Nina’s jukebox over and over that summer: “Sweet Hitch-Hiker” (by Creedence Clearwater Revival) and “Draggin’ the Line” (Tommy James) and “Liar” (Three Dog Night) and “Treat Her Like a Lady” (Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose) and especially “Signs” (Five Man Electrical Band):
Hey you, mister, can't you read?
You've got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can't even watch, no you can't eat
You ain't supposed to be here!
You didn’t need to have a shirt and tie to get a seat at Nina’s. All you needed was a valid driver’s license proving that you were at least 18 years old – or a fake license that convinced the beady-eyed proprietress.
At the end of the evening, you did need a little luck to get home in one piece. Legally, 3.2% beer is classified as a non-intoxicating beverage. But if you drink two or three quarts of it – plus buy a 16-ounce “tall boy” can to go for the ride back – you’ll find out it ain’t necessarily so.
Miraculously, none of my friends or I ever had a serious accident driving back from Galena. Given that we spent sixty or seventy nights at Nina’s that summer, we must have been the luckiest little fools in the Four-State Area.
* * * * *
“Resurrection Shuffle” is another of the songs I remember from the Nina’s jukebox.
It was Ashton, Gardner and Dyke’s one hit, peaking at #40 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in August 1971.
Tony Ashton – who was the Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke joined Family just before they recorded their final studio album, It’s Only a Movie, in 1973. I became acquainted with that album (which is really good) only recently, and I suggest you head to your public library’s website and use Freegal to download it toot sweet.
Here’s “Resurrection Shuffle”:
Click below to buy the song from Amazon: