Remember 1967? Of course not, you’re only 32 years old; I’m talking to the guy standing next to you, the one who waited breathlessly each time the release of a new Beatles album was announced. Folks like him know that in June of that year the highly anticipated and much mythologized “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” album descended from the sky.
Flipping through recent entries in the “Old Suffern High” Facebook group I belong to I just came across a number of entries referencing that era. Ah, Suffern, NY. Now a bedroom community like many others within striking distance of Manhattan, Suffern in the 60’s was a mixture of cultures and income levels. We moved there in 1963, when my father became president of Rockland Community College.
One June night that year the Suffern High School concert band put on its last stage performance of the year. Let me dispense with false modesty and declare that I was, if not the absolute worst baritone horn player ever to play under the baton of Maestro John Conners, certainly a contender for that title. I never practiced and often declined to play during rehearsals. That’s me in the middle of the top row sitting next to first ‘bone player Charles Osborne, looking around with my horn on my lap while everyone else jams away. See what I mean?
Anyway, on this night I walked the three miles or so from our home, just off Route 202, to the high school, stopping off at my friend Tipper Smith’s house on the way. Tip lived with his divorced mother and Cholly, a smart beagle who took out his ire when the lady of the house spent too much time on the telephone by relieving his bladder on the receiver when no one was looking.
Back in 1967 marijuana was wending its way through the corridors of Suffern High School. Having tried it a few times without experiencing any effects I figured this night would be no different. Tipper lit up a joint and we listened to a number of cuts off of the “Sgt. Pepper’s” album. Leaving the Smith abode I made it to the band room in plenty of time to take the stage with my comrades.
Given that I could barely coax sounds out of the instrument I was, understandably, the last player in the section. For some reason, though, I was placed in the first chair of a row. Sitting there on the riser it hit me: I was zonked. All I could do was pretend to force air into my mouthpiece-my failure to perform immediately improving the quality of the ensemble’s sound-and hope that I didn’t fall into the audience, which I was certain was about to happen.
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