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Benjamin Epstein

Fabulous '50s Live Again in Newport

March 06, 1986|Benjamin Epstein

The way you look tonight . . . the poodle on your skirt, the sweater guards, the bobby socks, the saddle shoes . . . Oo, ee, oo-ah-ah, ting, tang, walla-walla-bing-bang!

All that was unforgettable about "Those Fabulous '50s" came back to 250 members of the Newport Beach chapter of the National Charity League Juniors and their friends Saturday night; they put their hearts and souls into a car rally and sock hop in support of High Hopes, an organization serving head-injured young adults and their families.

The rally began at the Balboa Bay Club Racquet Club.

Richard and Janice Plastino took the top down on their fully restored '57 Pontiac Starchief before leaving the Racquet Club parking lot on their jaunt down memory lane. "Geez, it rumbles," noted Chrys Vollmer in admiration, "it even sounds authentic!"

Andy and Kathie Nyhuis pulled up in their '55 T-Bird; they wanted their picture taken smooching. Kent Freundt drove six couples through the rally route in a rented RV. The women wore cheerleader uniforms from local high schools. "She's not 40 and she's not 40," Helen Melchior said pointing to her companions, "but some of us are 40 and we all fit into these outfits . . . not bad, huh?"

(Unfortunately the battery went dead on the vehicle, but not before it reached its destination.)

To take them through the car rally route, 40 clues--requiring answers to such burning questions as, "Exactly how many steps lead down to the beach at Heliotrope and Ocean?" and "What is the current price of a Balboa bar (an ice-cream treat)?"--led up the highway, past the "Harbor Lights" and ultimately "Beyond the Sea" to the Balboa Bay Club gymnasium.

Mike Vollmer recalled some highlights of the rally test run, in which 10 couples participated.

"Let's see," he began, "the police followed us out of the school parking lot . . . then you're supposed to know how much a Balboa bar costs, and one of those guys with a cellular car phone called to find out ....

"But then, the classic. We pulled into this park, here's this guy, he's having a candlelit dinner for two; he thought this was going to be wonderfully romantic, she'll be mine tonight, you know, and then all these cars--we must have been the ninth coming through--all these cars come up and hit their high beams. . . ."

On to the gymnasium.

"Smells like they just had a basketball game in here," noted Carolyn Delavan upon arrival.

"Makes you kind of want to go outside and smoke," said one guest. Indeed, shades of high school, a group in leather jackets, rolled-up jeans and white socks were smoking out back of the gym. "You always smoke in back of the gym," explained one.

The Bay Club cooked up burgers and fries; Jan Johnstone, general manager of two local Haagen-Dazs franchises, provided complimentary ice cream sundaes. Sock hoppers rocked around the clock to tunes that jarred some long-dormant memories.

" 'Cathy's Clown' I remember," confided chapter president Chris McKinley on the dance floor. "We were driving around after the senior blowout; we were in the '52 Buick, 'The Tank' we called it, driving down Beach Boulevard, and two of the girls were really sick. Every time I hear that song. . . ."

Many of the dresses were specially made for the party, and saddle shoes--many laced up backwards--newly purchased. But many of the clothes and accessories, amazingly enough, were original.

"This was my real fall I wore in high school," said Kathi Smith, pointing to her hair. "In fact, Coleen Flynn--now she's Coleen Wood--recognized me now after all these years because this is how I looked in high school. Of course, she called me Kathi Robertson."

One partygoer noticed the initials "S.V." on a high school jacket, and asked the logical Newport Beach question, "Sun Valley?" "St. Vincent," came the cool response.

According to event chairwoman Arleen Simbro, the event generated more than $11,000. She also mentioned that the chapter's 36 members have, among them, 87 children under 12 years of age.

"We're a family-oriented group, all right," said McKinley. "In fact, a lot of the husbands aren't here tonight because they're at an Indian Guide camp-out.

"But High Hopes needs our help desperately. We're trying to get more involved, besides just giving money. You know--time. Time for us is a little bit different. We all have young children, and that makes it a little harder to come by. It means baby sitters for starters.

"Some of us are volunteering (at High Hopes) for secretarial jobs, some are volunteering for teaching jobs. . . . "

Complimentary nostalgia photographs were taken at the party by 11-year-old Craig (C.J.) Weightman. Winners of the rally, by dint of correct mileage and answers to clues, were Criss and Vikki Street.

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