In the summer of 1970, the consumer boycott of grapes pressured California table grape growers to negotiate and sign contracts with the United Farm Workers, 5 years after the Filipino AWOC and Mexican NFWA went on strike.
My friend Gabby had been banished to the Philadelphia boycott from Delano in 1969 because of a romantic indiscretion. He was anxious to return to California at the end of the boycott, expecially when 10,000 lettuce workers walked out on strike in Salinas.
As most of the boycott staff in Philadelphia made their way back to California for the next chapter in the United Farm Worker’s history, Gabby was stranded in Philadelphia. Cesar was not done punishing him.
Never one to languish, Gabby spent several weeks with the could-be-dream-lover-of-a-lifetime Emily, whom he called Young Emily on account of she was young and her name was Emily. At the end of those weeks, he discovered Googie in Wildwood, New Jersey, where it is called Doowop.
Here is part of what Gabby wrote about those weeks.
Young Emily took me to her favorite places in her Philadelphia – the Rodin Museum on the Bejamin Franklin Parkway and the Public Library and the daily tragic dramas in the courtrooms of City Hall and the organ at John Wanamakers. Her explanation to me of the pipes spread out over five floors in the couryard and especially the ethereal organ has stayed with me – rich and full in tone, entirely expressive, played over the years by the greatest organists of the time- Marcel Dupre, Louis Vierne and Nadia Boulanger of France, Italty’s Fernando Germani and Marco Enrico Bossi, and Alfred Hollins from England.
She took me through the walk-through heart at the Franklin Institute and talked our way inside the Academy of Music where we heard Eugene Ormandy rehearsing the orchestra with Rachmanioff’s “Symphonic Dances” and Dimitri Shostakovich’s “A Spin Through Moscow” (her explanation that Ormandy did not divide the violins and therefore antiphonal effects were not enhanced was over my little little over-achieving head – I’m pretty much just like the bass player Larry Moses in the background of Little Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips Part 2″ frantically asking “What key? What key?”).
She took me to Boathouse Row and the the diners of Manayunk and Gino’s and Bob’s Diner and – oh what an exquisitely peaceful moment – sitting and talking a late afternoon into the evening into the night on a bench in the middle of Rittenhouse Square.
We went to her favorite Penn Fruit supermarket – I knew it, Penn Fruit had been the first chain to drop non-union grapes the winter before and the produce department guys at this store were great Teamsters and they enjoyed Gabby Mojo.
We spent a night devoted to neon, and then went back the next day to take photos of some of the best.
One long day we borrowed Young Emily’s mom’s pink 1965 Mustang and drove to The Shore. The way it was said was “down the shore” but I am not From There and so couldn’t bring myself to say it that way. New Jersey had remained a mystery to me in my almost-year in Philadephia. I did a couple picket lines in Trenton and often smelled the Campbell Soup factory in Camden but that was it. We drove first to Atlantic City. What a place! My early years in Nekoosa and my years in Delano had not prepared me for this.
And then we went an hour south to Wildwood. Young Emily said something about the motels. But first, the rides.
And then the motels. Holy Mackerel the motels. Holy mackerel. Who knew? They call the style Doowop, as in the 1950s music style, as in that was when most of the motels were built. They were definitley of another time, and they reminded me of 1950s coffee shops in LA. What a day that was, and then a drive home to Philadelphia through the back roads of New Jersey with summer night breezes streaming in windows, listening to Jocko Henderson on the radio, being young and being Young Emily and Gabby.
I showed Gabby’s journal and photos to my friend, who knew Gabby and Young Emily in those days. He got wistful looking at the photos. Maybe even wiping a tear from the corner of one eye, he looked up to me and said: