Moonlight dancing was a fun pastime

Published 4:54 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Back in the 1950s, two other couples, my date and I ventured up to Little River State Park for an early evening picnic and dancing in the clubhouse.

Traveling up Highway 21, we noticed the moon could be vaguely seen in the far east, appearing to be a couple of hours away from becoming full bloom. After we arrived, the moon was really beginning to take shape and not long afterwards it shone so brightly that the entire picnic area was filled with its rays of brightness. In fact, it was so bright that the oval shaped floodlights became secondary.

We spread our picnic goodies on one of the large tables, sat back and listened to crickets chirping while the beautiful moonlit lake emitted sparkling crackles of light waves breaking due to a slight brisk wind from the west.

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Following our meal, we all went down to the clubhouse, per many years of tradition, to dance to tunes from the rockola. No sooner had we garnered up a handful of nickels to feed the “music box” all the lights in the building went out — and the music box, too.

One of the couples said, “We have an idea, let’s go to the car.” So we did that and they said, “Drive down to the car wash slab.” That was the cutaway area that let you drive across the lake to get to the other side of the lake. It was also a “ford” area used to wash your car or pickup truck. Now, they said “Turn on the radio, find a music station and let’s all dance on the extended cement slab adjacent the shallow car wash slab.”

I think I may have, perhaps, been the only one familiar with strong night radio stations. I immediately turned the dial to WWL Radio from New Orleans. Back then there was a famous disc jockey by the name of Dick Martin who had a show call “Moonglow With Martin.”

Normally his show ran after midnight, but luckily it was aired prior to that time on this particular night. Of course I had listened to this program countless times and I knew the format. I said, “Folks get ready to dance because you are going to hear some of the very best Big Band tunes and popular singers of all times.”

Sure enough, and I remember it well, he opened the program with Bing Crosby singing his famous “Moonlight Becomes You.” Martin always opened his show with songs containing “Moon” in the titles.

The Big Bands were the draw on radio back then. Martin featured bands like Freddie Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Sammy Kaye, Ray Anthony, Glen Gray and Glen Miller. In addition to Crosby, other popular vocalists were Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, Jerry Vale, Patty Page, Tony Bennett, Guy Mitchell and even Ray Price and Eddie Arnold. Popular songs of that era were “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane” by the Ames Brothers, “Cry” by Johnnie Ray, “Rags To Riches” by Tony Bennett, “Wanna Play House With You” by Eddie Arnold, “Anytime” by Eddie Fisher, “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” by Perry Como and Red Foley and “I Want To be Loved” by the Andrews Sisters.

So we danced that night under the full moon, while the trickling lake waters made their way down the spillway flowing to destinations unknown along the little River Basin.

On our way home I kept the radio on in hopes of hearing Atmore’s own Paul Crawford playing with his Dixie Land band. But he did not come on that night. Paul, while in college and following his graduation, became an outstanding New Orleans musician and made this his career until his death several years ago. He also became a highly regarded figure in the field of music appreciation, with a well-known college in New Orleans. Paul, by the way, was the son of “Mrs. Crawford,” who was the Atmore First Baptist pianist for a number of years. His brother was also a popular doctor here.

I don’t know if folks still go up to park to dance and enjoy picnics. But, if so, they should check their almanacs for moonlight nights. Those are the nights to be there.

I do not remember what those others packed in their picnic baskets but I do remember my date’s basket. She brought along one of the tastiest sandwiches I have ever had. Back then it was called a corned beef sandwich but today it is called a “Rueben.” Those two broad slices of bread were filled with layers of corn beef smothered in mustard, topped with Swiss cheese and laced with a marinated cabbage slaw that sent my taste buds into orbit. It was out of this world.
Now for some other news, a friend of mine in Mobile who follows the Airbus growth closely tells me outlying towns may be considered for “satellite offshoots” and supply houses. Access in and out of Mobile is a prime requisite he tells me.

If this is the case, Atmore should be at the top of the list for one of these “plants.” We are an easy on-easy off exit on I-65 and should fit right into these plans for consideration.

My friend, a public relations professional at the very best, can always be relied on for his business predictions. A college classmate of mine at the University of Alabama — his reputation in his field is never surpassed. I am sure our Chamber of Commerce and city leaders are in contact with important contacts like this man.

A year ago last Sunday, a tornado ripped through our home, causing quite a lot of damage. What an experience that was. Now that everything has been put back in order, we are glad we elected to live in it again as opposed to building a new home near a creek in Perdido. Age had much to do in our consideration.

Well, that’s all this week. I will have more from Atmore’s past next week.

You can email Lowell McGill at