We met one summer in a foreign country, a British island, at the Fairmont Princess in Hamilton, Bermuda. It was one of those enchanting chance encounters. They were waiting for their room to be ready, we were waiting for our children to come downstairs from their rooms. We struck up a conversation, their younger daughter had gone away for summer camp for the first time with their older daughter, a seasoned camper. They were from New York, we were from Alabama. We just hit it off, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. We have two daughters as well. By the end of the trip, we promised to keep in touch and we did. That fall, we made plans to go to New York. We all met at Katz’ Deli and then on to Serendipity and Dylan’s Candy Bar next door. Their daughters were adorable! We became very good friends. We exchanged Christmas gifts- I sent one of my grandmother’s pound cakes, they sent a Junior’s Cheesecake- who got the best end of that deal? We did! Elizabeth participated in a charity that I am passionate about and I thoroughly loved interacting with their precious daughters, Katie and Julia. They are growing up so fast into smart, talented beautiful young ladies. It seems as if we have known each other for a very long time. We exchanged Christmas gifts and kept in touch. Last fall, after the National Football Championship game- Richard emailed us a congratulations on the win for the University of Alabama, then sent us a photograph of the Empire State Building all lit up in red and white! Three years between visits was long enough- we made plans to go again to New York.. They juggled their schedules and surprised us by getting tickets to the Broadway play- Beautiful- the Carole King Musical. This could not have been a better choice for the two of us. With all of the blockbuster Broadway shows right now- if we had planned it all out in advance, we might have missed one of the best shows playing on Broadway! Let me explain- Carole King’s music is our ‘era’. And since I grew up in Birmingham it was an extra treat for me! I belonged to a high school sorority, Phi Kappa Nu, from 1965-1969.
We had leadouts, another word for dances. The girls wore formal gowns, the boys wore tuxedos. I’m not sure how many sororities and fraternities were active at that time, but these organizations included young people from 5-6 Birmingham High Schools. We raised money through these leadouts. And we had live bands- not DJ’s. It is amazing to think of it now- Ike and Tina Turner, Martha and the Vandellas, Wilson Pickett, the Shirelles, the Drifters, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, even Otis Redding performed! The leadouts were held in what is now known as the Boutwell Auditorium across from Linn Park. As teenagers in turbulent Birmingham Alabama, we were selling tickets, we were having dances! We were in the midst of musicians- who would go on to become icons. We loved the sounds of Motown and black artists from other record labels. These live acts were just starting out, I guess that’s how we were able to book them. We lived and breathed those songs, we bought their records and practiced their moves. What is amazing in that point in history- during those magical nights, Alabama’s young people were in the very best kind of harmony! What we didn’t know then was that a fantastic songwriter named Carole King along with her husband, wrote music for some of those groups- the Shirelles and the Drifters are highlighted in the Broadway play. Carole King was having a troubled life of her own during those years, but somehow she made a life while she was making a living writing wonderful songs. She went on to become a fantastic performer in her own right.
In the meantime, we were able to share a ‘Beautiful‘ visit with our much loved friends.Elizabeth, Richard, Katie and Julia- thanks for the memories! I was told as a child that the city of Birmingham was laid out in similar fashion to New York City, with long avenues and short streets or blocks, I don’t know if it is true- I do know the long and short of it is this -both cities have a big piece of my heart. I love our sweet home in Alabama but –I hope you will take a good look at that song list- put on some golden oldies- and on some dateless Saturday night, get your best friend to practice those routines like I did! And if you are lucky enough to be in New York any time soon- I hope you’ll get tickets to see at least one Broadway play- I can wholeheartedly recommend ‘Beautiful- the Carole King Musical’. Oh! I’ve got more to share about our trip! Stay tuned…
Love y’all, Camellia