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Sunday, September 21, 2014

I was just 17; you know what I mean

The Beatles’ invasion of America 50 years ago this month was a global event, but in 1964, in the Five Towns, it was very much a local story.

My future husband, Don, and I, both Lawrence High School seniors, caught the buzz around school days before — the Beatles would be landing at Idlewild Airport on their way to the city. Some of our friends said they would cut class, go to the airport and meet the plane. In those days, pre-9/11, pre-war on terror, you could pretty much wander onto the tarmac to greet an arrival, and that’s what the Lawrence seniors intended to do.

You know how, all your life, you can regret not doing something? I have a couple of those might-have-beens, including Woodstock, but I’m really sorry I didn’t cut Ms. Posner’s fourth-year Spanish class the day the Beatles came to town. I was worried about getting caught, getting detention, my parents finding out . . . what was I thinking? I was just 17, you know what I mean, and I didn’t want to break the rules.

So I learned to conjugate Spanish verbs, and my future husband went with the wise guys to Idlewild Airport. Mind you, this was before cell phones and such. The truants had to stop someplace, find a pay phone to call the airlines and ask enough questions to uncover when the lads were landing.

They got to Idlewild in plenty of time, parked their car and made their way out onto the tarmac, where they stood behind a hastily erected rope line. The plane rolled in, the Beatles bounded down the stairs and the girls screamed. The boys, who were way too cool to be wowed, just grinned for the TV cameras.

One time in all these years since, I have caught a glimpse of my husband in the crowd on vintage TV footage. There he was, a 17-year-old kid, welcoming the boys from Britain to America. Little did any of us know how historic a moment it would be.

Like so many Americans, I watched the group on Ed Sullivan, with my mother muttering in the background that she just didn’t get it. “They look so ugly with those haircuts,” she said.

“This isn’t music,” my dad said. “Sinatra is music.”

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