Photos by Meg Hibbert
It was “Shake, Rattle and Roll” at The Oaks’ residents spring party at Richfield Retirement community. There were plenty of poodle skirts, cat-eye glasses, leather jackets, and blue jeans rolled up above the ankles.
A juke box where residents happily pushed buttons to play their favorite music looked like it could have come from Mel’s Diner. And there were slider mini-hamburgers, French fries and onion rings for lunch which set the mood for the 1950’s “Happy Days All Day” event in May.
The juke box was such a hit that The Oaks’ Life Enrichment Coordinator Debbie Tingler said she was considering buying one. “We could use our bake sale money,” she explained.
The party rocked around the clock starting with an antique car show that morning on the front lawn of The Oaks and ending with dancing away the late afternoon.
Charlotte Allman wore her husband’s letter sweater, with C for Christiansburg. Ninety-four-year old Ina Caldwell showed off her black poodle skirt. Another resident proudly held up a high school class ring. Then there were the sunglasses, slicked back hair and pedal pushers.
Allman’s daughter Cathy Eversole transformed her mom’s white sandals into “saddle oxfords” by applying black tape and adding shoelaces.
“They really go all out for us,” Allman said. It’s been a really good day. It makes you remember when.” She enjoyed the atmosphere so much, she asked, “Are we going to do this every day?”
Ruby Hash delicately nibbled the cherry in her real banana split. “Ice cream sundae” centerpieces made out of carnations set the party mood at the four-person round tables covered with red-checkered tablecloths. Residents sipped from mini-Coke bottles through straws, remembering Saturday night dates.
“The juke box brings back so many memories, like when I was in college ….” – 96-year-old Jean Chester
Volunteer Pam Bayse and Tingler made the carnation sundaes. Resident Sylvia Albert liked the food. “I had a little bit of everything,” she explained.
Some dressed a little fancier than poodle skirts and jeans, using what they had. Freda Givens admired Jewel Bowman’s pillbox hat.
“It’s an old one. I’ve had it on a shelf in the attic,” Bowman said. “It may be from the ’50s. I just wanted to wear it,” she added.
Bev Fitzpatrick of the Virginia Museum of Transportation drove a vintage bus to give The Oaks residents, families and guests tours of the campus. Usually there would have been a 1959 model bus, “which was in the Salem Christmas Parade a couple of years ago,” Fitzpatrick said, “but we don’t take it out in the rain.”
When volunteer Ron Vanderpool of Salem wasn’t showing his 1949 Chevrolet, he was dancing with the ladies. “Unchained Melody,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” played. Others watched, tapped the table and patted their feet in time to the juke box music.
Some danced holding onto chairs. “The juke box brings back so many memories, like when I was in college at the University of California. I’m 96 now,” Jean Chester said. Judy Perrine of Ridgecrest, with friend Myrtle Viar, enjoyed it all.
So did Wally Hillman, a World War II veteran. Hearing the old music made him remember his service 10 years before the 1950s. “The Germans were up there on a big cliff. We’d aim right under them, and they’d roll over and come down a 55-foot-cliff,” said the sailor who served on the USS Ellison. “This was a neat party,” said Eenie Johnson of Ridgecrest Apartments.