Poodle skirts and hula-hoops, DA haircuts and The Twist. The styles and fads of the 1950s were back for one enchanting summer night at Weehawken’s Waterfront Park as the soccer field became a dance floor and the parking lot hosted a set of beautifully restored vintage cars.
With the sunset reflecting off the New York skyline as a backdrop, the well-attended “sock hop” featured kids and adults dancing for hours to timeless music from Elvis Presley and his contemporaries. DJ Chris Z threw in a few modern numbers to spice things up, with prizes going to participants in various categories.
Joining the families on the checkerboard dance floor was Weehawken Councilman Robert J. Sosa, who offered lessons in how to dance like a fifties teen.
“The leather jackets with the pompadour type of haircut – I remember I used to have one of those,” reminisced the now-bald grandfather. “But I got rid of my comb many years ago.”
Not the kids. Ranging from toddlers to early teens, they dressed to impress, with girls favoring pink, black and white, while boys adopted plain T-shirts, jeans, sunglasses and oodles of James Dean attitude.
Hooping it up
“I think this kind of event, exposing the children to different kinds of music, different eras, different lyrics, just a different interpretation, is a wonderful thing,” said Councilman Sosa. “Music is a language that has no boundaries and everybody can participate.”
And everybody did, enjoying the perfect weather while competing in the dancing and hula-hoop contests. Winners walked away with – what else? – a pair of fuzzy dice. Spectators cheered from the bleachers while enjoying hot dogs, ice cream and retro candies.
Back at the drive-in
Three cars competed for attention in the parking lot: a 1951 Plymouth Mercury Deluxe, a 1962 Chevy Impala, and a 1949 two-door Plymouth. Families gathered to poke their heads in the car windows and marvel at the elaborate details and chrome work, the laughing demon gearshifts and crowded dashboards fit for a small airplane.
“Kids were amazed,” said Bill Solan, owner of the Chevy. “They didn’t know what they were.”
All three cars were loaned by their owners, who run a “Cruise Night” car show every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9:30 at Sonic Drive-in in North Bergen, where carhops bring your burgers and milkshakes out to your vehicle for curbside dining, just like the old days.
“It fits the theme,” Bill says of the weekly shows. “We get 30, 40 cars. Friends and people we know. We play all ’50s music. It’s just a get-together. A nice night out.”
Weehawken family time
“This town is like unique because it’s like urban-suburban,” said Councilwoman Rosemary Lavagnino, who handed out prizes when not dancing to vintage rock and roll. “We’re close to the city and yet we have that suburban feel.”
Councilman Sosa agreed. One of the great benefits of events like this, he said, “is that it brings together people from all different cultural areas, all different racial backgrounds, all different economic backgrounds. And basically it just levels the playing field for everybody to do something in common. That was evident tonight with the kids who are all just basically growing together in a small-town atmosphere exposed to big-time things.”
“Our residents are very active in what’s going on,” Lavagnino added. “In fact that’s how we’ve expanded our recreational program. We listen to everybody. Anybody that has an idea, we encourage participation on all our boards. We really want to bring in the community.”
“I figured they’d enjoy it because I know he likes to dance, they like to dress up,” said Karlton Gebler, a Weehawken resident who brought his nephews Brandon (age 9) and Connor Boehm (7) to the party.
“And I love trophies,” added Brandon, who took home two, for Best Dressed and Best Dancer. Asked what appeals to him about the 1950s, Brandon responded, “I like most about how they dressed. Greasers, how they slicked their hair back. I love the dancing. It’s really fun. I like The Twist.”
“I like how they act,” added brother Connor. “Because they’re like really calm, they’re nice.”
“I love everything,” summed up Brandon. “This is a really fun place. I wish I was always here. I hope this day never ends.”