By Myron S. Lubell


The Montréal Review, June 2024

Dedicated to the memory of Frankie Lymon, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard – pioneers of Rock and Roll

They called my generation of teenagers “juvenile delinquents” – mainly because of our “wild and crazy” music. Drugs weren’t a major problem in the mid-1950’s, and the “sexual revolution” hadn’t started.  I’m not saying we didn’t think about sex – we sure did, a lot – but the “respectable” girls knew how to say NO – at least with me.

My father laughed and said that the teenage boys and girls of his generation (1920’s) were also criticized by their elders - because they walked in public, holding hands. And his parents said the young people of that generation (1890’s) were criticized because they didn’t ask for permission when they left the dinner table – nor did they bow when they greeted an adult.

If you do a quick online search you’ll discover that a “generational gap” (difference of opinions and values) is nothing new – it’s been around a long time – a very long time. Here’s a quote that tells the whole story - look who said it – and when.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Socrates (470-399 BC)

The insolent young people now prefer the lyre instead of the flute - if that's the future of mankind I prefer hemlock


“Myron, come to the phone, it’s for you,” shouted my mother - as she knocked on the door of my bedroom.  I was gawking at centerfold pictures in Playboy magazine. That could only be done in the privacy of a locked bedroom. (Did anyone ever read the articles in that magazine?)

The call was from Mookie Jefferson, the shoe delivery boy who worked in the building where I had a part-time job. Mookie and I were friends (sort of) but local segregation laws made it difficult to have a friendship with a black boy (blacks were then known as Negroes or colored people – or the horrible “N” word – which I would never say – not even when quoting someone else).

My family was Jewish, and some of my parent’s friends called black people “Shvartzahs.” That’s a Yiddish word which translates as “blacks.” “It isn’t really a racist word,” said my father, “not if used by elderly immigrants. But it’s a misunderstood word – very insensitive if used by American born Jews.”

“Yo, man! You wanna’ hear what real music sounds like?” said Mookie, “not that Pat Boone crap - you gotta’ hear Little Richard - he wails from the soul.  I got me a few tickets to the concert at Dinner Key.”

The Miami Herald had a front-page article about the upcoming concert, which would be held at Dinner Key Auditorium, the largest indoor venue in the city.  Tickets were being sold to Negroes and whites - it was going to be the first major integrated event in Miami and several white supremacy groups were protesting, even a few local churches were opposed to the concert.  Of course, the churches said they were not protesting for racial reasons - they thought Negro music was “crude, indecent, vulgar, and evil.”  “This new music is inspired by the devil,” said the pastor of the largest church in Miami. “It elicits promiscuity and concupiscent desires from young people, who have all they can do to control their emerging sexuality.”  

“Hey Mookie - you still work in Miami Beach. Why don’t you come to my house on Friday after work - sleep over and I’ll drive to the concert on Saturday. Bring your brother too – we have plenty of room.”

“OK, but it won’t be easy, Mack ain’t got no work permit.”

NOTE: In 1955 black people needed a special work-permit, issued by the police department, in order to be allowed in Miami Beach after 6 PM.

“I live in Surfside, just north of Miami Beach,” I responded. “We don’t have the same disgusting law.  By the way, how did you get tickets to this concert?  I bet they’re expensive.”

“Yeah! Ten bucks each, but I got plenty of dough – I dropped out of school last year and I work at two jobs. On Sundays, when I ain’t delivering shoes, I’m a bartender at a “fancy” country club – and man, those rich people sure give big tips.”  

NOTE: Calling a country club “fancy” usually meant that it was “restricted” – Blacks and Jews were not allowed on the premises – unless they were accompanied by a member.


“Myron! What kind of lunatic are you?” exclaimed my mother. “What will the neighbors think – having two colored boys sleep here? Do I need this!”

“Rose! How can you talk like that?” My father jumped from the living room couch and started shouting. “I don’t want Myron growing up to be a bigot - he can invite any friend he wants to sleep here.”

“But Sol - the neighbors - those are my friends. You’ve got your relatives - all I have are my friends.”

My mother made an interesting point - my father had no friends, other than his relatives, but he had many relatives, so he didn’t need to go looking up and down the block for approval. He didn’t worry about the gossip and petty prejudices of neighbors. I guess when you don’t care about the opinion of other people you can make decisions just the way you see things. I thought only little kids changed their behavior because of peer pressure. It sure seems that I was wrong.

“OK mister Abraham Lincoln, you want to be the new emancipator, go ahead - but don’t expect me to feed them.” My mother started to cry. “Someday, I hope you have children - just like yourself. That is my wish for you.” That was my mother’s ultimate curse.

“Mom, I’m not trying to free the slaves; I’m just inviting a boy and his brother over to our house. We’re going together to a concert to hear the new colored music.”

“Colored music! Regular music isn’t good enough for you? What’s wrong with Eddie Fisher, a nice Jewish boy - or Perry Como?  Or the McGuire Sisters? They’re such adorable ‘shiksahs.’” (Yiddish slang for gentile girls).

 My mother then wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, and continued her preaching - in a more serious voice. “Myron – I’m not opposed to you having a colored boyfriend – I don’t want you to be a bigot - we are all minorities, Jews and Negroes, but one thing leads to another. Next thing you know you’ll be dating a colored girl - maybe wind up marrying one. Do you think you’ll be happy married to one of them? Where would you live? In a white neighborhood? In a colored neighborhood? And what about your children - what will they be, white or colored? What kind of life are they going to have? Are you being fair to them?”

“Mom - I just want to go to a concert - I don’t want to marry a colored girl.”

I called Major Mort Silverman, one of my former teachers - he lived near me in Surfside. I told him that I was inviting Mookie and his brother to sleep at my house. I asked for suggestions - what should we have for dinner?  I only knew stereotypes about colored people, that they liked fried chicken and watermelon. But stereotypes are just exaggerations.

The Major was very unconventional. In the years following World War II – until he became a teacher - he traveled to many countries, where he enjoyed exciting adventures. He recently married a very pretty black lady who had three small children.  I was sure, he would know what to serve for dinner.  

“They eat the same food as everyone else,” he laughed. “Whatever you eat is OK with them.  But, stay away from fried chicken and watermelon - they will probably regard that as an insult.”

“Myron, why don’t you and your friends come here for breakfast Saturday morning; I’d love to hear more about this concert. This new music will do more to bring the races together than any court case or legislation. Social change always comes from the people - and the people are speaking.”


Friday night: My mother served fried chicken - and ate standing up.  Thankfully, she didn’t also serve watermelon.  “Mom, why don’t you sit down?”  

“Uh – um,” she stumbled over her words, “then who’s going to serve dinner?”   

My father got in a long discussion with Mookie about baseball - they really hit it off well - both were New York Giants fans and loved Willie Mays.  Mookie didn’t know much about the history of the Giants and enjoyed hearing stories about the old days - Christy Mathewson, Rube Marquad, and Roger Bresnahan, Giants legends from another era. And they also talked a lot about the old Negro league, Satchell Paige and Josh Gibson. Mookie was fascinated; he knew very little about the history of Negroes in baseball, not even about Jackie Robinson.

“Mr. Lubell, I’m really glad I got to meet you - us Giants fans are kinda’ like brothers, don’t matter none if we be white or colored.”

“Mookie, I always take a walk after dinner – come join me. You’ll like hearing about Mel Ott and Mugsy McGraw, the tough old Giants manager.”

Mack, the older brother, didn’t talk too much and when he did I had trouble understanding him - - his speech was very garbled.  After dinner he went to the living room and joined my mother – they both laughed while watching the “Honeymooners” on TV. Mack doubled over and howled when Jackie Gleason (Ralph Kramden) feigned a punch to his wife. “One of these days, Alice - Pow! I’m gonna’ send you to the moon.” “Lookie here, missa’ Lubell, this be a knuckle sandwich.”  Mack smiled and made a big fist.

The next morning Mookie, Mack and I went to Major Silverman’s house for breakfast. We sat at a long picnic style table on the back porch, together with his three children and his wife. Mrs. Silverman didn’t walk around and serve food, not like my mother - the breakfast was buffet style.

“Don’t none of you Jewish people ever thank the Lord before you eat?” asked Mookie. “In my house my grandma always says grace first - she slap my hands if I be eating without saying blessings.”

“Different people show their respect for God in different ways,” said the major. “Orthodox Jews say prayers before meals - a whole series of prayers.  But we are not very religious; neither is Myron’s family.”

“Don’t seem right to me,” said Mookie. “If you don’t show no respect to God, you be heading for trouble.”

It was a beautiful day, so we decided to spend a few hours at the Surfside beach - it was only two blocks from the major’s house. We borrowed a few of his bathing suits and walked to the ocean – including his wife, and all five Negro children. That turned out to be a big mistake – ten minutes after we spread our blankets and set colorful umbrellas in the sand, two Surfside police cars drove up to the beach – red lights were flashing – sirens blasting. Riding in one car was the arresting officer; his backup was in the other car.  It seems that we were in violation of some type of local ordinance - “inciting a riot.”

“Inciting a riot!” the Major grimaced. “All we’ve done is spread blankets and stick goddamn umbrellas in the sand - we haven’t even gone in the “friggin” water yet.” (Note: the Major used a stronger “F” word than friggin)

“I’m sorry sir,” said a police officer, who wasn’t much older than me, “but we want to cut off problems before they happen. We don’t want no riots here in Surfside. I don’t mean to sound like a bigot, but you know as well as I do - many people around here are very prejudiced. Why don’t you just take all these colored boys and your pretty little Negro woman to Virginia Beach – you won’t have no problems there – and it’s the same ocean.” The young police officer smiled as he spoke – but he never removed his hand from a holster – where it was resting on the handle of a pistol.

“I don’t want to go to Virginia Beach, that’s at least ten miles from here. We live in Surfside, we pay taxes here; this is our damn beach. We aren’t leaving.”


“Mort, it isn’t worth it,” his wife started crying. “Let’s go home, you can lose your job if you get involved in a mess like this. You now have three children to feed - you can’t be such a free spirit anymore.” 

“So, you’re telling me that once you take on ‘family responsibilities’ you have to accept ignorance and intolerance, that I have to be spineless and put up with this bullshit?” The young woman didn’t respond.

“OK boys – let’s go home,” said the major. “Mookie, do you know how to play Scrabble? We’ll teach you and Mack a fun game.” Under his breath he mumbled, “narrow minded bastards!”

“Don’t you go worrying none, Major Silverman,” replied Mookie. “This all gonna’ change soon - just you watch.”

My best friends, David and Shelly Steinberg, joined us that night for the concert; this was exciting. Although I had heard several Negro singers on the radio, I never saw any of them in person or on TV.  I loved their music – so did all my friends - and many times, while walking around school, we’d smile and greet each other by shouting, “Wop bop a loo bop a lop bom bom! – or we’d laugh and sing, “I got a gal – named Sue – she knows just what to do.”

Unfortunately, the juke boxes at local diners only played “white music.”  I remember seeing a large multi-colored Wurlitzer at a popular luncheonette – it had a hand written sign taped on the inside of the glass: “We only play music by white performers - if you love ‘N’s’ – take one home to lunch.” (Note: As I mentioned before, I never use the N-word - not even when quoting someone else).  I was going to tell Mookie about that disgusting sign, then I changed my mind.  What would it accomplish?  I’m sure he knew all about racial discrimination.  He knew, first hand, that he couldn’t ride the elevators at the major department stores - that he had to step aside and let white people pass on the sidewalks in downtown Miami. I remember when I met Mookie, at thirteen, he never looked me in the eyes. Now, we were friends, but he still looked at my feet when we talked.

I thought a lot about the sign in that juke box – and I silently repeated the observation of Major Silverman - “No matter what laws are passed; it won’t make much difference - change can only come from the people - government is simply a reflection of social values; you cannot legislate kindness.”


Across the street from Dinner Key Auditorium hundreds of white people stood and sang Amazing Grace and other church songs – and a dozen little children, dressed in white Sunday school suits and dresses, held posters: “Little Richard is the Anti-Christ” - “Negro music is not God’s music.” Fortunately, it was a peaceful protest. But, that’s probably because there were at least fifty armed policemen – and many were holding ferocious looking dogs on leashes.  

There were also newspaper reporters and TV cameramen everywhere. But, I think they were disappointed; a good riot would have made a much more exciting story for the 11 PM news. The funny thing is - all the teenagers were on the same side of the street, white kids together with colored kids – across the street from the protestors. I thought of my father and Mookie, they bonded because of their mutual love of the New York Giants. And, that night at Dinner Key Auditorium, the white kids felt the same type of closeness to the Negro teenagers because of our mutual love of three great performers: Little Richard, Frankie Lymon, and Chuck Berry.  It was colored music, but it wasn’t only “their” music - it was “our” music too. It was the music that separated my generation from my parents – but it was the music that united all teenagers, regardless of race, except for the geeks who liked Pat Boone and the McGuire Sisters. 

We had great seats, tenth row center - and all around us were thousands of screaming teenagers - white kids, colored kids, sitting together, not like football games at the Orange Bowl, which had a separate section for Negroes (the end zone). Actually, we weren’t “sitting” - we were standing for the entire concert. How can you sit when Chuck Berry strums a guitar and does his crazy “Duckwalk” across the stage?  “Johnny B. Goode” made us jump to our feet – everyone tried to copy that impossible dance.  I couldn’t do it - they never covered that step at my Arthur Murray dance lessons.  But Mookie could - so could Mack - so could all the colored kids.

After Chuck Berry the next performer was Frankie Lymon - he was only 14 - two years younger than me, and “wow” – what a fabulous voice.  He opened with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and hit a high note that made the girls scream - all the girls - even the “refined” white girls who used monogrammed handkerchiefs when they sneezed – even the “prudes” who refused to laugh when someone told a “dirty” joke.

Then, little Frankie took off his shirt and ran to the front of the stage - he leaned over and grabbed the hand of a cute girl in the front row – probably the first time in Miami that a colored entertainer ever danced on stage with a white girl.  I was positive Frankie’s “sexual” dancing would lead to a riot, that white boys would rush on stage to “rescue” the girl. The police also anticipated problems, and when Frankie jumped in the air and landed in a split they reached for their pistols and ran to the front of the auditorium. Thankfully, there was no riot; no one climbed on stage.  In fact, many white and black kids started dancing in the aisles – – including me, and I was a terrible dancer.

“Ooooh shit, I gotta’ teach you how to boogie.” Mookie laughed when he saw me dancing with a colored girl.  “Man, this ain’t the Rhumba.”

The show concluded with Little Richard singing “Long Tall Sally” - a very funny song about a tall skinny floozie who was having fun in the alley with Uncle John - who had been cheating on Aunt Mary. That was the song that brought white and colored kids together.  “Listen to the people,” said the Major, “and you’ll see the future.”  And the people were speaking - my generation was “finally” speaking - not with words, but with actions that were more genuine than words. Hundreds of Negro and white teenagers were singing and dancing with each other.  “Again – again,” everybody shouted - “Long Tall Sally!”  Little Richard flashed a huge smile - he banged on the piano - he gyrated and sang the music of the devil. “We’re gonna have some fun tonight, gonna have some fun tonight. We’re gonna have some fun tonight, Everything will be alright.” 

“Hey boys and girls - turn up your volume and click on my picture - I’m so pretty – I’m gonna sing for you.”

ONE FINAL NOTE: I didn’t know it at the time, but while I was trying to dance in the aisles at Dinner Key Auditorium a carnival promoter named Colonel Tom Parker (who wasn’t really a colonel) discovered a young rockabilly singer in Tennessee.  The colonel didn’t exactly say these words – but I’m sure this is what he was thinking:  “Yep - Little Richard, I agree with you - everything’s gonna’ be all right – real soon - cause’ I just found me a white boy who can sing like you - and move like Chuck Berry – and man, is he handsome.”

Several months later the colonel called RCA Victor. “There’s an exciting young singer in Memphis - he sings like a colored man – and this boy shimmy-shakes like he got fleas in his trousers. Did I mention - he’s white? And I think you should stop calling this new type of music rhythm and blues – that’s the old Negro name.  Let’s use the name that’s on the radio – some  DJ in Cleveland is calling it rock and roll.”

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”


Myron S. Lubell was born in Chicago and moved to Miami Beach at age 12. He is a CPA (retired), received a BBA and MBA from the university of Miami, and a PhD from the university of Maryland. He was a Tax professor at Florida International University for 32 years and also wrote a weekly tax column for the Miami Herald. After retirement he turned his talents to writing satire. He is author of “The Sixth Borough” (an insightful look at segregation in South Florida in the 1950’s) and “The Kessler Crossing” (a sci-fi social satire).

The author can be reached at




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