What Southern Folks Eat: Record-spinning, porch-dancing memories

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Sometimes when I walk through an antique shop I’ll come across a collection of vinyl albums for sale, and I’m immediately drawn to them; I have to stop and look. I inevitably spot a familiar name from the past on their interesting covers, like Rush, Queen, or Bruce Hornsby, to name a few of my recent findings. My fingers instinctively touch the covers of the albums, and I begin to flip, flip, flip through the stack to see what other treasures might be hidden within. 

I was in downtown McKinney, Texas, with my sister one fall afternoon, and as we climbed the creaky wooden stairs inside one of the old shops, we came across a booth filled with hundreds of well-organized albums. Those old albums have a certain scent to them; can you conjure that in your memory? It’s the combination of the vinyl and the old cardboard cover and the paper sleeve that creates that familiar fragrance, similar to the scent old books have. It’s a welcoming aroma to people like us who love these things and the memories they trigger.

As I looked through the stacks, I found several albums by artists I knew my mom had enjoyed when she was young, like The Beach Boys and The Kingston Trio. Immediately, my mind drifted back in time to the stories she had told me about the joy she found in music when she was a teenager. I loved hearing how she spent time with her sisters and cousins dancing to other old records I see when I visit these old places, as well as some that I own now that were in her personal collection, such as Paul Anka and Dion. It makes me happy to have these memories and to try to imagine what she was like as a young person.

Mom didn’t seem to mind telling me the stories. She told me how she and her two sisters had to get up early on Saturday mornings to clean their room, as they weren’t allowed to go do anything fun until they did so. Once that chore was finished, she said, her cousins Mary, Jack and Bob would come over, as well as some friends from school. The sisters would serve snacks and Cokes on the enclosed porch of their St. Petersburg home, while the different kids would spin their favorite albums on the record player Granddaddy had bought his young daughters. Mom always seemed to enjoy reminiscing about how they’d have happy, boisterous times dancing, laughing, and singing along to their favorite ‘50s tunes together, and I certainly liked hearing about it over and over again. 

I’d ask Mom to describe the clothes they’d wear, trying to picture my grown-up mother as a teenager. She told me about rolling the cuffs of her jeans up and wearing lace ankle socks and saddle Oxfords or penny loafers as they danced on the porch. She said she sometimes wore her poodle skirt to dance in, which I was intensely disappointed she hadn’t saved for my sister and me to play with. The show Happy Days made them look like the best article of clothing a teenage girl could wear! 

She said the boys would wear white T-shirts and jeans, or “dungarees,” as my grandmother had called them. The guys who smoked would roll a cigarette pack up into the sleeve of the T-shirt in what, at the time, was a quintessentially cool look, apparently, along with the hairstyle they called a “D.A.” which stands for something I shouldn’t write here in this column, but that you probably all know, anyway. It always made me giggle when Mom said it. 

My mom is no longer with us, and the 1950s are far behind us. But anytime I spot the album or hear The Beach Boys sing “Barbara Ann,” or Dion sing “Runaround Sue,” I remember these stories my mom told me, and I smile at the memories. I’m grateful to have that window into her young life, especially now that she’s gone. I am equally grateful that she passed her love of music along to my sister and me, because it connects us through time, and it brings us joy.

Maybe you will pull your record player out and dust off some old albums to play on it, and walk back through time for a little while. Hold on to those happy memories and enjoy the transcendence of music, which is one of God’s greatest gifts, in my opinion. 

Now, I have no idea what kind of snacks the kids dancing on mom’s porch were enjoying, but here are two ideas that would do well if you chose to have a porch party of your own someday… and I really hope you will.

Both of these recipes make easy-to-hold and fun to eat small burgers that kids and teenagers will especially enjoy, but adults will want to sneak a few, too. They’re delicious, and I feel confident that Betty, Barbara, Mary, Bob, Jack and Ruthie, my mom, would have devoured these after hours of dancing and having fun together.

Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home. She is married and has three young adult sons who are significantly taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com or contact her at steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com.

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