I mentioned The Hubba Hubba Night Club in a recent post. When I was 10, my parents bought a beautiful late Victorian house. It had a two-story barn of the kind that was usually built in the village proper, with clapboards that had to be kept painted. Inside there was dark wood, huge beams, mysterious little closets, holes and a winding staircase to the second floor. My father used the first floor as his woodworking workshop. Upstairs there were trunks filled with treasures: a Gibson girl style jacket, green with black velvet. A maroon 1930ish evening gown. A fez. A Russian type fur hat. High heel shoes. A beautiful cloisonné stamp with the initial of the previous owner, N, other small pieces.
My best friend Ellie and I played their endlessly. I invented many scenarios, but the one I remember best is The Hubba Hubba Night Club. We scrawled the name in chalk on the door to the stairs. It is still there. It goes without saying that a ten year old living in a small Massachusetts village had never been in a night club. How did I even know such things existed? As I remember, our play consisted of our dressing up in the costumes, and singing and dancing.
Someone suggested that we get dressed up and walk the two miles to entertain a woman in the village, Isabelle, who had awful arthritis that completely crippled her. It was not long before the high heel shoes gave us blisters, the Gibson girl jacket was unbearably hot. We accumulated an entourage of boys on their bicycles intrigued by this parade. We got to Isabelle’s house, were welcomed enthusiastically by her mother, and ushered into the bedroom. I had never before seen such obvious suffering. We became shy, but we soldiered on, singing and dancing. I can’t remember which songs we sang, just that one of them was about a tropical isle. I think these were some of the words: “See the pyramids upon the Nile, na na na na na a tropic isle. Just remember na na na na na, you belong to me.”
The bedroom was on the front of the house (I think it must once have been the living room), and I could look out and see our entourage – Bobby Peterson and Richard Haberman are the only ones I remember – waiting for us, eager to hear about our adventure. Isabelle seemed to enjoy our performance. The mother served us kool-aid, urged us to come back again, and we said we would, but we never did.