Mack Williams column: Some New Year’s traditions

  • Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 12:58 a.m.

Every year, on our individual birthdays, each of us celebrates becoming a year older, but every New Year’s Eve we have a sort of “communal” birthday of the Gregorian calendar. Though the year surely comes, it’s always nice to do a little something to celebrate it! (Even just the use of an exclamation mark makes things more festive than does a period.)

One of the Star Trek movies had a “shape-shifter” in it, so being my age (62), New Year’s Eve would best be represented to me by a similar such creature which could morph from Guy Lombardo, to Dick Clark, to Barry Manilow. The last, Manilow, may be scary to some of you, but my late wife and I liked him (she much more than I), and he always put on a great show!

One time, Diane and I purchased tickets to a New Year’s Eve overnight celebration at a swanky Greensboro hotel, leaving any potentially employable, designated driver in a state of joblessness.

In Yanceyville, we celebrated the in-coming of the year 2000 at a dance sponsored by American Legion Post 89. My late wife’s late father, Hoyt R. Moore, was one of those in charge. He was also the Legion’s State Department historian for some years, one time attending a meeting at Salisbury’s Harold B. Jarrett Post (the one with the train).

A month or so before New Year’s Eve 1999, someone gave us a stuffed toy to which a year-2000 countdown digital clock was affixed. I know that the word “affixed” is antiquated, but ever since first reading of the British Stamp Act of 1765 at Granite Quarry School, that word has made a lasting impression on my mind.

Up until midnight of Dec. 31, 1999, that little clock’s job, just like the one at Cape Canaveral, dealt with “minuses,” but after that point everything became “positive.” I last saw it around 2003, and it was counting that “third” year, so if it still exists somewhere, and is yet counting, then perhaps just past midnight this New Year’s Eve it will read “14” (or some other numerical equivalent).

We went out to a few New Year’s Eve parties and gave a few parties ourselves, but most of the time, we just stayed home, washing down potato chips and French onion dip with Andre’ Cold Duck. If this sounds like too much “back in the day,” I will now tell you that, on a couple of occasions, there was even the very definite presence of “fondue.”

Despite being a child of the ’60s (also growing up in the ’50s), Guy Lombardo will always be my primary New Year’s Eve musical association rather than Dick Clark or Barry Manilow‘s “It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve.” Although not being born with an appreciation of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, I was, however, a late-edition baby in 1951, which is practically as good as coming by way of it genetically.

In my freshman year at Appalachian (1969-70), a friend of mine, Gene Fuller, said he wanted me to hear something really “cool” which he had found in a bin of pre-recorded cassette tapes at a store in Boone (back in time again). It was a Guy Lombardo tape, and in addition to liking all of the songs, Gene particularly enjoyed “September in the Rain,” sung by Guy Lombardo’s brother Carmen in his light, almost “incidental” tenor voice to the tremolo saxophones and other orchestral accompaniment of the Royal Canadians.

To this day, whenever I hear those haunting strains of “September in the Rain,” I think of Gene, but not romantically. I think of him because I was impressed that another member of my generation, also devoted to rock, had discovered something beautiful and greatly to his liking from an earlier musical age.

Always being a traditionalist, on last Labor Day’s eve, I clicked “play all” on an extensive batch of You Tube excerpts from the old Jerry Lewis Telethon, sort of having a telethon of my own. I even left it running and woke up in the middle of the night to see who Jerry had on, just as I did when it was live.

I recently looked on You Tube and found 50-some videos of Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, so sometime before midnight on Dec. 31, I’m going to again click “play all” and see how far they get me into the wee hours of New Year’s Day 2014.

One of my Lombardo favorites has always been Kenny Gardner’s singing of “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think),” so among many other selections, I’m looking forward to hearing that one again, but not quite as much as in years past.

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