Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ridin' on the City of New Orleans to Meet the BEATLES!

It was an opportunity of a young lifetime.

Forty-eight years ago today, Sept. 16, 1964, four of us pre-teen girls from Brookhaven climbed aboard this City of New Orleans train (or one just like it) and rumbled our way down to the Big Easy, to see the Beatles at City Park Stadium.

We had tickets on the 50-yard line, down by the railing.  How we got them?  Leta Batson, on hearing the announcement the Beatles were coming, and, after conferring with friends and getting permission from parents, called WNOE, the radio station responsible for bringing the Beatles to the area.

Per plan, Leta procured five $5 tickets -- one each for Stacy Godbold, Janet Pigford, me, herself, AND her white-haired paternal grandmother, Aline Batson. (The NOLA ticket prices, by the way, were lower than other venues the Beatles played during their 1964 tour.)

The four of us were 11 years old -- all going on 16.

The show was on a Wednesday night.  Stacy and Leta were Junior High cheerleaders, and they were warned by our principal if they cut school mid-week, they would not be allowed to cheer at Friday night's game.  Not cheering at a football game? That was a Big Deal in the Football-Loving South.

They weighed the consequences and replied, "We are going to New Orleans to see the Beatles."

And so, our odyssey began.  Our parents put us on the southbound train at Brookhaven.  We were unsupervised by anyone or anything other than stern admonitions to behave ourselves and act like ladies or good Girl Scouts, whichever came first.

We were met at the southern-most terminus by Leta's grandmother, who lived in the French Quarter at the time. (The sainted woman deserved a medal for doing what she did for us, and I regret to this day not thanking her properly for putting up with our mania.)

We piled into her car and got to the stadium and soon realized the opening acts had been advised to "stretch it." The Fab Four had been delayed in arrival, and the squealing and impatience had risen to a proverbial fevered pitch by the time they finally rolled in, in a stretch limo.

Once the first chord was struck, we really didn't hear much, the screaming, shrieking and crying was so loud, it was difficult to catch anything our idols were saying or singing.

It really didn't matter.  It was all about the happening.

At the height of the show, I think it was Janet, who was a touch older and a size or two larger than the rest of us, wanted to vault the railing and dash onto the field, but Allie, bless her heart, kept a firm hand on whatever clothing she needed to grasp onto to keep Janet in her seat.

At the show's close, I can remember seeing the limo slowly edging out of the stadium with delirious and frenzied girls surrounding and climbing onto the car.  I can still see Paul looking out and smiling and waving at the scene.  That alone was worth the price of admission.

After the concert, we returned to Allie's house and spent the rest of the night talking in the dim light of her living room and calling the hotel where we thought the Beatles were staying.  We had some crazy idea that if the switchboard answered and we asked for John, Paul, George or Ringo, that they would somehow put us straight through.

The phone rang and rang and rang and rang and rang, until finally a sleepy-headed clerk answered and advised us in polite Southern tones that the Beatles were not there.

The following day, Dr. Batson drove his Buick down to New Orleans to pick us up and deliver us back home.  We were exhausted from a night of not sleeping, but we surely did not allow that to put a damper our enthusiasm.

It was a heady experience that, I imagine when my life finally flashes before mine eyes, will be chief among the scenes.

In researching this story, I found this link from, replete with photos of teen girls who actually wore their hair in curlers to "Meet the Beatles" on their arrival.  My word.  What WERE they thinkin'?

For further reading, including how Frogman Henry came to be a headliner opening act, please see this link.  For anyone interested in the "inside Beatles story," this is a story well worth taking the time to read.

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