Donna C. Terrell

I Was Just Thinkin'

Take-Me-Back Tuesday: Tighten Up / On Laflin Street: The Block Club Party

So I heard a song today that brought tears to my eyes. No, it wasn’t a sappy love song that reminded me of an ex-boyfriend or one marking a tragic event in my life. (Fortunately, there haven’t been many of those.) I got all choked up over Archie Bell and The Drells’ “Tighten Up.”

Tighten Up came out in 1968, and all was right in my 7-year old world then. That song also reminds me specifically of The Block Club Party. The 117th and Laflin Block Club was only a few years old at the time. The parents were all young-ish, and very civic-minded. They all watched out for each other’s children, and you better believe if you were caught doing wrong, word got back to your homefront quick. The parents always sided with each other, too. If you tried to argue against one of the neighbors, you’d get a swift backhand in your mouth. Once the Block Club bought red lantern-type lights for Christmas and each house had one in the front yard. It was cute and festive then. All the kids went caroling up and down the block. During the Great Chicago Blizzard of 1967, the Block Club pooled their labor together, and all the men shoveled Laflin out. The ladies got the coffee and hot chocolate together. We kids dived into snowdrifts and enjoyed being out of school.

So the Block Club Party was a much-anticipated event. That morning the street was cordoned off, and I actually got a chance to go Across The Street. I was never allowed to venture over there, although I knew the kids who lived there. Not only could I go across the street, I could actually play IN THE STREET. What unchartered territory that was! That whole day was like one big free-for-all, under the watchful eyes of the parents, of course. My friends and I were going back and forth to yards we had never been in, and the food and drink was flowing–hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and Koolaid.

That afternoon, there was to be another major event–The Dance Contest. All the kids who wanted to be in it were instructed to just dance, and you would be touched on your shoulder to indicate that you were out of the running. I decided that I would be in this Dance Contest, and emerge The Victor.

I don’t know what song was playing; it could have been Tighten Up, who knows in 2012? But what I do remember was doing the Monkey. I was pumping my arms up and down like I was Georgette of the Jungle! I knew I was jamming! Soon I heard laughter, that got louder and more raucous. I didn’t think anything of it; I just kept climbing trees. Next thing I know, I got touched. What? You touched me? I’m out? Are you serious? Surely, the June Taylor Dancers will come calling and you’ll be sorry!

So, I slinked out of the running to win the Block Club Dance Contest, not knowing that the Monkey was years out of date. I got teased about my performance from certain Laflin denizens for a few days afterwards. Whatever. I do know I continued to enjoy the Block Club Party, eat hamburgers and drink Koolaid in the middle of the street.


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