Jukebox Music

November 1st, 2008
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v6-11-Our IslandsBack in 1953 Miss Tessie brought to Bonacco the first coin-operated, electrical music playing machine. This was the start of a great romance between the then young people of Bonacco and a marvelous machine called the jukebox.

A little while later the owners of the Green House got a jukebox and before long there was another in the Blue Wave. The one I remember best is the old Wurlitzer 50 in the Blue Wave. It had a total of twenty five 78 rpm records and it had an ingenious mechanism that flipped the records over to play the opposite side.

A few years before when radio had been introduced to Bonacco, the whole town had gone crazy over country and western music. This music was mostly heard over XERF, a radio station with studios in Del Rio Texas and a transmitter in Ciudad Acuña, Cuaquila, Mexico. The reason for this geographical separation was the fact that the US government did not permit radio stations with the power of XERF (250,000 Watts) to operate on its soil. This radio station was instrumental in converting the people of Bonacco into die-hard country and western music fans. We would rise at 4am to visit with the neighbor who owned the radio and then spend hours listening to music. Some of the more devout fans even learned the commercial jingles.

In those days Bonacco’s main source of income was from the boys who had gone to sea on ships and sent money back home to their folks. Whenever one of these boys came home for a short vacation they would bring back records with the latest hits they had encountered on their travels.

We eventually became acquainted with all the genre of music available at that time, and the young people of Bonacco became the best jukebox music dancers in the world. If the jukebox played it, we could dance it–no exceptions. We danced swing, waltz, country music, boleros, tangos, rancheras, merengues, calypsos, cumbias, cha-cha-cha, mambo and all the rock ‘n roll styles from the twist to the watusi, motown and the mashed potato.

We became so talented that all visitors to this island never failed to praise our abilities on the dance floor. The Blue Wave was a unique dance hall in that it had been converted from a motion picture theater and the huge hall had 20 ft ceilings. This dance hall eventually got a large collection of records and every Saturday afternoon the young ladies were invited to change the record selection on the jukebox. While the girls were busy selecting records, the young men were busy scraping candle tallow on the wooden floor to make it slick and more suitable for fine dancing.

During this early period, the Blue Wave became not only a Bay Islands legend but also well known along the north coast. On almost every Saturday afternoon boats from Roatan would anchor in the harbor and everybody knew that they had come to watch or to try their own dance steps. The Roataners would comment that the Bonacco women must give birth on the dance floor because all their kids were natural born dancers. Later when Roatan got jukeboxes the Utilians would paddle all the way to Roatan just to punch (insert the coins) the jukebox.

Just to give you and idea as to our reputations as dancers I’ll relate a little story of something that happened in Oak Ridge a few years back. Having a couple of beers in a dance spot were a German woman and a local Oak Ridge girl. As the girls drank their beers they watched a few dancers do their thing. Among the dancers there was an older man, around 65-70, dancing up a storm. The German woman said to the local girl, “That old guy sure dances well.” The local replied: “He was born dancing.” The German girl looked at the local girl with a question in her eyes, and then the Oak Ridge woman concluded, “They all dance well, you see, he’s a Bonackian.”

On Saturday nights in old Bonacco all the dancers came to the dance hall in their very best Saturday go to church clothing and highly polished shoes. The boys had every hair in place and slicked back using the finest ParaMi and Yardley brilliantine. These guys came ready to show off their dancing abilities under the bright lights illuminating the dance floor.

Back then, women wore dresses and the men wore their hair short, unlike now-a-days when girls wear men’s pants and young men wear long hair and earrings in their ears and sometimes in their noses. The best jukebox music dancers in the world are no longer active. Many have died and the rest of us are all crippled up with arthritis, … but we were never defeated on the dance floor. We were phased out and forgotten by a less moral and a more vulgar type of dancers.

Dancing has come down to some convulsive jerking and twisting of the lower torso accompanied by some rather vulgar gyrations of the gluteus maximus. DJs have replaced the jukeboxes; and bachata, punta, and reggaeton have replaced the beautiful music of years past, with the latter two setting music back at least two hundred years. Whenever the DJ strikes up the new sounds the very first thing that the dancing public wants is for someone to turn out the lights.

No one dances with pride anymore. Even if there is a good dancer among all that mass of flesh, no one can see ’em dancing in the dark. All the light they need is a strobe lamp flashing once in a while so they can return to their seat when they become tired because the DJs never allow a pause in that cacophonous dissonance.

The best jukebox music dancers are only one of the many things we still miss: five cokes for one lempira, a cold beer for 40 cents, a can of corned beef for 50 cents, five pound of American margarine for one dollar, house rent at eight Lempiras a month. But just like the best jukebox music dancers in the world, these things we will never see again. [/private]

Comments Off on Jukebox Music

Comments are closed.