Coffin: High School Talent Show

Mar 20, 2015

Come late winter in the Fifties, Woodstock people needed diversion from the cold gray days. Thus came about the Woodstock High School talent show and, as a lad, my mother always took me to the high school gym to see it. She had a fine singing voice, knew good music, and squirmed as those who, year after year, sang their solos way off key. But nobody had the heart to tell them…

The show played to a packed house. One memorable year a lanky boy repeated his annual tap dance, a drummer soloed, an acrobat did summersaults and handstands. There were lots of singers, including a buxom local girl with an operatic voice beautifully singing Schubert’s Ave Maria. A brass band played Dixie.

For two hours, Woodstockers glancing at their programs wondered what the final act was all about, some senior named Johnny Paluck, new in town.

Johnny came to Woodstock late, having grown up somewhere rather far away. He was immediately noticed, especially by the young ladies, for he was downright handsome. Though scarce five and a half feet high, he had blond hair, a cute upturned nose, athletic torso, and bright blue eyes. And he drove a well-polished car, with roaring mufflers. Johnny initially put some concern into the town boys, the lads who played sports, about possible competition.

They needn’t have worried. Johnny’s eye was for farm girls who went home right after school to help with the chores. Johnny remained a mystery to us town lads. We didn’t see much of him

Then came the talent show’s last act. The gym went black then, suddenly, in a single spotlight was Johnny, wearing a white linen shirt, black trousers and boots. Back arched, head held high with a tasseled Spanish hat, and in his hands were castanets.

He began, in a beautiful tenor voice:

Granada, I’m falling under your spell. And if you could speak what a fascinating tale you would tell…

It was the Frankie Lane hit, that beautiful romantic song of old Spain.

Johnny sang it like he was born to sing it. Castanets clicked, boots stomped.

He concluded, the voice soaring:

Moonlit Granada will live again the glory of yesterday. Romantic and gay.

And long he held the last note.

Applause went on for many minutes, and Johnny was handed the $25 first prize. Then gunning the engine of his car, with lady love close beside, he raced for the hills of moonlit South Pomfret.