Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fischer
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Summer in the city

Wick's World


April 26, 2018

In the summer of 1966, the hit that topped the music charts began as a poem John Sebastian penned for a high school literature class. He formed the band called The Lovin’ Spoonful and for three weeks that August, “Summer in the City” was the number one hit around the country. It was one of the greatest songs of summer ever written.

It began like this:

“Hot town, summer in the

city /

Back of my neck getting

dirty and gritty."

That summer was hot and rocking in my hometown of Chamberlain, South Dakota. I know it was hot because South Dakota summers are always hot. Our Augusts are always filled with dry, windy 100 degree plus days. August 1966 was probably typically hot as far as weather was concerned. Who remembers? What I do remember about August of 1966 were the nightly beach parties across the river just into Lyman County.

The greater Chamberlain area was located in Brule County and therefore the local gendarmes lacked jurisdiction across the river. Th e nearest that any Lyman County cops were located near our river parties were 20 to 40 miles away. Besides, the local authorities in Reliance, Kennebec and Presho couldn't have cared less what the Chamberlain kids were up to. If anything, they preferred not to alienate Chamberlain’s partying youth. We often made up a large part of the rocking and rolling scene at their local dance halls. The Moving Walkers were a huge attraction. They were a local band that was Chamberlain’s contribution to the musical history of the 60s. Other bands of that era that played our dance halls were Myron Lee and the Caddys, The Blue Boys, and who can forget Casper and the


Let’s return to August of 1966 where local teenagers were cruising America’s Main Streets. In our town, not all of the kids were from Chamberlain. We welcomed Kimball and Pukwana as well as the rest of Brule County. Most of the Lyman County hot rods that cruised our streets came from Oacoma. We called them The River Rats, but not to their face. Although Oacoma was much smaller back then, the town had a reputation for toughness that remained unmatched until another event took on an aura all its own. By the 70s, a half a million bikers co-opted I-90 for their annual August run to The Sturgis Bike Rally.

It wasn’t until the late 60s that Interstate Highway 90 even reached Chamberlain. When we went cruising on the newly built pavement, we proudly referred to it as ‘T e Interstate’. We saved the term I-90 for something else.

At that time a drinking craze reserved for teenagers consisted of a concoction called Purple Passion. It was mixed in a gallon jug and the main ingredient was sweet grape juice; the sweeter the better. Th e alcohol

that needed its taste camouflaged was called Everclear. Purple Passion was a misnomer for the deadly mixture. Purple Death would have been more pragmatic.

Everclear was as pure straight alcohol as one could purchase at a liquor store. To purchase anything stronger, you would have had to find your \ nearest jet fueling station. Everclear was 190 proof (95 percent) alcohol, thus it was tagged with the name


My advice, don’t ever try to make Purple Passion. No matter how hard you try, every batch is too strong and it is guaranteed to make you sick. It can kill you by drinking it and it can kill anyone within sight if you are stupid enough to get behind the wheel.

Kids, no matter what your parents, teachers and elders have to say about your drinking habits; trust me, grandma and grandpa were much worse. Knock off the meth and opioids so we can call you the Better Generation. In reality, that is the most we can ask from our youth. May each generation learn from the mistakes of their elders and make this a better world.


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