We are pleased to introduce Jim Tate, author of a series we will be publishing by the name of Buckhead Tales. Having grown up in Buckhead his writings reflect on his boyhood experiences in the community and bring us back to days gone by. Check back weekly to see more works as they are released.
By Jim Tate
OK, you Boys of Buckhead. Ye who cruised the back streets of Sandy Springs looking for excitement. Who snuck out on the golf course at Chastain Park after dark with unknown intention. Who spent Saturday afternoon at Jim Sallee’s Record shop and when the coast was clear tried to slip in the side door of the Capri Theatre. Who hid behind trees waiting for an ex-girlfriend to come home from a date to see if a good night kiss would be bestowed to that fancy pants dandy who was now squiring her all over town.
I know your deep secret. I know what you wanted to be and what you still want to be. No matter how far or high life has taken you there is one goal among all others. To be a Rebel. I know this to be true because I am one of you.
Now to be a Rebel in the late 1960s in Buckhead at Dykes High School was not a thing for the faint of heart. You must always wear blue jeans. Desert boots, while not required, were certainly desirable. Those shoes better be well broken in before they made their appearance in public.
The best Rebel shoes I ever saw were the cowboy boots of Tom Carr. The trouble with wearing those tall boots is that your jeans would never stay on the outside of your boots. They were always riding up you legs in a manner that was most uncool. Tom solved this by cutting off his pants just above the top of his boots. This shocking act said it all. He was letting the world know in no uncertain terms that if anything got in his way he would discard the offending object and keep on his merry way. We received and committed to memory Tom’s Rebel rule, “Don’t Look Back.”
The donning of any obviously new clothes was a clear mark against the Rebel standard. If you had a car and knew just how to slouch down in the bench seat, you were well on your way. A motorcycle was even better and when Glenn Phillips first rode his to school he immediately shot to the head of the Rebel pack.
You’ll notice I said “rode” instead of “drive” because a motorcycle was akin to horse. And we all know the original Rebel was the cowboy. We all grew up wanting to be cowboys and when that persona was outgrown there was but one place to go, straight to Rebel.
Playing a guitar, especially electric, brought major Rebel points. A few of my classmates even had a parental note that gave them access to the infamous Smoking Steps where all the bad boys and girls hung out. That’s right, we did have a few Rebel girls in our crowd. I was a little scared of them.
On the ten-point Rebel scale I probably rated a four. I had the jeans and boots situation down cold and was working on the slouch but that was about it. One area I needed improvement was my attitude. A true Rebel had to appear to not care about anything, even though you actually cared about everything. It was a tough act to pull off.
Hair was a critical component of Rebel culture. That was another rung on the ladder I was never able to fully achieve in high school. The Rebel hair award went to Marvin Jackson. He had it and wore it like a crown. Just to be seen with him in the hallways at school elevated my status.
Now, the interesting question is where did the Boys of Buckhead look for authentic Rebel role models? Well, it certainly wasn’t to our fathers. I never knew any male adults in those times that would even remotely count as an influence. It came from cinema, the big screen, the silver screen. Now some point to James Dean in The Rebel Without a Cause as the epicenter of Rebeldom. I must admit that he had it all and there was little room for improvement.
Others point to Marlon Brando in The Wild One. When I first saw that flick I was riveted by the dialogue. Brando’s character Johnny is asked if he wants to go on a picnic. With disdain he spits out his 10 second sermon, “A picnic? Man, you are too square. I’ll have to straighten you out. Now, listen, you don’t go any one special place. That’s cornball style… A bunch gets together after all week it builds up, you just…the idea is to have a ball. Now if you gonna stay cool, you got to wail. You got to put somethin’ down. You got to make some jive. Don’t you know what I’m talkin’ about?”
Obviously Johnny wanted to make it as simple as possible for us uncool cats in the movie theatre. When he is asked “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” his snarled reply was only “What’ve you got?” Those three words nail it. That is ground zero, the Capital of Cool. Nothing else need be said. Time to close the book and walk away.
So, you Boys of Buckhead, don’t try and deny that I have your number. It is my number also. You cool cats, you beatniks, you bohemians, you hippies, you Rebel boys, and yes, even you Rebel girls. Keep on raving on. Somewhere that Rebel flame still burns. Just don’t do anything cornball.