Room 108

Sunshine Pop at the Cocoanut Grove

Many years ago, when I was teaching (taught blind/partially seeing youth) in the Norwalk-La Mirada School District, I had a blind student who adored a singing group called The Association and it was performing at the Cocoanut Grove and she so wanted to hear them and no way could afford to go. She was graduating from Excelsior High School and I thought it would be a wonderful graduation present to hear them.

I contacted the manager, a Mr. Uno (not sure of the spelling of his name), and he allowed me to bring the oldest students, without charge, not only to The Association, but Marvin Gaye, Ella Fitzgerald and two comics who became popular in a TV series (Romer and Martin - can't remember at the moment -- perhaps you know the two I mean. Goldie Hahn was one of the performers on the TV program.)

I was struck by the thoughtfulness of Mr. Uno - because he served the students Shirley Temples and treated them so kindly. We always went back stage after the performance to speak with the artists. With Ella Fitzgerald, she was tired, but when I explained to her that these were blind students who so appreciated her singing, she stopped to chat with them. She herself clearly had vision problems based on the type of glasses she used - quite thick.

So that's my memory of the C. G. -- a source of joy even though I do not remember the surroundings. These visits took place during the late 1960s, possibly very early 70s.

One of my friends asked me if I didn't that a very corrupting influence, because many teenagers would like to go to such a place and that seemed a valid concern, that just because you're blind you get these perks. I asked the parents what they thought and one of them said that their children were excluded from many activities taken for granted for sighted children (like recreational activities in the parks, exclusions from some clubs based on vision alone), that it seemed acceptable for them to get something special. Challenges against the exclusions over the years, was done, some with lawsuits against clubs which excluded. I am sure that was part of the whole sweep of civil rights struggles in which finally the disability community became involved.

--Isa-Kae Meksin