Tennis Court Dance Reunion prompts decades of memories
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Music of the ‘60s and ‘70s filled the air Aug. 10 at the Hudson-Concord Elks Pavilion as the band Sunny Down Snuff returned to perform at the 18th annual Tennis Court Dance Reunion, which is now organized by the Hudson Division of Recreation. Guests reminisced about the summertime dances that were held Monday nights at the Riverside Park Tennis Courts from 1968 through 1974.
Greeting them at the entrance was Recreation Director Linda Ghiloni, who attended the dances while in high school and hasn’t missed a reunion.
“When I was asked three years ago if I’d start running the reunions, I said I would because I wanted them to continue,” she said. “It’s easy to organize. People show up, the band plays music and people dance.”
Ghiloni remembered when she was among the many teenagers who frequented the dances at Riverside Park.
“The tennis courts were mobbed,” she said. “Every kid in the entire town who could get out of the house was there.”
The original dances were organized by the Hudson Catholic High (HCH) Letterman Alumni Association, spearheaded by the late Paul Cellucci and Dennis Pierozzi, who now lives on Cape Cod.
“Our organization used the dances as a fundraiser to give back to the HCH Athletic Association,” Pierozzi explained by phone. “We really appreciated what HCH had done for us and we wanted to continue supporting the school in any way we could.”
Admission was $1. Each of the four band members received $30 a week, paid in one dollar bills. The typical weekly attendance was about 250 young dancers.
“We were mesmerized by the number of people that came,” Pierozzi recalled. “We hired two policemen, who stood outside the gate. We had basic rules such as ‘once you’re in, you’re in.’”
The dances ran smoothly with no trouble onsite. However, some tennis players complained to town officials that chewing gum was strewn on the courts. Pierozzi and Cellucci dealt with the issue at a selectmen’s meeting.
“Paul spoke eloquently and worked out a deal,” Pierozzi relayed. “After the dance, we’d scrape the gum off of the courts and sweep them. His proposal was accepted and everybody was happy.”
Pierozzi felt that the dance was a unique opportunity for young people to keep in touch during the summer with schoolmates and teammates while meeting new friends.
“I really loved watching young people from different communities come and enjoy the great music played by Sunny Down Snuff,” he said. “I remember they played a lot of the Beatles’ songs.”
Recreating those tunes at the recent reunion were the band’s original members: bass guitarist Ralph Lanigan, drummer Glenn Evans; and guitarists Dave Pontbriand and Tom Yates. They were brought back together by the band’s promoter, John McClellan, who organized the first reunion and most of them subsequently.
Lanigan acknowledged that he was pleasantly surprised by the first reunion’s success.
“We had no idea what to expect,” he said. “Fortunately, we had a really good crowd. People showed up who I hadn’t seen for many years, some coming back from Connecticut, New York and Florida. And it was fun to play with the same guys again because we had all been playing with different bands for years after the tennis court dances. So it was a reunion for us, too.
While Cellucci was serving as governor, he phoned Lanigan and they spoke about old times.
“Paul specifically remembered the lettermen needing to clean all the gum off the tennis courts,” Lanigan said with a laugh. “Even when he became lieutenant governor and then governor, his heart was always in Hudson.”
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