February 14, 2020

Old School (VERY) Cool Guest Post by My Mom

Herman's Hermits

I've been wanting to share this for a long time, but my mom wasn't able to find the photos to accompany it. I was inspired by the subreddit r/oldschoolcool.

I love looking at old photos! And as I get older, I like learning from my parents about their lives when they were younger. My mom told me a story about when was 14 years old, and it's a fun one!

My mom's parents were pretty well-off financially (my grandpa owned an insurance business) and very well-known around the city where I grew up (Rockwood, MI). They had a big house, a big family, and my grandpa (who, sadly, I never got to meet; he passed away before I was born).

My mom was born in 1952, and when she was a young teenager, there was an English beat rock band on par with the Monkees and The Beatles. They charted six Top 20 hits in 1965 and 1966--right when my mom was at the perfect "boy band" age of 13 and 14 years old.

[Side note: When I was in elementary school, I had a custodian named Chuck Whitwam. He was fantastic! He gave me the nickname "Katydid" (like the bug). Whenever I'd see him in the halls, he'd joking say, "What did Katie done? Katydid!" It always made me feel special that he noticed me.]

Anyway, I will let my mom tell the story in her own words about Herman's Hermits. As she does, try to think back to the days before the internet when you couldn't just listen to music on a whim. When celebrities were "real" celebrities and not just social media influencers.

Here's my mom's story:

"Katie... Remember Mr. Chuck Whitwam (custodian at elementary school)? Well, years before we knew him as custodian, his (first) wife Marsha worked for my dad.

I don't know the circumstances that lead to a letter being sent to Barry Whitwam (the drummer for Herman's Hermits) in England when Chuck found out they were going to be touring in the United States.

I don't know if he thought he was related to them (because of their identical last name) or what lead to the letter, but Barry responded and accepted the invitation to meet up with Chuck and Marsha when they arrived in the Detroit area.

This was about 1965, and the Hermits were appearing on the live show "Swinging Time" in Windsor (Canada, just across the bridge from Detroit). Swinging Time had a huge outdoor stage and lots of teens would flock there for the show and dancing.

Herman's Hermits


Chuck and Marsha first met Barry and the other Hermits at the show, and they took me along. We were invited to go back to the Hermits hotel for a visit and pictures.

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

[Stop for a sec... can you even IMAGINE this happening these days?! As a 14-year old girl who is totally into this boy band, getting not only to meet them, but to hang out with them?!]

Here are some photos from the hotel room (my mom is the one wearing the dress with the white collar and the black ribbon). Barry Whitwam is wearing the blue shirt.

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits


I spy, with my little eye, Keith Hopwood in a towel 😂

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits


In 1966, Herman's Hermits were touring again in the United States. I don't know the details of the invitation, but they made a plan for another visit with us.

Chuck and Marsha lived in a duplex (upper flat, I think) and Marsha was about eight months pregnant. They panicked--"How are we going to entertain Herman's Hermits?!"

My dad had a boat and he told Marsha that he could take their guests in the boat to water ski. (My dad didn't have a clue who was he going to be entertaining.)

Herman's Hermits were right up there under The Beatles at this time. I was 14 years old and flipped out with excitement! Then I knew we couldn't make it public, because there would be a mob at our house--so only a few knew about it ahead of time.

Two of the Hermits came--Barry, the drummer; and Keith, the guitarist.

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits


Following the boating and skiing, they came back to our house, hung out drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and playing pool. The guy in the white is Keith Hopwood; Barry Whitwam is in black and white.

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Herman's Hermits

Needless to say, it was the highlight of my teen years!

P.S. These photos were taken with my Brownie Fiesta camera. The film had to be taken to the drug store to be developed--it took over a week to get them back! [Torturous when you're dying to share it all with your friends]




After hearing this story from my mom, I was in awe. Can you even imagine? This was way before internet stalkers. Some random guy (the janitor from my elementary school, before I was even born yet) had the same last name as someone from a super popular band. So he writes a letter (in an envelope with a stamp!) and mails it to him, and must have claimed they were family. So the uber-famous musicians said, "Hey, sure, we'll come hang out with you guys while we're in Detroit!"

I find it so funny! But such a fun experience for my mom.

By the way, she said that the Hermits were VERY nice people and she enjoyed their company very much!

In case you're more my age than my mom's age (haha) here is a video of a popular Herman's Hermits song:


6 comments:

  1. This is amazing! My mom is a year younger than yours and through her, I've always been a fan of Herman's Hermits. I'm going to share this with her, I bet she'll enjoy reading it as much as I just did. :)

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  2. Best Story Ever!!! Tell you Mom thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

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  3. I didn't recognize the name, but certainly know a number of their songs!

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  4. This is so cool! I am too young to know the Hermits, but I certainly remember hearing their songs when my parents would have parties.

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  5. Great story! So cool! Recognized the song when I heard it but had no idea who the hermits were. So funny!

    ReplyDelete

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