MUSIC IS THE BOND
Nearly 35 years ago, four Southside friends started an event that honors the values of friendship, tradition, and the love of music. It’s called the Oldies Dance - a classic story of friendship, musical memories, and shared experiences.
At a time when reflecting back to the good ole days is a faddish priority for many people, the Oldies Dance is the real-deal and not a modern day invention. Currently sponsored by the South High School Alumni Association, the seeds for this dance were planted when four life-long friends decided more than 30 years ago to have a party!
They invited their friends to listen and dance to the music they loved as teenagers and young men in the 50’s and 60’s growing-up in the Southend. Left to right in this picture, Andy Poczik (’64), John Komives (’65) and Dave Benyi (’65), Frank Meszaros (‘64), all South High graduates - had been friends most of their lives. They shared a common Hungarian heritage, a South High School education, the wonderful values that growing up on the Southside instilled, and a love for the music of the 50’s and 60’s – their formative years! Back in the day, these four guys jokingly called themselves “Cashew and the Peanuts”. They formed a group and would sing at holiday services and special events at the Hungarian Evangelical and Reform Church on Woodrow Avenue where they were members.They never won the ”Battle of the Bands” for their singing but they did come up with an even better idea.
They suspected that there were many people like them that really enjoyed the rock and roll, Motown, and doo-wop, of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s
What if they threw a party that played only oldies and invited their friends to join them? Would anybody come? Little did they know!
Frank Meszaros was the ringleader. And why not? He had a special appreciation for music that he loved to share with others. His record collection was unique. It contained hundreds of records that would be the envy of any Oldies radio station in any market. You name the hits of the ’50s and ’60s and Frank not only had the vinyl records and albums, he knew the lyrics to every song; when they were hits; information about the artists; and the back stories of just about every group. The guys gave-up trying to stump Frank with music trivia questions.
Frank's music and his DJ ability were a sure-fire hit!
Frank was a human Google for music before anyone knew what that was.
On top of that, his singing voice was professional quality. You would swear Frankie Valli was in the room when Frank would sing along with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” or Oh What a Night” when he was spinning the records. From the first Oldies Dance, Frank’s DJ talent and love of the music were the key attraction.
Dave, Andy, and John were the driving forces that helped turn their small idea to have fun with friends one night a year into an event that has survived and grown over more than 30 years. These four friends were the catalyst for an event that started as a party and grew into a Southside tradition.
In the early years, the music was spun on turntables playing vinyl records. Frank got nervous when people from the crowd got too close to the turntables. He did not want any records scratched but he welcomed people that had music requests, which he effortlessly accommodated. It was magic. They asked and he played the tune!
The first two Oldies Dances quickly outgrew the first venue. The guys were forced to find a bigger facility to keep up with their popularity. The first semi-permanent location for the dance was the American Legion Post on Livingston Avenue. This move allowed a maximum of 160 guests. The dance was held there for 8 years.
The demand for tickets continued to grow. People began to wonder, “What do you have to do to get a ticket?” In a very short time, demand was greater than the capacity. A larger facility was needed. The Grotto Hall was selected , a venue located on Agler Road. This was not quite the Southend, but attendance grew to 300 guests.
The Oldies Dance uses a surprisingly simple formula: Play music that for one night, takes people back to simpler times, old friends, and great memories. Over time, the new technologies were used but the music remained the same. The music craze of the moment was resisted – no disco; punk; or hard rock got on the play list. For one night a year, the focus was on the Oldies!
Frank Meszaros died in 1998. His untimely death at the age of 51 was a blow to his friends, family, and Oldies fans. Not only had they lost a life-long friend but also they lost the heart and soul of the Oldies Dance. This close knit group of friends wondered what could be done to honor his spirit, his love of music, and the annual dance they all worked so hard to create. They didn’t hesitate.
Not only were they going to continue, they were going to expand their efforts in Frank’s memory.
Frank’s brothers filled the gap. Gary (’68) and Doug Meszaros (’66) doubled their efforts to keep the dance going. Gary assumed the DJ responsibilities and Doug was busy with Dave, Andy, John and Doug Brown behind-the-scenes.
The Oldies Dance thrived under the new team. Gary was a natural. The dance didn’t skip a beat. It must be in the Meszaros blood! In addition, to continued success with the dance they started a scholarship fund in Frank’s name at the Ohio State University supported by profits from the dance and contributions from his family.
The Oldies Dance tradition continues. By the 23rd anniversary of the dance, (with the scholarship fully funded) Gary, Doug, Dave, Andy, and John turned to SHSAA and asked if the association would like to take over the dance as a fundraiser. SHSAA gladly agreed. SHSAA has continued the dance for nearly 10 years. More than 15 volunteers work every year to make it a success. It is SHSAA’s second largest annual fundraiser.On Saturday, February 4th more than 300 alumni and Southside friends will get together for the 33rd consecutive Oldies Dance.
Thank you Frank, Andy, John, Dave, Doug, and Gary for your vision and for understanding the power music has to bond us to the past and energize us for the future. Your formula for connecting people around a common interest in music has enabled both the SHSAA and OSU to generate thousands of dollars for scholarships in Frank’s memory. More importantly, thousands of people over the years have set aside one night a year to renew friendships, reminisce, and enjoy the music of their youth.
Music is the bond.