The summer of 1978 bridged my junior and senior years in high school. My short-lived babysitting career ended with my first real job at Jerry's Cafe, once located on the south side of the Neosho Square, and visited Louisiana and Texas for the first time. That was the last summer before I went to work full-time, putting in 40 hours a week on a work/study crew at Crowder College so in a way, it was the last summer of leisure.

The summer of 1978 bridged my junior and senior years in high school. My short-lived babysitting career ended with my first real job at Jerry's Cafe, once located on the south side of the Neosho Square, and  visited Louisiana and Texas for the first time. That was the last summer before I went to work full-time, putting in 40 hours a week on a work/study crew at Crowder College so in a way, it was the last summer of leisure.
The movie version of GREASE debuted on June 16, 1978 although the film didn't make it to a Neosho screen until later that fall. At the time, movies didn't open at the same time to nationwide audiences but made their way slowly but surely into the smaller towns, like Neosho.
The first production of GREASE dates back to 1971 in Chicago. In 1972, the play made it to Broadway where it remained until 1980.
GREASE is set in 1958 at the mythical Rydell High School. The story line revolves around Sandy Olsson, an Australian exchange student and bad boy Danny Zuko, complete with a black leather jacket. Since it's a musical, there are plenty of song and dance numbers.
Sandy is the quintessential good girl when the movie opens but she can't resist Danny's charms.
What I remember most about GREASE is the night it opened in Neosho at the Orpheum Theater, once located just off the Neosho Square on South Wood Street.  Like most Friday nights, the line stretched from the front doors around the corner to the auditorium (now the Civic) and all the way to Jefferson Street. The air was crisp and more than a little cool as a crowd of mostly teenagers shivered and waited in anticipation for the movie.
That night, there were so many kids who wanted to watch GREASE, for the first and only time in my memory, they opened the balcony for seating. My brother and I ended up on the balcony. I recall that the seats there were an older style than on the main floor and that more than a little dust had gathered over many years.
We were in the front balcony seats, overlooking the crowd below. As the movie got underway, every teen in the place clapped their hands and stomped their feet.  In every way the movie was a hit, not only in Neosho but across the country.
GREASE played Broadway again in a reprise engagement with an all new cast in 2007.
The night GREASE first played at the Orpheum is a treasured memory of another time. It doesn't seem possible that the movie debuted four decades ago. In some ways, it seems not so long ago but when I think about the Neosho Square then and now, the differences are profound. The Square in my memories is a much different place, one ringed by a variety of businesses on every side. On weekend nights, the custom for Neosho and area teens was to cruise around the Square. It was a time to show off vehicles or companions. Sometimes, a few cars would pull over to talk or to pop hoods to check out engines. Sometimes we made the loop from the Square, down College Street to Coler, then out to the Boulevard and back.  
In 1978, there were not yet any fast food chains on the Boulevard but The Wildcat Drive-In was serving up burgers and broasted chicken. On Coler, Mayer's Chalet offered up all kinds of homemade ice cream treats or a Big Beef Sandwich if you were hungry. The 4-way stop was still a blinker light and the only businesses nearby were the bowling alley, drive-in movie, skating rink, and a few others.
Times and the world have changed since 1978 but GREASE is still a good movie and over the decades, it's gained more fans. So, grease is still the word!


    
Lee Ann Murphy is a staff writer and writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.