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Back in the day | Let’s waltz back to the cool, fabulous 50s Part 2

The “Leon ug Maria” Visayan comical skit was Davao City’s most hilarious Friday night live stage entertainment in the early 50s. Patronized by several hundreds of city folks, they come in droves to watch it live at the town’s epicenter, Rizal Park. Fluent Visayan radio broadcasters, Jess Fano and Bert Boiser, who later became governor of Davao del Norte, would emcee the 2 hour comedy show cum singing competition. The stage was propped up beside City Hall and within the vicinity of the old skating rink, right in the middle of the park. Guitar wizard, Pamping Gacayan, throwing a rich cluster of chords to the songs’ intros, played back-up for singers in the contest. This week-end entertainment was first sponsored by COVO, brand name of a cooking oil household product. It was taken over by Purico Amateur night which segued into PMC Amateur night. Through the years, Rizal Park had been the central venue of various live stage presentations, such as political, religious or civic events. In the late 50s, DXAW entertainment staff, Nonoy Morada, a musician by heart became the regular emcee of PMC Amateur Night with his kicker, veteran Visayan comedian Tony Solis.

At sundown every day, the city skating rink, which is now the paved area where the statue of Jose Rizal is mounted, became a giant playground for roller skaters. Toddlers and teens swarm the place and in sheer excitement, diligently strap and fasten to their shoes the popular 4 wheel quad roller skates.

In a few minutes, they just glide and wheel around the rink for their evening sports recreational activity. As soon as the roller skates steel wheels hit the pavement, the noise starts to build up and you can hear cheers of admiration when one exhibits grace and showmanship of twists, spins and turns in the art of skating. Some innovative youngsters would craft homemade wooden scooters with old discarded ball bearings using them as the front and rear wheels. They slip in batteries to beam headlights and stick other shiny decorative metals, sprucing up the hand crafted scooter.

Directly across the street (San Pedro St) was the Gems Theatre, a second run movie house right smack at the corner of Bolton St. Lining up that side of the street were Sevilla’s Book Store, Magno’s Department Store, Philippine Sweepstakes Office, Davao Grocery, Dr Morales Dental Clinic, Dr. de la Paz/Conchu Clinic and the iconic Lolengs Eatery, catering native cuisine, like bibingka, pastries and other delicacies.

Giftmart was right at the corner of City Hall Drive and San Pedro St. Above the building was a huge Goodyear neon signage with bright flickering lights circling the perimeter of the signage. Set up high at the top of the building, it beamed towards Rizal and Osmeña Parks, San Pedro Church, PNB and the Capitol tennis courts. Giftmart catered to high heeled politicians, professionals, businessmen, students and city employees too. Its next door neighbor was the town’s leading snack center, the 3 Sisters, famous for its mouth-watering barbecue, halo halo, mami and palabok. Both eateries had their own legion of regular patrons and they swell in numbers at night since both maintain a jukebox where music on a 45 rpm vinyl record can be played by dropping 10 centavos on the slot.

To be continued.

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