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“Where did I get all these dollar bills?” I thought as I stuffed a handful of money in my jeans and headed off to Wegmans. “And what am I going to go with them?” I wondered, feeling the annoying lump they made in my pocket.

An hour later I had an answer.

I wasn’t going to Wegmans, the upscale supermarket, to shop for food. I was going there to enjoy some music. Wegmans regularly brings local musical artists to its Market Café and last Saturday evening it was “The Classics,” a duo of my friends Debbie Switzer and “Frankie G” Galoardi.

As the name implies, “The Classics” play classics, radio hits of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and a few from more recent years. That’s significant when it comes to what I decided to do with those dollars.

I grabbed a coffee outside the café, which, as it turned out, allowed me to by-pass a long line of people holding trays of food and waiting at the cashier. I recognized most as faithful followers of “The Classics.” Many from West Pittston.

Inside, I spotted Joe Sabatini, the second generation of the famed pizza family, and he immediately pulled out a chair and invited me to join him. A music fan whom I often run into at the Wednesday night open mic sessions at Tony’s Wine Cellar in Pittston, Joe was still on a high from seeing “The Jazz Ambassadors” the night before at the Kirby Center.

No sooner had I sat down when a young man wearing — and I kid you not — a cheese-colored tie featuring slices of pepperoni, came over and asked if the chairs next to us were taken. He was soon followed by five or six others. From their conversation, Joe and I deduced we were now sitting with the Holy Redeemer High School debate team.

The kids were upbeat and fun and oh, so young, and, with “The Classics’” repertoire in mind, I said to them, “I’ll give a dollar to anyone who can name any of their songs.”

To which a young lady blurted out, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

Leave it to me to make that offer while they were playing the one song young people would know. It’s by the band “Queen,” which is having a resurgence after the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody,” based on the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury. I was sure subsequent songs would not be that easy. And they weren’t. Except for Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” which the kids all knew and to which they all sang along.

Not only did this impromptu game of “Name that Tune” turn out to be great fun, but it also allowed me to get rid of a bunch of those pesky dollars.
For many of the songs, the kids needed hints, which I was only too happy to provide. “It’s a girl’s name,” I said during Neil Diamond’s “Oh, Carol,” and when a young lady heard Frankie sing “Carol,” she shouted it out and received her dollar.
In introducing “Mack the Knife,” Debbie Switzer said, ‘This is a song about a murder.” The kids were listening intently but drawing a blank, so I said, “It’s three words and the first two are Mack the.”
“Mack the Night,” the young man with the pepperoni tie guessed.
“She said it’s about a murder,” I said. “How can you kill someone with a night?”
“Mack the Knife,” he corrected himself, and I gladly forked over his reward.
The youngsters were really stumped when Frankie and Debbie rolled into “Quando, Quando, Quando,” the ’60s’ hit recorded by Pat Boone and later Engelbert Humperdinck and even Connie Francis. I was certain they never heard of any of these singers let alone the song itself, so, I leaned in and said, “They’re singing in Italian. The words are ‘Quando, quando, quando,’ and that’s the name of the song.”
“Oh,” a young lady right next to me squealed, “When, when, when.”
“That’s right!” I said, somewhat surprised. “Do you speak Italian?”
“No,” she said, “but it’s the same in Spanish.”
“The Classics” took a break and the Redeemer students got up to leave and that brings me to the reason I am telling you this story. “I don’t know if you noticed,” I said to Debbie, “but I’ve been awarding dollars to the students if they could name your songs.”
“I know,” she said. “They just put all those dollars in our tip jar.”
I caught up to the “Quando, Quando, Quando” girl before she left and told her how I impressed I was.
“Of course,” she said. “We thought it was the right thing to do.”
So, too, I decided, is bringing their kind gesture to the attention of the public.
If you Holy Redeemer teachers ever wonder if you are doing your job, take it from me, you are.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs during the week at