Celebrating the most 'fab' of anniversaries: Region and nation still enthralled by the Beatles

2014-02-01T22:39:00Z 2014-02-02T22:02:09Z Celebrating the most 'fab' of anniversaries: Region and nation still enthralled by the BeatlesEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

The year 1964 proved a monumental year on all fronts - from social and political to economic and cultural.

It was a year that saw everything from Lyndon Johnson declaring a "War on Poverty" and the continuation of The Vietnam War to pop culture events such as the debut of the Ford Mustang and the first marriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Into this mix entered four twentysomething lads from Liverpool who would change the pop culture scene forever.

When John, Paul, George and Ringo set foot on American soil on Feb. 7, 1964, there was a definite change in the lives of the nation's teens and music lovers, in general. And today, fans are still feeling their impact.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America. They landed at JFK Airport in New York on Feb. 7, 1964, then appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" for the first time on Feb. 9 and performed their first U.S. concert at the Washington Coliseum in Washington D.C. on Feb. 11.

Beatlemania struck the nation and Region fans like nothing before, and lovers of their unique style of music, their charismatic personalities and their charming, witty way with words still enthralls the masses.

We asked local Beatles fans to share some of their memories of The Fab Four, when they were first introduced to them, what drew them to these young Liverpudlians and what keeps them interested in John, Paul, George and Ringo.

"When I first saw them on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' I liked them right away," said Thomas Belinsky of Gary. "My mom and dad liked them too. And that was something that was quite unusual...that young and old liked them. It was something very different."

Belinsky said during the school year in 1964, he became ill and his brother Steve would buy Beatles 45's for him and later his parents purchased Beatles albums. While the music was the major draw, Belinsky said it was good to see these four young guys were real "gentlemen."

While Becky Ashcraft, of Valparaiso, wasn't born until 1971, she said she's always enjoyed the Beatles' music. Her 12-year-old daughter Riana Christensen is now the Beatlemaniac in the house.

"Just before Christmas, her dad played her the "Yellow Submarine" movie," Ashcraft said. Riana was drawn to the music so much that now Ashcraft said the youngster has a collection of Beatles songs on her Ipod. Ashcraft's husband Gregg Kovach is the station manager at WVLP radio in Valparaiso which regularly plays Fab Four tunes.

"The Beatles just have that timeless appeal," Ashcraft said.

For Melanie Buckman, it's been nonstop Beatles since her first introduction to them in 1964.

"Their hair was long and their British accents were charming. When they sang and their heads would shake, you'd swoon," Buckman said.

Buckman, of Munster, who's a teacher at Johnston Elementary School in Highland, said she even incorporates her love of the Beatles into a learning experience for her students during a music game played in the classroom. The children are presented with various problems to solve and questions to answer all with Fab Four music as background.

"My students know I love the Beatles," Buckman said, adding the Beatles continue to live on because "these four young men shook things up and brought happiness" to people.

Linda Navarro, of Highland, will never forget the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

"It was a real family affair with all of us in front of the black and white TV. That was just the start of it for me," Navarro said. She said when the movie "A Hard Day's Night" was released, she was living in Lincoln, Neb. and went to see the film.

"I remember my mother called the police to ask them if it was safe for us to go to the show," she said with a laugh, commenting that people were hearing that pandemonium was breaking loose in the movie houses.

They were allowed to go but it was, in fact, a hilariously wild scene in the theater. "Girls were screaming and throwing popcorn in the air," she said.

Navarro, who has a variety of Beatles memorabilia, photos and music, also has German and English magazines featuring the Beatles that she bought when she lived in Germany. Navarro had the chance to go to Liverpool two years ago with her son and was mesmerized being in the land of her idols.

"They were just magical," said Linda Karlstedt of Griffith.

Karlstedt has been a Beatles fan since John, Paul, George and Ringo were making rumblings in England.

"I knew they were coming to America, and I knew they were going to be on 'Ed Sullivan.' Everyone couldn't wait," she said. Ringo was Karlstedt's favorite and still is.

"When I graduated from Gavit in 1967, I was voted most likely to marry Ringo Starr," she said.

Karlstedt, who has a Beatles corner in her family room and a Beatles curio cabinet in her living room, saw her idols in concert twice when The Beatles played Chicago's Comiskey Park on Aug. 20, 1965 and at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago on Aug. 12, 1966.

And when she and her friends went to see their favorite moptops on the big screen, they wanted to make sure they'd get in so they went early.

"I was actually interviewed by The Hammond Times before when the Beatles' movies played in downtown Hammond. We were the first in line to see 'A Hard Day's Night' because we got there about 5 a.m. We were first in line to see 'Help' because we spent the night outside the theater."

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