Life in the Ville by Jimmy Del Ponte
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The backroom lounge area of the Rosebud Diner in Davis Square was once called The Surrey Room. One of its nicknames was The Sorry Room. When I asked people to share their Surrey Room memories a lot of them said, “Sorry, can’t talk about it.” There seems to be a code of silence that some past patrons still abide by today. Here’s what I know from my own experience and from talking to some friends.
There was always something happening there. There were large wrought iron (or plastic) images of horse drawn carriages also known as surreys on the wall, thus the name The Surrey Room.
One the bartenders (no names please!) was the nicest guy in the world, as long as you didn’t mess with him. I saw him spin a guy up over his head once. I’m not great with specific dates but I started playing in bands at the Surrey Room sometime in the late 70’ and early 80’s.
There was a disco ball on the ceiling over the dance floor. One of my friends remembers being scolded time and time again for dancing with a drink in her hand. They solved the problem by making her a bartender.
One lady recalls walking out of there sideways a lot, and many other people don’t remember leaving at all. A few of my Greek friends recalled receiving VIP treatment since that was the owner’s nationality. Supposedly you might (just might) have been able to pick up a six pack there back before it was legal to sell booze on Sunday.
Yes, The Surrey Room had it all. My friend Rick played with the Marie Michaels Band in 1977. A fight broke out on the dance floor and the cops actually told the band to keep playing while they dragged the combatants off. I believe it was a KC and the Sunshine Band song! (Get Down Tonight?) They held “The Bong Show” where patrons would sing and slur, and compete for prizes. It was the era of platform shoes, and shirts with huge, pointy collars.
It seems that on occasion, you might even get in if you were under aged! What a shocker! A friend’s father was a cop on detail there and he asked a girl for her ID. She told him that her dad was also a cop. When he asked what her father’s name was, she gave his name. He said, “I have five daughters, and you’re not one of them!” A lot of girls were flat out not allowed to go to The Surrey Room. Needless to say they went anyway. It was the Studio 54 of Somerville with all the trimmings.
In the wild days of The Surrey Room here are some of the songs that remind me of the wild times. I’ll Always Love My Mama, by The Intruders, Don’t Take Away The Music by Tavares, Love is In The Air by John Paul Young, Emotion by Samantha Sang, and of course Disco Inferno by The Trampps.
One of the best things about The Surrey Room was that it was within “stumbling distance” of that great after hours breakfast spot, Kay and Chips. And if you could make it across Elm Street you could try to get into Ming Toy Chinese restaurant for an after inebriation snack.
By 1987 an new era of music was playing in The Surrey Room with local bands like The Sleddogs, of which I was a proud member. The platform shoes were gone but the craziness remained for a few more years. In The Surrey Room’s heyday, the booze flowed, the music pumped, and the people partied. When reminiscing about the old days of The Surrey Room, a Led Zeppelin song comes to mind: Good Times Bad Times. For the real juicy stories, ask someone who was there and be prepared for some wild tales.