To 13-year-old Joyce Miller, the Beatles were beautiful to look at and delightful to listen to.
Now Joyce McKenney, 63, of Richmond, she was so enthused for the Beatles’ performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, that she made sure her father saw it too, even though the Manhattan lawyer with a fondness for musical theater and classical music was well outside the group’s core fanbase.
“I remember dragging my dad to our living room and waiting for them to come on and then, like, pressing my face to the TV, with tears streaming down my face,” McKenney said. “And my father’s going, âWhat’s so good about them?'”
The scene — with its teenage ardor and adult bafflement — was probably not too different from ones that played out in homes across the country on that weekend 50 years ago when the United States met the Beatles. Some Americans were eagerly awaiting the Beatles’ stateside arrival, thanks to the play their singles had received on a few radio stations and news reports on the phenomenon of Beatlemania in the United Kingdom. Thousands of the already smitten crowded the tarmac on Feb. 7, 1964, when the Beatles touched down at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, recently renamed since the president’s assassination less than three months earlier.
McKenney lived in Queens, N.Y., so that weekend she and her friends headed into Manhattan, where the Beatles were staying at the Plaza Hotel.
“They stuck their heads out of a window, and they waved, and we were all out there crying,” she said. “It was so stupid.”
McKenney may laugh at the memory of her youthful infatuation, but she was just one of millions of teenagers, both girls and boys, who instantly latched onto the Beatles.
China resident Cindy Masiero, 65, also became obsessed for a few years, though she’d never heard of the group before being persuaded by a cousin to watch them on Ed Sullivan.
“Up until then, I hadn’t really paid attention, but she was talking them up,” Masiero said. “I watched them on TV that night, and from then on I was a fan.”
Masiero, who was a high school student in Lexington, Mass., spent all her money on Beatles records, saw them in concert twice in Boston and even sent George Harrison, her favorite Beatle, a set of enameled cufflinks she’d made.
A couple of months after sending the cufflinks to an address she’d somehow acquired, Masiero came home to find an envelope in the kitchen with unfamiliar stamps and a postmark from England.
The note inside was mostly a mimeographed form letter, but at the bottom Harrison’s sister Louise had signed and written, “George was very pleased with the cufflinks.”
“I went ballistic,” Masiero said. “I was so thrilled.”
She still has that letter and envelope, along with a set of Beatles dolls. Their mop tops are a little ragged after almost five decades.
Augusta resident Barbara Jablon’s most treasured piece of memorabilia is her Cavern Club card, which got her into one of several venues where she saw the Beatles perform in the early 1960s in Liverpool, before coming to the United States in 1962 at the age of 18. The Cavern Club is where the band got its start.
“Somebody offered me $1,000 for my Cavern card, but I won’t part with it,” Jablon said. “It’s part of me.”
Jablon watched the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in Morristown, N.J., with the children for whom she was a nanny. Some of the children’s friends asked her for her autograph because she’d met the Beatles and had in particular gotten to know Ringo Starr a bit, she said.
A few central Mainers who lived in the Boston area saw the Beatles at Boston Garden in September 1964 or Suffolk Downs in August 1966.
Masiero went to both of those concerts.
“Seeing them in the flesh, being in the same room with them, breathing the same air, it just somehow made the whole experience feel more real,” she said.
As was a problem at many of the Beatles’ shows, Augusta resident Catherine Palmer and her friend Ginny could barely hear the band over the screaming at Boston Garden.
“We heard the chords, and we knew the songs so well, so we knew what they were singing,” she said.
Palmer, 64, later won a radio contest for tickets to the Beatles’ concert at Shea Stadium in New York.
With her mother’s help, Palmer counted up the Beatles songs a station played from Friday night to Monday at midday one weekend, then sent in 20 postcards with the correct number: 47.
Palmer’s father drove her and Ginny from Andover, Mass., to the baseball park in Queens. She still wears a friendship ring Ginny gave her, engraved with the dates of the two concerts.
“It was just a great time to be alive and be a teenager,” Palmer said. “It was so joyful.”