Some of us “older” people remember some of the hot spots in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey area during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (unfortunately some of us can’t even remember 2011). Yes, after New York City, Cherry Hill was the entertainment capital of the East Coast.

Before Spongebob’s pineapple home under the sea, there was the Hawaiian Cottage on Route 38, with its pineapple shaped entrance way – you got a good meal, good exotic drinks, and hula dancers! About a mile away, across from the Cherry Hill Mall on Route 38 (by the way, it was the first enclosed mall on the east coast. It actually had giant bird cages in the walkways), was the Cherry Hill Inn with its Starlight Room, where the ceiling had a thousand points of lights (before President Bush #41 ever mentioned the phrase). Countless brides and grooms and their guests danced away the night under the stars. If that was booked, then you had the wedding at Kenny’s Suburban House on Route 70 and Kings Highway. They’re all gone now… corporate centers, condos, or shopping centers.

Speaking of stars, down the street from the Cherry Hill Inn was the Latin Casino except there were no slot machines or blackjack tables, but it did have stars performing there. As a dinner nightclub, you would go for a drink and meal and saw some of the top acts like Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darrin, Al Martino, Tom Jones, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Donna Summer, and even Telly Savalas doing a one-man show. Remember, this was before the Atlantic City casinos, but once the casinos did start, they enticed away the entertainers and the Latin Casino became Emerald City, a disco with a 1 million dollar dance floor. Eventually Emerald City changed from disco to rock and the royalty of rock performed there – the Rolling Stones, James Brown, The Ramones, B-52s, and even Aerosmith. Many good times were had by all. Unfortunately all good things must pass and the Latin Casino – Emerald City became the headquarters of Suburu America. But even today, when I pass by that glass and steel building, a small tear flows down my check and I just want to break out singing “Last Dance”.

Maybe the Latin Casino didn’t have gambling, but right across the street was the Garden State Park racetrack at Route 70 and Haddonfield Road. It was part of the Golden Triangle of Jersey racing (Atlantic City Race Course, Monmouth Park Racetrack, and Garden State Park). Secretariat even raced there. On April 14, 1977, the wooden grandstand caught fire and we all watched from the rooftops of our houses as the grand old lady burned to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1985 and the elegant Phoenix Room was opened for fine dining – if you still had any money left! Eventually, it too went the way of all of the other sites – condominiums and shops!

Now if you wanted to stay the night and felt a little “oriental”, across the street was the Rickshaw Inn – the “Shangri-La” of superb hotel living. A lot of the entertainers performing at the Latin Casino would have a “few” drinks in the lobby of the Rickshaw Inn after their shows. If you were lucky, you could get a few autographs. It’s now a Mercedes-Benz dealership. I wonder if you buy a car from there, when you turn on the radio does it automatically start playing Sinatra!

There was also Cinelli’s Country House on Haddonfield Road. Dinner, drinks, and dancing, but that was an older crowd – we didn’t call them “cougars” back then. It’s the first time I saw a band play disco music – I was amazed but I didn’t think it would catch on – oh well, what do I know. It’s now an office building.

What happens in Cherry Hill… stays in Cherry Hill. At least back in my days!

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