Remember that time when your mom totally cramped your style? That time during your early teenage years, when you’re too young to roam the world alone, but too cool to have your mom in your shadow?
Rob Petit remembers.
In 1966, Petit was a 13-year-old entrepreneur, running a one man lawn-cutting business in his St. Louis neighborhood.
“I had amassed a large amount of money for a 13-year-old,” Petit recalls, “I didn’t have anywhere to spend it. But boy, when I heard the Beatles were coming, it wasn’t two minutes before I was on my bicycle peddling out.”
Petit spent his hard earned cash on two tickets to see the John, Paul, George and Ringo play Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Beatlemania brought throngs of near-hyperventilating girls and countless shaggy-haired teenage boys to packed arenas. Young Rob Petit was no exception.
“Everyone was growing their hair like the Beatles and that was a big revolt-type thing because mom and dad wanted your hair back and parted.”
With two tickets burning a hole in his pocket, Petit tried to figure out who he would bring to the show. A buddy? Maybe. A date? Surely it wouldn’t be hard to find a girl interested in a Beatles concert.
But Petit’s parents made the decision for him: Either you go with your mother, or you don’t go at all.
But it there’s more. Petit’s mother, Joann, added another caveat.
“She’d be my date, but I had to wear a suit.” Petit gives a sigh and an exasperated eye roll.
“She was German, very German. She was like, ‘It’s an event, an you dress up for an event.’ So there I am in my suit and my Beatle boots, going with my mom." His tone was playful, but reminiscent of the teenage angst he surely felt at the time.
“I really didn’t tell very many people I was going to the Beatles. What was funny was I actually saw the people from class. It was embarrassing! One was there with her sister, and one was on a date… and I’m with my mom?!”
The Beatles played a short 30-minute set that night at Busch Stadium. Those tickets, purchased for just $5.50 a piece, got a young boy and his mom into one of the most coveted shows of the time. Just 10 days later, the Beatles played their last live show. That night at Busch stadium was a close to the end of an era in music history, but was just the beginning chapters in the history of a mother and her son.
Rob Petit would never forget that night, in part because the memory was memorialized in the next days paper. In the corner of a grainy photo, stands an overdressed 13-year-old. The caption reads “boy with Beatle haircut sits quietly by.”
That newspaper clipping is now framed in Petit’s Atlanta home. The half century that’s passed has yellowed the page, but both Petit and Joann, now 82, remember that night and laugh.
“I made him wear a suit and tie! Even today, I’m embarrassed that I put that poor kid through this," she laughed. “If we’d been in Germany you’d be wearing a suit anyway.”
Time hasn’t slowed Joann Petit. Every Wednesday, she and her friends go to a local bar to listen to a band called “The Bar Flies”. On Thursdays, you can find Joann on the lanes with her bowling team, optimistically called the “Why Nots.” The team’s name is a direct reflection of Joann’s spirit and her outlook on life.
“If you don’t take it too seriously, you can have fun” she explains. “You gotta keep in mind that it’s just a game. Otherwise it’s for the birds.”
Joann bowled a gutter ball on her next turn, as if the bowling gods were testing her philosophy.
“If I had a glass of wine, I probably would have bowled better.”
Though Joann may have come off strict, chaperoning her teenage son and insisting on a dress code all those years ago, she too was a Beatles fan. Paul McCartney was her favorite Beatle. “Get Back” was her favorite song.
When Rob heard Paul McCartney would be playing at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, he knew what he had to do.
“I bought the best possible tickets I could get. I think it’s going to be just wonderful and she’s going to enjoy every minute of it.” Then he adds sweetly, “It’s pay back. It’s taking care of mom.”
The night of the show, Rob picked up Joann from her metro Atlanta home.
“Hi Honey! How do I look?” Joann asked as she showed off her fancy floral jumpsuit.
Rob smiled. He was wearing a suit just as he did all those years ago.
In 1966, a teenager in a suit went to a Beatles concert with his mom.
Fifty one years later, not a lot has changed.
It’s just a boy and his mom, singing along with a Beatle.