August 2, 2021

Celebrating the Coolest Local Stuff

We used to dance. Most people did. Dancing cut across all divisions and divides. Young, old. North, south. Regardless of color or station. Rich folks danced in palaces, built for the purpose. Po’ folks danced when they had nothing else. But, one of the things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, is the slow demise of dancing.
By Jay Kerner
Publisher/Dancin’ Fool

We used to dance. Most people did.

Dancing cut across all divisions and divides. Young, old. North, south. Regardless of color or station. Rich folks danced in palaces, built for the purpose. Po’ folks danced when they had nothing else.
But, one of the things I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, is the slow demise of dancing.

As a small child, I remember my grandparents going to the old YMCA on North 10th every Friday night for their So-Dance (Social Dance) Club. They did the Cha-cha and the Fox-trot to Dean Martin records. Lawrence Welk was on every Saturday.

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Speaking of Saturday, I remember the Let’s Dance TV show on Channel 2, where local teenagers bopped to the hits of the day, with host Bill Foster. He was our local Dick Clark, and the very first inductee into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame. My siblings and I used to watch and dance along at home. If you’re a long time Joe of a certain age, you probably did too.

On Sunday nights we twisted with the Beatles or whoever, on Ed Sullivan.

Then, somewhere about 5th grade, the home parties started.
Lindberg Elementary was (and still is) the largest in town, and I swear, every single weekend was somebody’s birthday, quite often two or more.

There wasn’t any Chuck E. Cheese, Dave and Buster, Show-Biz or anybody like that in our neighborhood. You cleaned some space in the basement. Set up a card table with Kool-aid and a home-baked cake.

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A portable record player in the corner, and the little cases full of 45’s (small plastic disks with one song on each side). Your mom gave you permission to invite 12 kids and 20 or so show up. Happened every week!

SuddenLink services over flotball field

Once the parent in charge fled for the quiet upstairs, things got going. The girls always loaded the records. They’d huddle over the machine, whispering and giggling. You’d finally hear the needle drop on the first song of the party. I don’t know why, but Tommy James’ Hanky Panky, was a popular choice.

Lots of my friends had leftover records from older siblings. We “Listened to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain”. We fell for “The Leader of the Pack” vroom, vroom. Elvis was in there.

woman cleaning with towel

But mostly it was pop music. Beatles and Stones sure, but also The 1910 Fruit Gum Company and the Strawberry Alarm Clock. The Turtles.

And we danced. Mostly, no touching, side to side, trying to find the beat like Steve Martin in The Jerk. After a bit, one of the bolder amongst us snapped a finger, and just like that, the arms and hands got involved. This really opened things up.

You could point in random directions. (My personal move was shaking invisible maracas).

There were always couples, kids going steady, though the combinations shifted, sometimes week to week. But the current couples were the first on the floor. Everybody else would circle around, looking over the available partners. By the second song, most of the rest had paired off. Any girls left after that danced together in a group. The few boys left out, punched each other in the arm and gave noogies.

The rest of the party involved frequent changes of partner. The wild card was the Slow Dance. About every 4th song or so was one that required actually touching the opposite sex. This was scary business.
Sure, we’d all had our Kootie Shots, but this was uncharted territory.
Regular dancing was one thing but slow dancing meant something. If you were currently a free-agent, asking anybody to slow dance, was like some kind of implied overture. Ask a girl to slow dance, and you might find your status has changed in an AM friendly, 2 minutes and 53 seconds. You could always tell how long a couple had been together by the space between them, (if any) and the hand placement.
In High School we had sock-hops in the gym with bands. My first, at Lafayette in the fall of 1972 had the guys that later became Kansas!
When I transferred to Central we had Turkey Trots and Snow Balls among other dances. Crossroads, USA and Liquid Fire took us higher, then pulling the rug out with Color My World, (Ahhhhhh!) or something similar.

By the time of Junior and Senior Proms, I shudder to report that disco had hit the scene. I blame the Bee-Gees. We shook, shook shook our booties. Peer pressure made us Do the Hustle. I will admit a certain fondness for The Bump.

By college, dancing meant the front-room of the TKE House at 28th & Mitchell (or sometimes the basement, for the Farmer Party). Think Animal House but with more debauchery.
The Queen and I danced in a Marathon at MO WO with Wolfman Jack.

The frat held their Red Carnation Ball at The Swiss Chalet on the North Belt. For those that don’t remember it, they could have shot the live-action Frozen there.

Danced with the Queen there, and asked her to tear up her dance card. She did. Had our reception there, too.

But somehow, after the wedding, the dancing slowed to almost nothing. Except for other weddings. We’ll get up now and again for The Chicken Dance, but that’s about it.

It’s sad. I miss dancing. We need to do more of it.
Let’s Dance!

 

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