The other evening I was driving home from work and of course I had my faithful radio tuned into an oldies rock and roll channel. As I was listening to the songs play one after another I noticed the channel was playing a group of hits from an era when the music was yet to have any British invasion or Beatles effect to its style yet but was after Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard or any of Rocks’ founders. This was a type of music that I think was called soft rock.
As I drove along I heard performers such as Neil Sedacka singing “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” and then Bobby Vinton Singing “Blue Velvet. At this point I could hear a certain style of music. Please understand I am by no means musically inclined. I can’t play a single instrument or carry a tune. But I do love the music I grew up with.
While I drove along and continued to listen to blasts from the past I of course began to think back to when those tunes were new and we as a group became introduced to the social graces that come with dancing.
I think that back in my seventh grade at Moscow School I attended my first dance.
At the time it was referred to as a record hop. In the cold weather months and on a Friday night the school would host a record hop. What really was a simple event to pull off as all needed was a record player a stack of 45 RPM records some beverages and snacks and a few chaperones. Despite the fact it wasn’t hard to put one of these events together to we Jr. High kids these dances were our first big events of our lives.
I mean just think we were going to have an evening with the students our age and enjoy the music of our times by dancing. That last item was the new part that now became a must to be able to do as it was part of being cool!
All kidding aside I put as much time as I ever have in preparing to attend this event.
A must was a clean pair of slacks with a clean shirt and as close to matching as our moms could get us to accept. With a pair of penny loafers and probably the whitest pair of socks as I could find. (This was the 60’s you know?) I would apply as much Butch Wax to my flat top so as to cause it to stand on end the entire evening. Most of the time I used Phisohex wash on my face so my acne would be as clear as I could get it. Going to the record hop was the equivalent of a coming out party. When you enter Jr. High you enter society. When you were in attendance at one of these events you knew the entire seventh and eighth grades were watching your every move. (At least that was what you felt
The music of the time was mostly ballad type songs that would be danced to slow style.
My first thought was that would be great but then I realized that hey! I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DANCE! Of course I panicked at first but my big sister Peg promised to teach me how to do an acceptable two step or box step if I tried real hard. After a couple evenings of instruction Peg not only taught me how the steps went but she put a lot of time in building my ego so that I began to feel confident I wouldn’t make a fool of myself.
Now as for a fast dance Mr. Chubby Checker had created and the world was dancing to the Twist. Even I felt it would be somewhat difficult to mess up the twist. Now any other fast song was one when it was a good time to get a Coke and some chips.
The big night arrived and I was to say the least nervous no matter how much Peg had tried to increase my confidence.
Upon arrival the entry to the school gym was getting lined up with my age group. I just can’t explain how monument this was to my friends and me. Once we all got inside the gym and settled in where we were to be at and who we were going to hang with we were ready to hear some music.
The first couple of songs were slow songs but since we were all new at this the dance floor was short in participants. So the adults got some kids to dance and then some of the girls went out and danced. As “Roses Are Red” played. I must say it here and now that the girls have much more courage when it came to being in front of others dancing. Finally I ask a girl if she would like to dance and she stunned me when she said yes. With my hands sweating, my knees knocking and my voice cracking I assumed the slow dance position and to “Blue Velvet” we danced. I don’t recall much other than when the dance ended I had yet to trip and maybe only stepped on her toes a couple of times and she was smiling at me. Yes, she was smiling!
With that first dance under my belt I went to another girl and ask her to dance and we did to the record of “Lonely Boy”. By the end of that dance and this girl was smiling also. My ego –meter was on a rapid rise.
Not all songs are slow and some you just can’t twist to. But to hear “Stupid Cupid” and “its Judy’s’ Turn to Cry” was good to listen to along with that Coke and a small bag of chips. I want to say the hop lasted from seven to ten o’clock and by the end it was safe to say the majority had had a great first night out. I know for me it couldn’t have gone any better.
To my knowledge I didn’t break any toes and hadn’t said any dumb statements to the girls. No from that night on I was thrilled whenever there was to be a record hop and to tell you the truth I did go out on the dance floor a lot. It was a fun time. Here is where I will be honest with you.
Learning to dance with the opposite gender was and still is one of my happiest things to do.
Try it and see!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.