Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Night Dancing

Friday Night Dancing
11" x 15"
Back in the 1950s, when I was in college, there were some popular spots for dancing. Going dancing was a priority to many of us, and we would rather dance than eat-or go to class. There was a ballroom with a jukebox in the the SUB (Student Union Building), right next door to Biology class. The place was usually crowded with students, dancing or watching and waiting to be asked, day and night, unless there was some big event going on, or the administration was trying to crack down and make us all go to class.
The town was "dry", so, in order to get a drink, people had to drive across the river to another county, for drinking, liquor stores, and dancing at the little nightspots that dotted the highway.
One of the most popular of these was the Paper Moon. This was a larger place, that attracted a crowd at night. There were some old songs on the jukebox that were popular for dancing and singing along to. One of those songs, "Faded Love", would be played over and over and even more frequently as people started getting a little tipsy. "Crying in their beer", as the saying goes, might be more accurate. When that song came on, the college students would stand up, sing along loudly and with passion, and raise their drinks. A lot of people said that this was our school song, instead of the approved song that the college band played.
We were kind of lucky in those days. Everytime a team won a game, we had a holiday the next Monday. And we always won during those years. It was a sad day on campus when the team did happen to lose, and we had to go to class on a Monday.
One Monday, we didn't have to go to school. We awoke to see the flag at half staff. And learned that the reason for the holiday was that the Moon burned down. People were crying and so sad they could barely walk around.
There was another place near the Moon, but I don't recall the name of it. It was smaller and didn't have that same atmosphere. But, we didn't have a whole lot of choices of places to go.
Just south of town on the Houston highway, there was another place with a pretty good dance floor and a jukebox, but I don't think that there was drinking there. It was in a wooden building, but I can't remember the name of that place either. That is the one that I was thinking of when I painted "Friday Night Dancing". It wasn't the place that everyone congregated, or the place that you went on a big date. As I recall, we would go there, dance a few dances, then move on to another place.
Another popular place was State Lake. It had one of those rock buildings, sort of like a clubhouse, with a big dance floor, jukebox, and a nice big terrace that overlooked the lake. It was one of the WPA projects. There is a similar building at Ft. Parker Lake, and, I'm sure, a lot more across the country since it was a project built during the Depression. Of course, there was no drinking, and there weren't even tables or a place to buy food. But, it was in a lot of woods, and gave us a place to go away from the scrutiny of the grownups on campus and in town.
In those days, I would have almost killed to have a pony tail that would swing when I danced. (Now my hair is much longer than that, but I can't dance anymore due to bad knees.)
I tried all kinds of things to make my hair grow longer, including pulling my hair as I rolled it. But, it would get almost to my shoulders and I couldn't stand it any longer, and I would have to get it cut in duck tails again. Pony tails, duck tails (or DAs, as some people called that cut), and a medium length hair style that was rolled with pin curls were popular for the girls. Guys had DAs, butch cuts, crew cuts, or a medium cut that allowed the hair to be combed back with a little swirl or poof on the top. Of course, the Aggies had their military hair cuts, with the freshman being bald. We were glad to date seniors, or juniors, who had better hair cuts!
When we went out, we had to have on our beads and earbobs, maybe a watch. We just wore a lipstick called "Natural" for every day. For dress up, we wore "Red" lipstick and, for really special occasions, we would add a little powder or mascara on our eyebrows. Circle skirts were in style and, when we wore those, we had to wear lots of petticoats to hold the skirt as straight out as possible. Six, eight, or even ten or more petticoats were required to make those skirts hang just right. Another style was pencil slim skirts. Those didn't require petticoats of course, but, unless you had an adequate kick pleat in the back, it was kind of hard to walk in those!
To make sure that the figure was held in check, girls had to wear Merry Widows, that brought reminders of earlier days of corsets and tiny waists. If you couldn't breathe, you had the right adjustment on the Merry Widow! To complete the look of the tiny waist, over the skirts, girls wore a wide elastic belt, like a huge rubber band.
Sweaters were popular with the skirts as were simple blouses .
Small scarves were tied about the neck, like the cowboys wore in the movies, only with more variety in color and designs.
Shoes for dancing needed a good leather sole. To keep from slipping and having an embarassing fall on the dance floor, due to shiney new shoe soles, sandpaper could be used to scuff the bottom of the shoe a bit, until it got worn enough from dancing. Rubber heels and some soles were available, but , while they were okay for normal walking, you couldn't dance with those. And, new shoes were usually stiff as boards, which made walking with blisters on the feet, a painful activity. Often, shoes were abandoned in favor of dancing in socks or stocking feet. Guys usually kept their shoes on, unless it was at a sock hop, when everyone wore various kinds of socks.
Ballet or ballerina slippers were popular for dress, dancing, and every day. Penny loafers and saddle shoes were also popular. For dress up, the taller the heels, the better. Three to four inch heels were for dress up, flats were for everyday wear, or if your date wasn't very much taller than you were.
Along with dress up, we wore sheer stockings held up with a garter belt or a girdle. Some ladies could hold up their stockings with just a pair of garters, but that was mainly girls who were on the thin side. Stockings might be worn with flats or heels, but usually not with penny loafers or saddle shoes. For the more casual shoes, we wore white socks that rolled over into a thick top. Two or three rolls were most desirable. In the summer, there were thin cotton socks. Also, sandals were great for hot weather.
We danced to big band music, rock and roll, some blues, and old country western. If we thought it would shock our parents, without actually shocking us worse, we were all for it.
My painting didn't fit on the scanner, so I showed a detail of it, then smaller details from each side. The girls dancing aren't supposed to be anyone in particular. They just show the styles, the movement of jitterbug or jitterbop that we used to do, and the colorful jukebox at the edge of the open dance floor. (Other dances included the waltz and the fox trot, but, in my painting, my girls are carried away with the rhythm of the jitterbug.)

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