Today, along with my regulars, I met with the Home Exercise group at Wishing Well, and they were full of fantastic stories, bouncing off each other with memories of places, dances and the people they met. The fun and laughter in their stories was infectious – we heard about Joan, aged 10, dancing at the conservative club and being ushered off stage by her sister because when she twirled, she’d forgotten to put her pants on, so off she ran, red faced…And then in her late teens when eyeing up the boys, there was competition amongst the girls. They would secretly tuck the other girl’s skirt into the folding seats so that when they stood up they would show their knickers, get embarrassed and have to go home. And then years later, her husband tried to learn but couldn’t grasp it and would often end up sliding across the floor into the drum.
Margaret told us about learning ballroom dancing in the playground from the girls in her class who could afford lessons – In Nantwich, she would dress up in her Aunty’s fur coat to try and copy the London girls. Another lady sneaked some gloves from under the Christmas tree – a present she wanted to make early use out of – but they were pinched from the cloakroom so she had to ‘fess up for taking them early.
The fur coats, the gloves, the striped dresses with 4 petticoats, stiff from starch, bought from a catalogue. They felt like the bees-knees. In the top of their stockings, they would hide rouge, and once out the house and round the corner, they would apply liberally and then scrub it off later.
Back before people sat glued to the television, the people would go out dancing every Friday and Saturday, all night, not for two minutes like these days – and even if you were tired and needed a sit down then there was always the hand-jive to do. Fish & chips on the way home from Hammersmith Palace – a Southern voice enters the Northern chatter. Her husband couldn’t dance anything – then he learnt the twist and won lots of trophies.
Names of bands I can’t wait to listen to: Jack Parnell Orchestra, Billy Fury, Screaming Lord Sutch, Edmundo Ros…and of course those I know Roy Castle on trumpet and stories of seeing The Beatles at The Majestic on the high-street. Closer to my own upbringing, we are told stories of Belle Vue – seeing Nat King Cole and the old Palais de Danse – Ted Heath & Eric Delaney.
Another Margaret says she grew up in the country with not much around, so she would have to cycle to the dances and she recalls one night, her husband having drunk too much and rolling into a wall. They danced barn-dances and the Gay Gordon.
And stories of wedding dances – someone’s son danced to Saturday Night Fever, someone else’s to The Birdie Song – remember that?!
A woman concludes: It doesn’t matter how old I am or what I look like now, inside I’m a 17 year old rock ‘n’ roller.