Saturday night fever and the supper waltz
Saturday night fever and the supper waltz
A friend’s blog has inspired me to write. She wrote about going to a dance recently at the local Cosmopolitan Club with her daughter. Her words conjured up tangible memories of the Saturday Night Dance at the Stoke Memorial Hall. It’s a long time ago. But reading Fiona’s blog, I was right there in my best frock seated on the wooden benches around the perimeter of the hall, waiting to be asked.
We’d spent all day thinking about going to the dance. We even went so far as to cycle to the river to swim with curlers in our hair. Sometimes (not often), we splashed out and bought a face mask from the local Chemist and sat in a hot bath to steam. We didn’t wear a lot of make-up but blue eye-shadow was big back then, I’m sure we wore blue eye-shadow. Pink lipsticks were pretty de rigueur also, or peach, or shades of pink and peach. I’m not sure we wore foundation, but I do recall pancake make-up that could be applied with a damp sponge – perhaps we did that.
The Stoke Memorial Hall had a polished wooden floor and a raised stage where the band played. It was the days of more formal dancing and the highlight was always the Gay Gordons. My friend and I had learned to do the Valletta and the Foxtrot and the Methodist Church Hall in Richmond (even though I was Catholic). But the Gay Gordons was a wildly exhilarating way to meet almost all the boys in the hall. For some reason, the fat boys with sweaty palms were always the lightest on their feet. You might not want a ride home with them, but you loved the way they swung you around and too, their gentle soft bellies if you stumbled.
Most of the lads wore suits. It’s hard to imagine, but they did. Suits and ties to dance, or a sports jacket. We loved sports jackets. There was something quite dashing about a sports jacket, or even better, the reefer jacket with the extra silver buttons on the outside sleeve. Single versus double-breasted, a lot could be elucidated from such sartorial observations.
We gave no thought to the terror the lads felt at having to cross the room and ask us to dance. All we knew was the terror of waiting to be asked. Naturally we reserved the right to say no, but it never occurred to us how awful that might be for the rejected suitor. Inevitably, there’d be one or two absolutely ‘must-have’ lads and inevitably, they were snapped up by the one or two ‘must-have’ lasses. This left the rest of us to make do with each other.
The Gay Gordons gave you a decent over-view of prospective rides home…
My friend and I would catch the bus to the Stoke Dance. The buses stopped running some time after ten o’clock and so we had a pact. One of us would find a boy with a car to drive both of us home. It was usually around supper time, after the supper waltz that such arrangements were confirmed. In the bright lights with asparagus rolls on side plates, or a chocolate lamington, we’d make eye contact perhaps for the first time that night with a potential ride home. In the full glare of the supper lights, potential rides home were able to be scrutinised and must have lads and lasses, sometimes faded to also-ran in the 100 watt reality. I guess that’s why the story ‘Supper Waltz Wilson’ the title story of Owen Marshall’s first short story collection, captured my heart immediately.
I don’t recall any of those rides home, but we were pretty safe, as we always went together – one ride was all we required. Whomever of the two of us was lucky enough to be liked for the night, scored a ride for their friend. I wonder what the boys thought about this? There’s no shining moment for me, just the excitement before the dance, the preparation, a kind of pageantry, and of course, the music.
Too, the Sunday post-mortem when we walked the switch-backs, sat in the long grass or swam in the river, comparing notes about the lad we wished had asked us to dance.
And how very strange that one of the most memorable songs from the Stoke Dance is an old Kiwi Folk song about the Māori Battalion – a song about war- but we never really thought about it in that light – well, I know I didn’t.
But don’t get me wrong, we did do the Hippy Hippy Shake, and Twist and Shout on those old polished floors – it wasn’t all waltzing.
P.S. I just found a link to this beautiful waltz
13 thoughts on “Saturday night fever and the supper waltz”
Lovely, Maggie; swimming in the river with curlers! Love it!!
Yes, I chuckle when I think about it – knowing how much trouble young women go to nowadays to ‘straighten’ their hair – we went through hell to get curls! (Slept in curlers even).
Thanks so much Maggie – gorgeous as ever and it reminds me of ballroom dancing lessons at St Bernard’s College on a Friday night:)
Nice, love the checking out of ‘potential rides’…hilarious
Never did a Saturday Night dance but loved the Gay Gordons at school (even though I was a terrified sweaty fat boy)
Obviously light on your feet then, Kambl! 🙂 Can’t believe they were still doing the Gay Gordons when you were at school….
They were practicing it for the school formal when I was at Tawa College the other week. Pretty funny
How delightful retro and cool all at the same time – so glad to know it’s still in vogue, even if only at school formals.
Lovely, Maggie! enjoyed every word of it.
Thank you Alexandra, now nice of you to stop by and say so.
Pleasure. Love your blogs, Maggie!
Thank you, Alexandra for stopping by to read and to comment. It’s always heartening to have feedback.
My first dance was somewhere in Donegal, driven by my older sister’s boyfriend, and accompanied by my other sister, three years older than me.
No chance of me getting a girl to dance with , so I’m out on the floor with Teresa as she tries to show me how to place my hands. I probably looked like a robot , when I got a tap on the shoulder. A large bouncer said ” No jiving till after midnight”.
Not my best night ever!
That’s what sisters are for!