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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Good Day for a Story"
"Good Day for a Story"

Spinning Poodle Skirts
by Jeanne Moseley

If it hadn't been for the Optimist Club, growing up in Ellis County wouldn't have been much fun at all. But as it happened, this group provided a swimming pool, ballpark, annual carnival and Youth Center to keep us busy and out of trouble.

I personally put these resources to good use, especially the Youth Center.

Long before I became a teenager, my parents served as chaperons many a Friday night at the Youth Center. There was nothing quite as "cool" as watching those real teens spin around the dance floor in their poodle skirts. They formed lines and commenced to do the "stroll" for hours on end, and when it was time for a break, there I'd be ... selling candy behind the snack bar under the watchful eye of my parents.

My longing to be a teenager spurred me on to an interest in dancing, music and fashion long before my time. After everyone was gone from the Youth Center and my parents were closing up, I'd put on a few records and mimic those smooth dance moves, having the dance floor all to myself.

Once I moved on and entered high school, it was particularly meaningful when my friends would yell out across the crowded school corridor, "See you at the Youth Center!" To be sure, I would be there. Almost every Friday night after the football game, I'd join my girlfriends as we gathered, poised and ready, for the night ahead.

There wasn't any central air conditioning at the Youth Center, so in the winter we'd congregate around one, lone space heater during the early evening. However, it didn't take long before we were warmed by the gyrations from the twist, monkey, hully gully, swim and pony.

Summer dances were somewhat more challenging, though. Back in those days, we teased our hair which we then plastered with Aqua Net (hairspray). After a few bounces around the dance floor, both boys and girls had pretty much worked up a sweat. We'd walk away from a slow dance with our hair flattened on one side while the boys would wear what was left of our hair-do on the side of their heads.

This didn't seem to bother us, though. Such appearances were the benchmark of a good time.

Unless you count the intermittent fights in the parking lot or the coolers of beer scattered here and there, we were by all counts good kids. Boys were the only ones who got away with smoking, drinking and fighting. As for us girls, our focus was perfecting our dance techniques and reeling in a good dance partner.

Seldom, if ever, did we have a live band. And when we did, it was a local group of friends striving to make a name for themselves. We played records, albums and finally, I think, we got a real jukebox.

Probably my favorite dance of the night was the "last dance." It didn't always happen that I got asked, but when I did, I loved to sway to "Goodnight, sweetheart, well it's time to go." That's probably why slow dancing remains a favorite of mine after all these years.

Every so often, my husband and I will take a twirl around the kitchen floor to the sweet melody of Johnny Mathis as he sings "You ask how much I love you ... until the twelfth of never" and in my mind I'm back at the Youth Center, poodle skirt and all.


March 2001
Copyright 2001 Jeanne Moseley

North Central Texas Towns

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