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My first dance was at a school sock hop

October 30, 2009
By James P. Whipple

It was a cool September night. I had never been to school on a Friday night before. It was my first time going to a dance called a "sock hop." The school, Suitland Junior High, sat behind the high school and the two schools in 1956 sat in the middle of the country in Prince Georges County, Maryland.

The dance was held in the multipurpose room. During the day it was the lunch room, and assemblies were held there as well as plays and concerts. The dance was called a sock hop because you left your shoes at the door. The floor was waxed, and the principal did not want the floor to be scuffed.

As you came into the room the record player was to the right. The refreshment tables, full of cokes, snacks and cookies from the PTA, sat on the opposite side of the room. At this dance there was a record player that played both 78s and 45s, and a live band made up of high school kids. The walls were decorated with fall colors done in crepe paper.

The sock hop came along with a new style of music called Rock N' Roll. This was the era when Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone and Elvis Presley were just starting their careers.

As the music started, the lights were dimmed. The girls stood on one side of the room, and the guys stood on the other side. The first song played, and each group just stared at the other and giggled nervously. The second dance was usually an icebreaker. It was either the girls choose or a dance that was done and partners were chosen during the dancing.

The hip girls wore something called a poodle skirt, usually with a sweater top. Bobby socks and saddle shoes which were either white and brown or black and white.

The cool guys wore a white T-shirt, blue jeans, no belt with a black motorcycle jacket. The shoes were sneakers, or if you were really cool motorcycle boots. In the language of long age "it was cool to be hip"

My first dance was the third dance. I was shy and was leaning against the wall sipping on a bottle of Coke. The dance was a "ladies choose," and the girl (whose name I no longer remember) asked me. She was taller than I, and she was a good fast dancer. I was only good at slow dances. I said "Who me?" and she almost had to drag me onto the dance floor. We stood hand in hand dancing to a song by Jerry Lee Lewis. She was a wonderful dancer. I pictured her dancing with a broom, the broom being me. I barely moved. The song seemed to go on forever. We whirled around the floor, she leading all the way. I kept trying to at least move with the beat of the music. I kept thinking that everyone was staring at me and laughing. Finally it was over. I said "Thanks" and ran to the men's room. But I did dance more that night.

The last dance was a slow one. I think it was Elvis's "Love Me Tender." I asked the young lady who danced with me earlier, to dance. She looked at me sweetly and said "My mom doesn't want me to dance any slow dances with boys." With that, I was ready to go home.

After the dance a bunch of us hopped into a friend's, car and went to the Hot Shop, where I drowned my sorrows with a big vanilla shake and ate a Mighty Moe with fries. There were many more dances in my life, but I'll never ever forget the first dance.

 
 
 

 

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