When I was young, Friday nights were “canteen” night at the Mt. Washington recreation center, typically referred to as the “Rec”. What, you may ask yourself, is canteen? Well, this is your lucky day because I am here to tell you. Canteen was the magical transformation of a recreational center gym to a ballroom. That might be a slight overstatement, but you get the idea.
What served during the week as a recreation center, was all decked out on Friday night with a disco style spinning ball (although disco had not been invented yet) which filled the dimly lit room with spinning lights of many colors. Crepe paper strewn from various locations help to make one oblivious to the fact they were in a gymnasium. You barely noticed the painted markings of the basketball court on the floor or the basketball goals cranked up against the wall. Music was mostly provided by an amplified record player spinning 45 rpm records. Occasionally a visiting local DJ would spin our favorite songs. If we were lucky, we would have Bob Braun as our guest DJ.
Most often, much of the evening was spent on one side of the dance floor, hanging with your pals. As the evening wore on, I was envious of the more adventuresome who would take that long trek across no man’s land to ask one of the girls to dance. Those who could, would dance the twist, the hand jive, the locomotion, and if no chaperons were looking, maybe even the dirty dog. Unfortunately, I was limited in my abilities and could only manage the box step to a slow dance song. Thank heaven for the Platters. But, before the last dance I would usually screw up my courage, make my way across the floor and ask someone to dance. Fortunately, I was rarely turned down. The two and a half minutes felt like an eternity and it was plenty of time to fall madly in love, a state that lasted at least until next weekend, when the cycle would repeat.
After Canteen we would all walk about a mile to the local pizza parlor for a coke and some garlic bread, where we discussed our evening conquest. Afterwards we would walk back home. After several years, we were much older and then went to the Friday night dance at the local Legion Hall. The circumstances were the same, just the location was different. Even to this day, when my wife and I are somewhere there is dancing, I will eventually ask her to dance. And it is always a slow dance because I have finally perfected the box step.
Those are my memories, what are yours?