Dancing was our passion in the '50s
Oh how we loved to dance! Anywhere, anytime! Our music has certainly stood the test of time! Two early songs were “Cherry Pie” and “The Clock.” Favorite artists in the mid-50s were Bo Diddley, Ruth Brown, LaVerne Baker, Sarah Vaughn. the Coasters, the Clovers, the Drifters (remember “Money Honey”?), all of the “Annie” songs by the Midnighters – so many great artists. Most of us never much cared for Pat Boone or Eddie Fisher — they seemed just a little too tame. Doris Day’s “It’s Magic” and The McGuire Sisters’ “Sincerely” were big hits.
We learned to shag (has a different meaning nowadays) to the fast tempo songs. We knew the same basic steps so it was easy to dance with anybody — from Monroe, at the beach, or with teenagers from other Southern towns. Your head stayed level, no bobbing or bouncing, and your feet did the intricate movements. The shag dance steps are still going strong! Before we were old enough to go to the Teenage Club (had to be in high school), we congregated at Shute Hall which was built by J. Ray Shute in memory of his son, Sonny. Shute Hall was located on the corner of Beasley and Morgan Streets, behind the old Methodist Church (now a parking lot on the corner of Hayne and Windsor Streets). There we would listen and dance to jukebox music, play Ping-Pong, or just “hang out” with friends. A few of the popular songs such as Kay Starr’s “Wheel Of Fortune,” Teresa Brewer’s “Till I Waltz Again With You,” the Four Aces’ “Tell Me Why,” and my all-time favorite, Johnny Ray’s “Cry.” (Shute Hall also was the Boy Scouts meeting place.)
Finally we were old enough to go to the Teenage Club! This building was located on Main Street across from the old Post Office where Skyway Drive and the new courthouse are presently located. Built as a USO for the soldiers during World War II, it was later used as a Recreation Center for boxing, wrestling, and even square-dancing. A lot of history was torn down in the name of progress. Bertie Mae Broome, seeing that teenagers needed a place to congregate, opened the club. She was often helped by Mrs. Tom Young and sometimes, my mother. Every Friday and Saturday night the place was packed, and most of our important school dances were held there. Jukebox music with songs such as “Good Lovin’,” “Love Potion No. Nine,” “One Mint Julep,” “Earth Angel,“ and the infamous “Sixty Minute Man” were heard along with the “slow” songs (Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are” and Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa”, to name a few). Every song that The Platters recorded was a hit (remember “Only You”?)! Along came Elvis with “Hound Dog” and his “Blue Suede Shoes.” In 1956, Frank Broome and my sister, Gale, saw Elvis Presley perform in Charlotte (she wasn’t impressed; I would have been!). Chubby Checker and “The Twist” didn’t come out until 1960 when most of us were in college, but it did make quite an impression.
I didn’t believe Howard Baucom when he told me that our big 78s were going to be replaced by 45 rpm records, but he certainly was right. Most of our records were bought at the Jukebox record Shop (owned by the Knights) located on Main Street at the corner of Windsor Street. The Soda Shop (another popular after-school hangout) was just a few doors down, next to the
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One time when the Jukebox Record Store had sold out of Teresa Brewer’s “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” I asked my mother to please buy me a copy while she was shopping in Charlotte. She came back without it, saying that they didn’t have a record named “Bony Parts of a Tree.“
We listened to Chatty Hattie and Genial Gene on the radio. They played our music and even took requests. Kilgo’s Korner was another Charlotte radio program that played dedications. It came on around 9:00 p.m. We would listen to see if anyone we knew had a song dedicated. Kilgo would sign off playing “Dream, when you’re feeling blue; Dream, that’s the thing to do…… Things never are as bad as they seem; So dream, dream, dream.” Later, Kilgo’s Kanteen, a dance show similar to Dick Clark’s Dance Party, came on TV. Television was still very new to most of us.
Doesn’t just hearing an oldie bring back a rush of feelings and memories?! We’re right back during our teen years with all that angst. To quote from the Drifters, who once sang, “So, darlin’, save the last dance for me.”
• Nita Williamson writes a monthly nostalgia column for The Enquirer-Journal.