As time goes by

By Barbara F. Dyer | Sep 03, 2020

Before the days of television (and I know there are some young enough that they believe television has always been around), people spent more time at the movie theater and going to dances. The young and the old spent many of their Saturday nights that way. It was a wonderful way of spending an evening of good exercise and enjoyment. It was such a nice way to spend the evening, after a week of working.

The Grange held one each week, for the public, in their grange hall on Mountain Street. There would always be a few contra dances (like the "lady of the lake," or quadrille, etc.). A contra dance is a folk dance made up of long lines of couples. Then there were also the usual waltzes and foxtrots for most of the evening. Many couples did it every week. Singles also went hoping someone would ask them for a dance.

In high school, we had a teacher who rented the Opera House (when it had a flat floor). He hired a dance instructor and, for the admission of only 25 cents, the students would enjoy an evening of fun. The instructor, Doris Heald Rolerson, would teach us the proper steps for each type of dance for one hour and the rest of the evening we danced with a partner that asked us. She also taught the latest craze like "The Lambeth Walk." She would count the beat out loud. It was 1-2-3 for a foxtrot; 1-2-3-4 for a waltz, and the Lambeth Walk was eight beats, while we practiced in lines. After an hour, we had the beat and I shall always be thankful that the teacher did that for the students, because I went to dances for many years and really enjoyed knowing how to dance.

In those days we only went to school functions, never a public dance. After graduation, many enjoyed a public dance, either with a date, or with other singles, with the hopes someone would ask them to join them on the floor. After I began working, a group of about five or six girls would go together for the Saturday night "thing to do." Dancing came easy to me and I so enjoyed it.

I remember they had a public dance at Simonton's Corner dance hall. We friends went regularly and that was at a time when people were allowed to smoke in public places. Between the smokey furnace and the cigarette smoke, the air in the hall was so thick you could hardly breathe. I suppose the smoke was even worse for us because we did not smoke. I was so happy when the dance halls and restaurants did not allow smoking. They also finally stopped it in our office and we could breathe again. In the early years they did not know how bad it was for everyone's lungs to breathe in that second-hand tobacco smoke.

I often think about the "old days," when we looked forward to the end of the week and finding a dance for Saturday night, when going to a dance on Saturday night was the most exciting thing we could choose to do.

One year, I believe it was in the 1950s, the "Big Bands" came to Maine. Some of them came on week nights, but we would go to Lewiston, Bangor, Old Orchard or anywhere to dance until midnight and still drive home in time to get to work the next day. We were able to dance to Harry James in Belfast and Lewiston, Cab Calloway, who always sang "Hi Di Ho" in Bangor, Louis Prima in Augusta and my favorite, Vaughn Monroe, in Lewiston and Old Orchard. Guess we were what were later called "groupies." It was fun being young and able to earn enough for a new car to drive anywhere in Maine and back home the same night, in order to dance to a favorite "big band." My Mother was good about it. She would ask me where I was going, who I was going with and what time would I be home. I would tell her and did what I said I was going to do. I was young enough to do what I said and get home in time to shower, change my clothes and get to work on time that next day. I worked with one girl, who felt she had to lie to her parents, always got caught and was not allowed to go anywhere. Oh, to have that energy and enjoyment again!

Well, I have to say, I did enjoy all the fun I had and am content that I now have good memories to think about while "in my rocking chair," or today it is the recliner and television. That's excitement enough for me.

I was told once by an older, wiser friend, "Live while you are living, and grow old gracefully." That was good advice. I may not be as graceful as in my youth, but I am very thankful that I did live while I was living and can now enjoy the old memories of friends I once had.

Life is not long enough, but "it is a cinch by the inch, only hard by the yard."

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.

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