Going Out in Public

No matter what you call it;  the facilities, the john, the throne, the biffy, the loo,  the water closet;  that porcelain plumbing fixture is a necessary part of modern life.  We take it so much for granted that we don’t realize until we get out in public just how important it is.  I don’t think I’m the only one who’s had some pretty unhappy experiences away from the comforts of home.

First comes the urge, then the hunt, then desperation.  Depending on where you are, and how and why you’re traveling, finding a restroom can get pretty hectic. Public buildings, hotel lobbies and parks can usually be counted on, although there’ve been times when I’ve had to resort to some creative thinking to find relief.   Running through restaurants, shops and bars,  shoving chairs, tables and customers aside, is frowned on, even if you do make a token purchase on your way out.

A car trip in the country will sometimes turn up a handy clump of bushes or a small stand of trees.   If you happen to be in desert country, not so handy.  No one wants to sit on a cactus.  And it’s right about here that we women can work up a real resentment toward the male of the species.  It’s so unfair.

Some years ago, while living in the Panama Canal Zone, several other leaders and I took a large troop of middle school Girl Scouts out jungle camping.  The first thing the girls learned was how to dig, use and fill in a jungle latrine.  It’s a quick, easy solution to the problem, needing only a suitable clearing,  reasonable privacy, your own T.P.  and,  Oh, yes, a shovel. I’ve often wondered if any of those girls ever had need of that skill in later life.

Traveling in foreign countries often brings up a whole new set of problems.  Going in public markets in Mexico, for example.  In an emergency, they do offer some privacy and a fixture that usually functions.  There will be a little old man sitting at the entrance, carefully doling out sheets of paper, 2 or 3 at a time,  never more. You pay a few pesos,  wondering at the flimsy quality, and  proceed inside.  The used paper is deposited in a basket next to the toilet, never inside, even in the private homes.  They don’t trust their plumbing any more than we do.

My husband and I were wandering through the Acapulco Princess Hotel once, admiring the murals in that first class establishment,  when I excused myself to use one of their first class rest rooms.  It was lovely in all respects and I confidently stepped into a stall, closed the bar lock and  did my thing.

The bar lock wouldn’t open.  I tried repeatedly and was finally able to see where a tiny screw had come loose and jiggled out of place. Having nothing in my purse that would dislodge it,  I grew increasingly frustrated until at last a maid came into the room.  My fractured Spanglish wasn’t good enough to get my message through to her;  she kept telling me to just open the door,  Senora, and I kept telling her  “no se function.”  She finally left, no doubt shaking her head over the loca Gringa who didn’t have sense enough to unlock a door.  So what did I do?  Well,  I ducked  under the door,  muttering to myself, “ there are restrooms in my own country where I’d never do this.”  The room was spotlessly clean.

On a car trip through El Salvador we stopped overnight at a tidy little pension in the capitol, San Salvador. Their dining room was spacious and bright with windows all along one side having a view of the nearest volcano.  The other side of the dining room was lined with toilet stalls.  Nice looking stalls, but for the fact that the doors were all skimpy enough to give the casual diner a view of the occupant from the knees down.  It was hard not to let your eyes stray while trying to enjoy your carne asada.  Fortunately we had a private bathroom in our room.

Ever since the ceramic army of ancient warriors was unearthed in Xian, China, I dreamed of a trip to see what to me must be the eighth wonder of the world.  Aside from the prohibitive expense,  I realized I’d never be able to cope after hearing stories of toilets in China being basically holes in the floor.  How do you say “Get me up off this thing”  in Chinese?

It seemed to me that  between my age and lack of agility I’d do a lot of prancing around with crossed legs before getting safely back to  real toilets as I knew them.  My daughter informed me just recently that nothing has changed there yet except in the tourist hotels in the larger cities.  Apparently the Chinese look at our porcelain toilets as being unsanitary.

Other oddities I’ve found in restrooms on other trips;  drain holes in the center of slightly sloping tile floors in Australia and New Zealand. I wondered if the fact that water swirls in the opposite direction as it drains Down Under creates a greater centrifugal force,  thereby threatening to  suck you in as you step out of the shower and get too close.  Rather nerve-wracking.

And I loved the fact that the shiny chrome plumbing pipes  are on the outside of the walls above the fixtures  in some European countries,  creating instant decor.  They remind me of free form sculptures.  They could have  little plaques attached with titles like “Plumbers’ Nightmare Number One”  or   “ Stabile In Chrome Number Two .”

Here in our own country,  I had an interesting experience not too long ago in a picturesque little beach town near here.  We were in a picturesque little restaurant in a picturesque old Victorian home.  Lunch was lovely and the iced tea was delicious, too delicious, in fact.  After gulping down the second glassful, I went off in search of the facilities.  The tiny restroom was a tad too picturesque,  the toilet so low it might as well have been on the floor,  Chinese style.  No grab bars, no way to summon help.  If my sister-in-law hadn’t finally shown up to see where I was,  I’d still be sitting there.  So much for picturesque.   Give me modern metal stalls, loose screws and all.

Over the years I’ve come up with a few words of wisdom.  If you plan to leave home, skip that second cup of coffee, under no circumstance take a diuretic ahead of time, no matter what your doctor says, and carry your own T.P.   Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to tote along a trenching shovel too, just in case.

You never know when you’ll be going out in public.

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How Much Butter?

It’s November. The harvest is in, the trees are bare and the nights are nippy. It’s time to start planning the annual Thanksgiving feast, that yearly pleasure. Once again there is so much to be thankful for.

You pore over your recipes, trying to remember everyone’s favorite foods. You make out your shopping list and wonder just how much butter will be enough for all those yummy dishes? How many pounds of butter should you buy? And don’t forget the cream, how many pints of cream will you need?  It would never do to run out of either of those vital ingredients.

You check your guest list. Hmmmm, looks like the usual 15 to 20 hungry celebrants. Your own family of four or five, several grandparents, some aunts and uncles and what always seems like hordes of children. Your drinkin’ Uncle Charlie doesn’t really count, he prefers to enjoy a liquid feast, well seasoned with malt, grapes or hops. Everyone else has their special requests, all rich and satisfying. Anticipation runs high.

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner begins with a round of toasts and heartfelt thank yous. Uncle Charlie is big on toasts, he loves drinking toasts and his thank yous are always heartfelt. Everyone waits eagerly for the noble bird, a glistening, burnished  turkey, to be carried proudly to the table, wafting a wonderful aroma of onions and spices through the house. In most homes, when it comes to choosing a turkey, it seems the bigger the better. You slather it with generous amounts of butter, followed by hours of basting with more butter to give it that  appetizing appeal and delectable smell.

Next comes the dressing or the stuffing, your choice of words. Do you stuff the bird or bake it separately? Whichever you do is fine as long as you use plenty of butter. Some methods call for ½ to ¾ pounds of butter in which to simmer the onions and celery to soften before adding the other ingredients. There have to be mashed potatoes of course, made with a large dollop of butter and rich cream, finished off with another big dollop of butter oozing across the top and running  down the sides. Gravy is a must, made with rich pan juices full of melted butter.

Healthy is not a word one would ever use when referring to a holiday meal. I recall giving my solemn promise that nothing combining the words “leafy” and “green” would ever appear on my holiday tables. We do love our veggies but what do we do to them?  Yams are caramelized in butter, peas creamed, the same with onions. Green beans are buried under french-fried onions, cream and butter, brussels sprouts thinly sliced and sauteed in butter, corn scalloped, with cream and butter added to a few crumbs. The list goes on. Save the tofu and the spinach for next week, or next month please.

Hot buttery croissants are a must, with a ½ lb. chunk of butter sitting at each end of the table for spreading. Cranberries are almost perfect as they are, neither cream nor butter spoiling their crimson tartness, just lots of sugar, but that’s another story.

By now Uncle Charlie is well into his own feast, contentedly reaching for the decanter for the third or fourth time.

Just when everyone is beginning to feel more stuffed than the turkey, the table is cleared and the desserts appear. Pie after pie, buttery crusts, creamy fillings, all covered with  mountains of whipped cream, Himalayas of whipped cream, veritable Grand Tetons of whipped cream. So what do we do?  We eat pie, sighing and groaning and loving it all.

We think back to the Pilgrims and our Native Americans; surely this was not what they intended. They may not have used butter, but they definitely left us a legacy in how to celebrate.

Our feast is almost ended. Coffee and brandy are brought out and Uncle Charlie cheerfully joins in on the brandies, shuddering slightly at the mention of black coffee.

The thoughtful hostess should probably toss a handful

Of Tums or Rolaids in with the after-dinner mints and give everyone a soft pillow for a nap. Even the children have calmed down and Uncle Charlie has slipped gently under the table, snoring quietly. Another Thanksgiving feast is over and the family is content.

I’ve read  that more gall bladder surgeries occur on the day after Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. Can this be a coincidence? Or is it a warning?

Oh, and how much butter and cream were actually used?  I lost count way back there with the mashed potatoes. Let’s just say a whole lot.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Auntie Jo Dodges an Intervention

Auntie Jo strolled toward the mall, accompanied by her oldest, dearest friend. They’d just polished off a lovely luncheon at the DELIGHTFUL DOWNTOWN DINER. This week’s special was deep-fried Peanut Butter-Jelly Sandwiches with Curly-Fries and they’d enjoyed them along with a nicely chilled Pinot Grigio. Since they were both watching their weight, they’d skipped dessert and settled for a second glass of wine.

Now they strolled along, reminiscing about old times and giggling like school girls. Auntie Jo was so caught up in her story about Miss “Fish-Face” Foster, their 4th grade math teacher with her unfortunate resemblance to a flounder, that she almost walked past a vaguely familiar face.

Catching herself just in time, she exclaimed to her friend, “Why, it’s my new next door neighbor! You must meet her!” The new neighbor smiled rather timidly. She and Auntie Jo had chatted briefly at their mailboxes that very morning. At least Auntie Jo had chatted, pausing for breath every now and then, just long enough for the new neighbor to manage a quick smile and a nod.

“How nice to run into you,” cried Auntie Jo. “You must meet my friend, my dearest, oldest friend …“ There was a pause – “My dearest, oldest friend … “ Her mind went blank. She turned to her friend, stammering “And th-this is my new neighbor …” Once again her mind blanked out. She stood stock still, totally speechless. How dreadfully embarrassing! Auntie Jo was mortified. Fortunately the ladies were already clasping hands and smiling at one another. Auntie Jo could do nothing but stare at the sidewalk, wishing it would open up and swallow her, red face and all.

She glanced up just in time to see a taxi approaching. Ignoring the honking cars whizzing past, she hailed it, grabbed her friend’s hand, leaped out into the traffic and shoved both of them inside. She waved a hasty good-bye to her neighbor, who was left standing at the curb, gaping. Too rattled to remember her own address, she weakly flapped a hand at her friend who managed to give the befuddled driver the directions.

That evening Auntie Jo relived the humiliating scene over and over. What was happening to her? Why? Thinking back over recent weeks she realized she’d been getting more and more forgetful. Forgetting or misunderstanding appointments, showing up a day early or a day late for important events, misplacing items, mixing up the simplest things, where would it end?

Was it just yesterday that she had poured a healthy glug of vanilla into the pot of chili she had bubbling away on the stove? She’d meant to use red wine. And how puzzled her doctor had looked a few days ago when she began asking questions about a root canal, thinking she was at the dentist.

She was aware that words and phrases she’d been accustomed to using no longer came easily to mind, like referring to her computer as a confuser or the blue spruce tree in her yard as a BlueTooth. And she’d definitely not had her eyes defrosted, although she’d had them dilated any number of times. She’d laughed everything off, but not this, not her best friend’s name. Her many little slips no longer seemed funny at all.

Was it any wonder her children had begun darting little glances at her, raising their eyebrows to one another when they thought she wasn’t looking? How could she ever tell them what had happened to her this afternoon? HORRORS! What if they felt compelled to stage an intervention!!  What would happen to her? What would they decide to do?

The idea of an intervention was too frightening. However, not one to brood for long, Auntie Jo tried to think constructively. What to do? What to do? And she had it! A reverse intervention! She’d throw a big family party, every detail planned carefully. She’d show them all how capable she still was!  What could possibly go wrong?

A nasty little voice popped up in the back of her mind, reminding her sarcastically, “Probably Everything,” but she chose to ignore it, her mind firmly made up. She’d start making plans and lists the first thing in the morning. Intervention indeed! HAH!!

With that settled , she toddled off to bed. Now if she could only remember those names…really, her oldest, dearest friend, her next door neighbor, how ridiculous! Once again she began to fret. Finally, after hours of tossing and turning, she drifted off to sleep.

At 2:00 o’clock in the morning Auntie Jo’s eyes suddenly flew open and she popped straight up in bed.

“Wilma!” she cried. “Wanda!”

But which one was which?

Ode to October

Autumn has arrived,  heralded by a brilliant Harvest Moon. That fat orange orb sometimes appears in late September, usually in early October,  and we see it again in November as we offer up thanks for our many blessings.  October is my favorite  of all the Fall months,  the mellowest of months when our busy lives slow down after an active summer.  We welcome an opportunity to rest and gather ourselves together for the holidays and the demanding winter to come.

The Harvest Moon reminds us of October fun;  hayrides, corn mazes and heaps of leaves raked up, just to be jumped into.  And do you remember bonfires, what fun they were, and how they always filled the air with such great smells?  The Harvest Moon  inspired one of the good old songs too, a standard at every Sing-a-long since.  “Shine On, Shine On”

Our landscape rapidly turns from rich greens to glowing yellows, oranges, reds and gentle  brown.  The chrysanthemums wear their October colors. As the days shorten, the farmers reap the last of their harvest,  and the fields, lawns and bulbs rest until Spring.  The kiddies are happy to be back in school, at least most of them are,  and we adults can grab a little extra snooze in the mornings and  enjoy the cozy evenings with popcorn in front of the fireplaces.

Everything smells and tastes like pumpkin,  spice , and every variety of apples,  fresh fragrant apples that crackle when you bite into them .  We’re ready for hearty soups, stews and chili.  Iced tea has given way to freshly pressed cider and hot chocolate.  Fall squashes appear on our tables, along with other seasonal favorites.

The BBQ tools and  camping gear,  the air conditioner,  the pool and all the summer toys have been stored and the lawn mower is parked next to the snow blower, each waiting for it’s season.  The skis and skates haven’t been brought out yet and the sleds still hang on the garage wall.  Sunburns have long since peeled and faded,  sandals have been traded for shoes and boots, and swimsuits for sweaters.

The vacationing relatives  have all returned home, not to be seen again until the holidays when they’ll descend again like locusts , ready for another round of  “just dropping by”  for weeks at a time.

And on the very last day of October ,this mellow month has one final gift for us … Hallowe’en … that rowdy, semi-spooky celebration beloved by children and the young at heart.  We love the costumes, the garish decorations and the cries of  “Trick or Treat” echoing throughout he neighborhood as darkness settles.

Hallowe’en is believed to be based on the ancient pagan holiday of SAMFHAIN, the Celtic New Year.  This was a harvest festival dating from the 700s A.D. , rife with superstitions  meant to ward off ghosts  and welcome the darkness of the coming season

But right now  it’s party time,  launching us into the busy weeks ahead. Let’s grab our masks and go Trick-or-Treating!

The Happiest Love Songs

“Love, Love, Hooray For Love,  Who Was Ever Too Blase For Love?”

Love songs should all be happy.  You want to belt them out with so much energy and enthusiasm  that everyone  joins in. They  never get old.

Thinking back to the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s,  who could ever forget a song like “Hooray For Love?”  The  lyrics were written by the great Harold Arlen, who also wrote a little something called “Over The Rainbow.”  The second line in “Hooray For Love,”   “Who Was Ever Too Blase For Love?”  has to be one of the most delightful lines in popular music. The imagination that wrote the word “blase”  into a love song and made it work is what made Arlen such a great songwriter.

There were so many other talented  songwriters of that era . We can all recall  Cole Porter,  George Gershwin,  Irving Berlin,  Jerome Kern,  Rodgers and Hart, and Oscar Hammerstein,  and the list goes on.  They turned out one unforgettable song after another.

Maybe it was the times,  the Great Depression followed by  World War Two,  that gave us such an appreciation for simple, joyous music. The promise of sunshine and silver linings ahead kept us going through a lot of very dark days.  Whatever the reason, those songwriters knew how to cheer up an entire nation with their words and music.  Funny, isn’t it,  how the spirit of an era could be lifted by a few happy songs.

Remember  “Get Happy,”  “Old Black Magic,”  “Million Dollar Baby In The Five And Ten Cent Store,”  “You’re The Tops,” or  “ It’s Delightful, It’s Delovely?”   and how about  “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” ” You Are My Lucky Star,”  and  “Fit As A Fiddle And Ready For Love?”

The smiles just kept coming.  Who could forget  “ Oh, Mama, It’s The Butcher Boy For Me,”   “A Bushel And A Peck,”  or  “Buttons And Bows?”  Some of the most memorable songs came out of World War Two,  such as  “Jeepers Creepers,”  and  “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.”

And what about the  happiest, most exuberant  love song of them all?  Written in 1929 and made famous in 1952 with lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown,  it made every one of us want to run out,  splash in rain puddles and swing around lampposts.  As danced and sung by the one and only Gene Kelly,  “Singin’ In The Rain”  had to be the most unforgettable, inspirational, lighthearted love song of  all time.

If  “Singin’ In The Rain”  doesn’t cheer you up,  nothing will!!

“What A Wonderful Feeling To Be Happy Again!”

Wedding in the Wilds (from my memoirs)

As small family weddings in remote places go, it was absolutely perfect. Picture a beautiful June day, a lovely little chapel in a scenic valley next to a rushing river, and a blushing bride with her nervous groom, ready to step into their future. Our oldest daughter, Mimi, and her husband-to-be, Howard, were the leading characters.

To complete the scene there was a misty eyed mom (that would be me), a beaming dad (my husband Lynn), a fluttery sister and a fluttery best friend as bridesmaid and maid of honor, and a proud young brother and brother-in-law-to-be in their roles as usher and best man. A very likeable family of new in-laws, a pair of pleased grandparents, mischievous uncles to decorate the getaway car and doting aunts with helping hands filled in the picture. All these plus a bubbly 7 month old baby girl added to the fun. A pleasant young minister with a sense of humor was the final touch.

Yes, the wedding was a delight. The preliminaries and the aftermath, not so much.

The happy bride-to-be, our oldest daughter Mimi, was 800 miles away that spring, too busy being engaged, graduating from college and nailing that all important first job to worry about wedding plans. Once she and her equally busy guy settled on a date, the rest was turned over to me.

“It’s all good, Mom. Whatever you want to do is fine with us. Just keep it simple.”

That was all this old do-it-yourselfer needed to hear and I leaped into action. Lists first of all, lots of lists. Living as we did in eastern Idaho, 54 miles from everywhere, planning was all important. Invitations, the DRESS, the rest of the attire, the food, the flowers, the cake, photos, just some of the dozens of details to be worked out. The venue was simple, the lovely little chapel was just down the road from us and was quickly reserved. A treasured piece of creamy white raw silk brought back from the Orient on one of Lynn’s trips was just waiting to become a wedding dress. I sent off a sample invitation, a snippet of the silk and a dress design  for the bride’s approval. Her answer came back, “Sure, Mom, all fine.”

Invitations went out.  24 acceptances came back. Looking around our modest little 3 bedroom home, we shook our heads. The first and oldest motel in history may have been in Central California, but surely the 2nd oldest was just down the road, right there in Swan Valley, with maybe a total of 6 or 8 rooms, all shabby. We sent our expected guests lists of accommodations in Jackson, Wyoming, 50 miles east and in Idaho Falls, Idaho, 54 miles west, the best we could do. They came anyway.

The weeks flew by. I sewed, I shopped, I cooked, filling the cupboards and my new copper colored freezer-fridge with everything I could think of. I sewed some more, I shopped some more, I cooked a whole lot more. Soon 4 new dresses and 3 headpieces were hanging, ready for the event. Thanking my lucky stars for the A-line dresses then in style, I guessed at approximate sizes. With daughter Kerry at hand, I knew she and I would fit into our finery, and last minute alterations could be done on the other 2 dresses if necessary. Miraculously they were perfect fits.

With time growing short, our neighbors all took an intense interest in the proceedings. We were living in a small government camp of 24 houses at the time so our situation was quite a diversion. A friend’s mother came out from the city to visit her. Being employed at a bakery in town, she gave me a very welcome lesson in making icing roses. I soon had a tray full of creamy roses tucked into the freezer for the finishing touches on the cake layers I had wrapped and waiting.

There were a few glitches. Snow filled the cups of the spring tulips 3 days before the wedding. Not to worry, this was Idaho, weather changes fast. And it did; the tulips weren’t even damaged. The day before the wedding Lynn and I had to make a last minute run into Idaho Falls to pick up the flowers, fresh grocery items and such, leaving all 24 guests plus the baby to do some sightseeing, which they seemed happy to do. We provided local maps and directions, and eastern Idaho at an elevation of 6,000 feet provided the scenery.

Lynn pulled a hilarious faux pas that started the festivities off in the right mood when the car loaded with our bride, groom and her best friend pulled into our driveway. In the general excitement Lynn rushed out, clasped Howard’s hand and welcomed  “Harold” to our home. HOWARD never let him forget that greeting.

A few days earlier Lynn had talked me into taking a short ride up the mountain just behind our camp. He had a new little mountain bike of some sort and convinced me I needed a relaxing getaway from all the preparations. Against my better judgement I hopped on behind him and we putt-putted away up the trail.

I wasn’t exactly relaxed but I was trying to be when Lynn suddenly spotted a side trail that needed exploring. A sharp turn to the right and I slid off the seat, hands and knees  down in the gravel. I shrieked out a few bad words, my mouth being all I could move for a few minutes. Just then faint voices were heard from the camp below. My friends and neighbors were clustered in the road, hollering up at me, “Joan, Joan, are you alright?” Pride came to my rescue. I leaped up, shook myself and shouted back through gritted, gritty teeth, “I’m just fine, thanks.”

I had no way to get down off that dratted mountain except to climb back on the devil machine and ride back down, muttering imprecations all the way.

My Mother-Of-The-Bride dress was knee length, just right to display my scraped and abraded shins in all their glory. Fortunately my raw silk dress was a soft dusky rose that matched my scarred, scabbed legs perfectly as I hobbled into the chapel on my son Kirk’s arm.  With his assistance,I sat down very carefully.

And at last, the wedding! The entire day turned out to be everything we wanted it to be, a beautiful, memorable experience for all of us.

So afterwards?  Well, things could have gone better afterwards.

Somewhere along the line, in the midst of the whirlwind wedding preparations, Lynn and I had made a fast trip to Yakima, Washington. Realizing Idaho was a bit too rustic for us with two high school students still at home, we drove over to check out his new job offer. Liking everything we saw, we quickly rented a house and arranged for a moving van to show up two days after the wedding.

As we stood on the curb the morning after the wedding, waving good-bye to the last of the guests, we looked around and watched in shock as our moving van came barrelling down the street a full day early. The driver had a good story. He had inherited some money back east and, being very anxious to collect, he thought we just might be able to get away a little ahead of time. He’d help us with whatever needed doing just to get under way. A quick sidewalk conference was held  with our kids and our sister-in-law June, who was staying over an extra day, and we all decided “Why Not?”

Never was a household packed up and transported in less time. June spent the entire day packing the kitchen, the kids took care of their rooms, the driver willingly took on every job we gave him, and Lynn and I worked like dogs. For those who might wonder why nothing had been done ahead of time, we’d had 24 wedding guests and a baby to entertain and everything we owned had been in use.

The crack of dawn the next morning found us loading up “Snowball,” our old blue-eyed white cat, along with a cooler full of leftover wedding goodies. We gave the van driver our new Yakima address, dropped June off with her son in Pocatello and headed west.

The first night in our new home found everyone almost too exhausted to sleep. Poor Snowball kept falling off the end of our bed and I was just too tired to pick him up. Somehow he’d manage to get back on the bed, only to fall off again. This went on all night and I just couldn’t wake up enough to help him.

We never did hear if the van driver got back to Maine to pick up his inheritance but we certainly did our part.

Looking back over the years, we all remember that wedding in the wilds as a lovely, calm interlude between some really hectic experiences.

Oh yes, moving day also happened to be my birthday, a totally forgettable detail under the circumstances.

Jeepers Creepers!! The Jitterbug! …

… How 1940s Hep-cats Learned To Cut A Rug.

Was there ever a dance more aptly named than the Jitterbug? The dance craze inspired by Cab Calloway in the mid 1930s swept through the 1940s like a …well …like a jittery bug. It kept everyone hopping, leaping, dipping and throwing themselves and their partners around for the next few years. Just reminiscing about it decades later can give me a flashback sciatic attack complete with spasms.

The original version of the Jitterbug was a sexy, seductive glide with both partners snuggled tightly together. I have an idea it was a far cry from the jerky, acrobatic version my high school friends and I, all about 16 years old, were attempting to learn in 1942 at “The SURF,” our local ballroom.

After a week of school, with my afternoons spent working from 2:00 to 5:30 at the local Kresge’s dime store, Saturdays were a mad rush. I’d put in a long day at work from 9:00 to 9:00 with 2 half hour lunch breaks. As soon as the store closed and we got checked out, I was off to the “SURF” to meet my friends. Admission was nominal for those times, with maybe a few coins left over for a couple of sodas during the evening. Our  anticipation ran high as we burst into the noisy, dimly lit ballroom, music already pulsing away. We were ready to jump in.

Both Swing and Jazz music were hugely popular at that time, and both were perfect for the dance we loved, the Jitterbug. Songs like “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,”  and “Jeepers, Creepers” would have us on our feet in no time, bouncing around like jumping beans.

None of us were very good dancers, but I was especially clumsy and inept, all bony elbows and knobby knees. Add to that a certain amount of shyness and timidity and I was not the most sought after partner by any means. The below-the-knee dresses and rubber soled saddle shoes we girls wore didn’t help much either but I was enthusiastic and determined.

Some of my partners were strapping farm boys, used to tossing bales of hay and corralling stubborn animals. Timid as I was, I lived in fear that one of them might decide to throw me over his shoulder or slide me down between his feet. What if his hands were as sweaty as mine were, too slippery to hang on?  What if he threw me out so far I couldn’t swing back? What if he dropped me? Or worst of all, what if he lifted me so high my skirt fell down around my ears, exposing my sensible cotton undies to the whole world? All too terrifying to contemplate!.

Fortunately the guys were usually as inexperienced as we girls  were, but what we lacked in skills we made up for in enthusiasm. We ended up with kind of a spastic combination hop, skip and jump. Whatever we were doing, we thought it was great fun as we puffed and panted, our ears rang and we perspired rivers of sweat. We rarely sat down between sets, eager for the downbeat and the next song. We thought we were really cutting a rug!

Our evenings always ended at 1:00 a.m  with one slow dance to a dreamy version of “Sentimental Journey,” “Deep Purple” or “Begin The Beguine.”  A quiet ride home and off to a bed that never felt so good as it did in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. I’d fall into it, ears still ringing as I Jitterbugged off to sleep, already looking forward to the next Saturday night.

Time passed, we finished growing up, graduated and moved off toward our futures. Before I knew it we were into the 1950s and something called Rock and Roll burst on the scene, eagerly embraced by a younger crowd of energetic kids. It quickly replaced the Jitterbug everywhere except in my memories.

Jeepers Creepers, what a groovy dance that was!