I Love to Dance, Dance, Dance
by Sally Dawley Stroud
I am eternally grateful to my wise Mother who encouraged me to take ballroom dance lessons when I was a pre-adolescent in Seattle! Although, I don’t remember much about the lessons, I do remember that the lessons would always start with boys making one circle and the girls making another and we would walk around the circle until we were told to stop and then we danced with the person who stopped in front of us. It certainly took away the fear of not being chosen to dance. We all struggled with the basic steps of the fox trot and waltz. But, after several lessons, most of us conquered the basic box steps and the reward was a field trip! Our parents took us one afternoon to a hotel ballroom in downtown Seattle. I remember how excited I was to put on a fancy dress and “go dancing”! It was shortly after when my father was transferred to Huntsville to orient new Boeing employees. Alas, I did not continue ballroom dancing, but I was thankful that at high school dances I was able to follow most of the boys as we danced to those slow tunes.
Fast forward to 2004 and I found myself trying to learn the South Carolina state dance: The Shag. I had signed up with a female friend for lessons at the Mount Pleasant Recreation Center and during a lesson I ended up dancing with a good looking guy with beautiful blue eyes and a very cute smile who had been asked by the instructor to come to the lessons to be an “extra male” as there were more females than males in the class. Michael had been a dance student of the instructors a few years before and knew all the basic steps and could help the beginners. He asked me out for coffee after the second class and from there, as they say “the rest is history”! We were married in 2009 and still like to shag!
When I called my Mom in Seattle, who was 87 at the time, and told her that I had met an awesome man taking shag lessons, her response was: “They give lessons for that?” Obviously, she only knew the British term “shagging” which is much different !!
For those of you unfamiliar with the Shag, here is a little history of the dance that has its origin on the coast of South Carolina. No one really knows exactly when it was started. Some people believe it evolved from the Swing and jitterbug of the 20’s and the Lindy Hop of the 30’s and when those dances came to the genteel South, the timing changed to a 6 count in 4/4 time. Another theory is that African Americans danced a slow grind step called the “dirty shag” in Myrtle Beach in the early 50’s and it was picked up by white dancers who “toned it down” and called it “shagging” (Bryan, 1995). The heyday of the dance was in the 50’s and Myrtle Beach was the hub.
The shag is considered a slot dance where dancers move back and forth in an imaginary narrow rectangle on the floor. The rhythm is slower than a jitterbug and the dancers feet stay close to the floor. The males are considered the “peacocks” of the dance as they glide back and forth with fancy footwork. The torso stays very straight. All the movement is from the waist down.
Most Carolinians believe for the shag to be performed properly you need the following:
Hot summer night
Wooden dance floor gritty with beach sand
High humidity AND...
Cold beer to quench your thirst as you demonstrate your originality and individuality in your footwork.
Anyone who grew up on the Coast of South Carolina in the 1950’s knew about the shag and most of them shagged at some time in Myrtle Beach ! The Shag almost died in the 1960’s, but children of long time shaggers kept it from disappearing and in the late 1970’s it saw a resurgence and today it is still a popular dance among the silver haired seniors. Local Carolina shag clubs are supporting Junior Shaggers to help keep the dance alive. Twice a year, the Society of Stranders (SOS) hosts a shag weekend in North Myrtle Beach. Shaggers from near and far crowd a six-block area filled with shag joints and the music jumps all weekend.
Here is a video of expert shaggers at a dance competition in 1993:
and another couple in 2013:
Michael and I will never be anywhere near this good as we only know 6-8 combinations, but we love to watch the “old time Shaggers” dance. It truly is a thing of beauty! Come to the coast of South Carolina and you will see someone shagging on the dance floor!
Memphis, TN - Sue and I are going to check out the Shaggers in Myrtle Beach for ourselves. Its funny...back when we were all going to Bradley's Cafeteria and dancing, we were dancing to music which was later identified as Beach Music. I always thought the term came from the California Beach, and had no idea it was Carolina Beach Music. Then, several years ago we visited Tybee Island outside of Savannah and I knew then I had been wrong all those years.
For your information, this is a very special issue of Lee's Traveller - it is for Monday, February 29th. I will not have to publish another Monday, February 29th issue until 2044. See you then.
My First Dance
Class of '65
Sorry I didn't respond to your request about our first dance. We are supposed to be retired, but we seem to have more to do now, than when we were working. I don't know how we managed to get everything done on the weekends when we were not retired.
My first dance was when I was in the first grade in Macon, GA. We had a May Day field day outside on the playground. We did the Hokey Pokey first and then we did the Bunny Hop. My mother had to go buy me a red western style shirt, my first pair of blue jeans, and a red western handkerchief that was hanging out of my hip pocket. As I remember it, we danced in a big circle (are should I say, we stumbled around in a circle when we did the Bunny Hop).
We also had a May Pole that the girls did a dance and wrapped ribbons around it. There were all kinds of games that we played, but I don't remember what they were.
I didn't know what May Day was then, but I just remember it was so much fun to get to go to school and do all kind of new things.
Oh, to be young again and able to do those things from our youth!
(Editor's Note: The photo above is of the May Pole ceremony at East Clinton Elementary School, and I would bet money the short kid on the left with his pants cuffed up is me!")
The Virtual Jukebox
Some More Selections by
The first time I remember ever putting a coin in a jukebox was to play "The Battle of New Orleans," a hit by Johnny Horton in 1959. The song commemorates The Battle of New Orleans, January 8-18, 1815, the final, decisive and most one-sided battle of The War of 1812; I would bet even Mrs. Wikle liked it. It was a Billboard #1 hit for 10 weeks.
Johnny Horton was born in 1925 in Los Angeles, but grew up in Tyler, Texas, where he acquired his talent for writing and performing country music. In 1953 he married the widow of Hank Williams, and soon became a regular on "Louisiana Hayride" and The Grand Ole Opry. His first hit was "Honky Tonk Man" in 1956. Other hits included "Johnny Reb," "Sink The Bismarck" and the title song from "North to Alaska," a 1960 film starring John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Capucine and Fabian (movie critics wrote that Fabian should keep his day job of singing). On a foggy night In November 1960, while driving home from a concert, his car was hit head-on by a drunk driver, killing him instantly. He was only 35 years old.
"Sink the Bismarck" was released in 1960, a tale of the mighty German battleship that ruled the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. The LHS Band, under Mr. Foley, added the song to our repertoire; I cannot recall if we ever performed it at halftime of a football game.
Released in September 1961, "Big Bad John" was co-written by Jimmy Dean and Roy Acuff, performed by Dean (August 10, 1928-June 13, 2010). It crossed over from country music to become a major popular hit single, and made Jimmy Dean a star long before he entered a second career of producing Jimmy Dean Sausages.
From Our Mailbox
Subject: Mail List
Barbara Hood Diamond
Thanks for your newsletter. Please add me to your mailing list. I am formerly Barbara Hood of the Class of '66. Have enjoyed reading the newsletter - you're a terrific writer and it brings back lots of memories!