May 13th…“TELL ABOUT THE FIRST DANCE YOU EVER ATTENDED AND HOW DID IT GO?”
(Editor’s Note: Even though I keep a database of my stories and topics now, in the beginning, I just wrote as the thoughts came upon me. Thus, some stories have been repeated, albeit unintentionally. Hope you don’t mind that I revisit my February 15th story from some different angles, perspectives and graphics…….Mange Takk!….meaning Many Thanks)
The crispness of Fall had descended upon our southern Minnesota farmlands like a frost encrusted blanket. Farmers, with all the zeal of conquering heroes, were busy in the harvesting of their fields in the hope of getting their crops safely into storage or sale barn before the first snows enveloped the earth once again.
School life for this farm boy, at the age of 12 in 1966, was about to entail an exciting event that would soon transpire in our village. That event was known as “HomeComing”. Many Kiester High School Bulldog Alumni would once again come home to their “alma mater” (which comes from Latin for: dear mother…..referring to their school as a mother figure when it came to education). Once again, as in their own school days, these honored guests could traverse the school hallways and enjoy memories of their youth in this quaint farming community of ours.
As was typical of HomeComings across the nation, the traditions of this fun-filled week were a faceted festival of frolic. Activities usually included big cheerleading sessions at school, wearing of extra blue and white school colors, the “mile high” bonfire with rally led by our cheerleaders, a big all-out marching band parading through town and, of course, the traditional football game against our archrival football team from Frost, Minnesota.
For a small farming community, our town had a great spirit for taking part in these fun festivities. It was a joy for this boy to witness the gamut of ages that took part in the annual HomeComing Parade; from us little ones in Grade School all the way through the High School classes. Each Grade echelon made, or at least sponsored, a parade “float” that was usually comprised and created upon some farmer’s “flat rack” wagon and decorated with a theme of how we were going to be the victors over the rival town’s football team on the Big Game Day.
The “Royal Court” of HomeComing usually would ride through the town’s parade route in regal style. Some generous community member would loan their new convertible and have the top down, so “King & Queen” could be best shown in their handsome royal crowns and robes spread across the trunk of that luxurious car. Parade “floats”, themselves, were customarily towed through the parade route by sparkling tractors, a handsome car or pickup and even a team of horses, now and then.
I fondly recall, way back in 1966, that our 6th Grade Class chose the idea of creating BIG pencils that we would carry as props as we joined all the other Grade Levels in marching through the parade route. The theme behind those giant tube pencils, with imitation erasers and points, was that our football team was going to “Rub ‘Em Out” on the gridiron that night. Classmates John Steven and Vicky Estebo (if I remember her name right) even carried a banner in front of our marching class saying, “RUB ‘EM OUT!!!!”.
Once the football game had been won by our Bulldogs, it was now time to culminate the wonderful week by attending the annual HomeComing Dance. One can only begin to imagine the hours that went into transforming the Bulldog gymnasium from a sweat-soaked athletic arena to an auditorium fit for the HomeComing royal court with their King & Queen. Blue and white twisted crepe streamers were attached to the basketball backstops, those backstops were then cranked up high and towards the center of the gym ceiling creating a tent effect that was magnificent in its dimension, color and overall theme enhancement.
The gymnasium’s wooden floor was to become a dancing haven for “tripping the light fantastic”. In order to enhance the dancer’s movements, a concoction of sawdust with either oil or wax was applied over the wooden floor to allow for easier shoe movement as the Bulldog ladies and gentlemen danced the evening away. For this prepubescent boy, though, that “powder” just increased the comedy factor in making it nearly impossible for me to stay standing; say nothing of trying to at least PRETEND to dance ……..which I could not do anyway.
There I was, an impressionable young man, trying to “make points” in dancing with my young lady who accompanied me that evening (who happened to be the local banker’s daughter). Instead of being another Fred Astaire (famous dancer of long ago), you’d think I had contracted a neuromuscular disease that forced my wannabe dancing body into strange, irregular convulsions as the music pulsated around us from the live band on stage that night. It’s a good thing that, in 1966, the in-fashion dances were so weird then, that I figured if my girlfriend asked, “What the heck are you trying to do?”, I’d just respond that I had just invented a new Norwegian Noogie Ooogie Woogie Dance!! 😉 Gloria Carlson, my date that evening, seemed to shrug off my antics and took this clumsy-footed oaf in stride as we wiggled and giggled that HomeComing Dance night away.
Donald O’Connor, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly would never have to worry about ME taking their jobs from them, but, overall, that HomeComing event was a memorable day and culminated in the first ever attempt at dancing for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.