Scene One – EVERYONE KNOWS – Homestead High School cafeteria, Mequon, Wisconsin, April 3, 1959
“Sally likes you, Bobby,” Jeannie blushes, flips her pony tail, and walks away.
“Wait.” I reach for Jeannie’s arm. She turns. “How do you know?”
“Everyone but me,” I chuckle. “Who told you?”
“Mandy? How would Mandy know? I thought Sally was gong steady with Tommy.”
“I don’t know–. I’ve got to go. Why don’t you ask Sally? She’ll be at the hop Saturday night.”
Scene Two – RATTLE, RATTLE ON – Homestead High School gymnasium sock hop, Mequon, Wisconsin, April 4, 1959
Brown, vinyl padded, folding chairs line two sides of the gymnasium. Girls sit on the right, under blue stenciled letters on concrete block walls, Home. Boys sit on the left, under similar letters, Visitors. Scoreboard from the earlier basket ball game reads Home 54, Visitors 22. I should be pleased with our team’s victory, but tonight I feel like the Visitors. I grab a chair next to Pete.
“Hey Bud, how’s it going?” He asks.
“I’d rather be working on my hot rod.”
“Me, too,” Pete says. “How’s the Oldsmobile coupe coming along? Did you get the big block Chevy V-8 engine yet?”
“Nah.” I slump in my chair. Sit up son, my mother’s voice reminds me. “I need a girlfriend first.”
The band, two students playing accordions, with a drummer and lead singer, my friend Eddie, strike up a waltz which sounds more like a Polka in 2/4 time.
Then I notice Sally, raven black hair shining in moon beams of gym light, Aphrodite of Homestead High. Every guy wants her to be his gal. She’s talking to Mandy, maybe about me? Now’s my chance. She’ll probably say no. What would she see in a shy boy like me? Couples glide to the dance floor. I better get going. It’s ten miles across the dance floor and all of my friends will be watching. What if she turns me down? What will the gang say on Monday? It’s now or never. I snake through couples.
“Hi, Sally,” I stammer. “Would you like to dance?”
“Ah, Bobby. How sweet. I can’t dance with you. I’m going steady with Tommy.”
I dip my head. “Okay. See you later, Alligator.” She doesn’t reply. I slither back through the swamp of dancers. The waltz ends as I slump back into my chair.
“Okay rockers, enough of your father’s music,” Eddie shouts into the mic. “How about some Eight Bar Blues? Ready to bop to Rattle On?”
Pete stands and I follow him and a group of boys to the dance floor. Girls flood to the floor in unison. Everyone dances alone.
“Here comes Cindy, rattle, rattle.
After Mindy, tattle, tattle.
She’ll tell Lucy, juicy, juicy.
After Betty, always ready,
Next is Donna, before Lana.
Hear her secret, rattle, rattle
Scene Three – MY PARTNER – Home basement, Mequon, Wisconsin, April 24, 1959
Dad installs a three-inch diameter, white painted metal, screw-jack pole rising between the concrete floor and exposed first floor joists at the foot of our basement stairs. “Sagging stairs,” he says.
“My partner,” I reply.
Dad scratches his head as I run to the phone to call Pete. “Come on over,” I say. “We can practice the bop.”
And, practice we did. Every afternoon after school we’d rush to my basement. First Pete, then I’d grab the pole, as if it were my girl’s hand, first with my right hand, then with my left, while leaning back. We’d bop to the rhythm of Jerry Lee Lewis pounding from my Emerson, 45 rpm, portable phonograph. The pole never declined my invitation to dance.
Scene Four – SOCK HOP – Homestead High School gymnasium, Mequon, Wisconsin, May 8, 1959
“Hey Pete, how’s it going?” I slump in my familiar folding chair on the boy’s side of the gym and immediately correct my posture.
“Not bad,” Pete yawns.
I see Jeannie nodding to Mandy. She’s probably talking about Sally. Except, Jeannie looks across the gym at me. For an instant our eyes meet. My heart skips a beat. How come I’ve never noticed Jeannie before? Eddie strikes up Sea Cruise by Frankie Ford. I bop across the dance floor, leaving Pete in my shadow. My voice firms, “Jeannie, would you like to dance?”
“I thought you’d never ask, Bobby.” Jeannie takes my hand. She swings on my right hand, then my left, while leaning back. “You really can dance.”
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Creativity Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
Richard Wilberg is a creativity coach, musician, writer, photographer, and former business leader who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.