Drumming up some happy

Cindy ArpFeature

My father began college in 1930 at Lincoln Memorial University, a private school in Tennessee near Kentucky. One day he was called to the Bursar’s office; his tuition check had bounced. The Great Depression was on, and there was no longer money in the family coffers for daddy to attend a private university.

He transferred to the University of Tennessee and found a job at the Athletic Dormitory, firing the furnace and serving food at the cafeteria. Housed and fed, he continued his education by taking out loans. Money was tight, but he managed to squeeze out a quarter every week for dance lessons.

Mother grew up in a dancing family. Her father, Jim, and several of his relatives had a band called “The Big Jim Band.” Family and friends would drop by the house on weekends and the band would strike up while everybody danced.

Saturday nights at our house meant watching The Lawrence Welk Show. Daddy would roll back the living room carpet, approach mother and say, “Ellen? May I have this dance?” Off they would go, mother kicking off her shoes, rising up on her toes, and following daddy’s lead as they waltzed around the room.

My sister, Judy, and I learned to dance from daddy, first with him picking us up and swirling around the room, then with our feet on top of his feet, and finally dancing with our feet on the floor. Daddy would give us instructions, “We’re going to take a little walk now,” or “Get ready to spin.”

When Dan and I got married, he wasn’t a dancer, but that changed the year we attended his company’s Christmas party. There was a live band, and everybody danced and danced well.

People were doing the Swing, the Waltz, and the Cha-Cha. At the end of the night, Dan turned to me and said, “We’re taking dance lessons.”

After six weeks of slow music dancing lessons and then six weeks of fast dancing lessons, we felt confident to dance in public. One year I tagged along with Dan on a business trip to Memphis. My sister lived there and after the conference closed, Judy, a friend of ours, and Dan and I visited the B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street. We danced every song.

Dancing is to smile, to laugh if one stumbles or makes up a strange step to cover up a mistake. Dancing is to move in joy and rhythm. I’m so happy my father saved back a quarter for dance lessons, so happy my grandfather played music while others danced, and so happy we attended a long-ago Christmas party where everybody danced.

Humphrey Bogart might have been happy that they’ll “…. always have Paris” Casablanca (“Film” Curtiz and Steiner, 1942) but I’ll always be happy that we’ll always have dancing.

Do I hear music? Let’s drum up some happiness!

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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