Published originally in the
The Holy Name Dance
By Hank Brandli (Melbourne, Fl)
The other night, while
watching TV, I switched to Time-Warner Digital's easy listening music station
and "The Theme from Moulin Rouge" was on. My nostalgic mind recalled
the early '50s when that song was a popular record at the Holy Name Dance in
The Holy Name Dance
started on a Saturday night in the early '50s in an old, wooden church
community house on
Wooden folding chairs
were every where. Before my first communion, I had my catechism lessons in that
building, which was next to the
The Dixons, Hardings, Kelleys, Ryans, Feeleys, McNultys, Kindelins, Hennesseys, Johnsons, Burns, Bennetts, Haddads, Smiths, Sullivans, Eckbergs, Hallisseys, Clearys, Fannings, Butlers, Watsons, Cairns, Parks, Burchills, Devlins, Costellos, and Collins remember the old Holy Name dances that drew 100 or so teenagers every Saturday night.
The No. 1 songs of 1951. "Be My Love" by Mario Lanza, "Because Of You" and "Cold, Cold Heart" by Tony Bennett, "Come On-a My House" by Rosemary Clooney, "Cry" by Johnny Ray and The Four Lads, "How High the Moon" by Les Paul and Mary Ford, "If" by Perry Como, "Sin" by Eddy Howard and His Orchestra and "Too Young" by Nat "King" Cole.
How many times did I fall in love at the dance while swaying on the wooden floor with a girl and captivated by the music, songs, lyrics, perfume and atmosphere? Jane and I danced very close together - you couldn't slip a piece of carbon paper between us - to a song on the flip side of "Cold, Cold Heart" called "Blue Velvet" by Tony Bennett. She wore a green velvet dress with a full skirt with a crinoline petticoat.
We dated once after that, a movie, but the romance faded quickly away from the dance environment or, maybe the fact I didn't drive and had to use MTA buses killed it.
Movie dates were a
great convenience and variety in those times. You could walk to the
"Blue Velvet" was made famous later by an up tempo version by Bobby Vinton, but it was not as good to me as Tony Bennett's original.
The No. 1 songs of 1952. "Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart" by Vera Lynn and Chorus, "Blue Tango" by Leroy Anderson and His "Pops" Concert Orchestra, "Delicado" by Percy Faith and His Orchestra, "The Glow-Worm" by The Mills Brothers, "A Guy Is A Guy" by Doris Day, "Half as Much" by Rosemary Clooney, "Here in My Heart" by Al Martino, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by Jimmy Boyd, "I Went to Your Wedding" by Patti Page, "It's in the Book (Parts 1 & 2)" by Johnny Standley, "Kiss of Fire" by Georgia Gibbs, "Slow Poke"
by Pee Wee King and His Golden West Cowboys, "Wheel of Fortune" by Kay Starr, "Why Don't You Believe Me?" by Joni James, "Wish You Were Here" by Eddie Fisher and "You Belong to Me" by Jo Stafford.
"Here in My Heart" brought me to Mary near
The top songs of 1953. "The Doggie in the Window" by Patti Page, "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes" and "No Other Love" by Perry Como, "I'm Walking Behind You" by Eddie Fisher, "Rags to Riches" by Tony Bennett, "St. George and the Dragonet" by Stan Freberg, "The Theme from Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart)" by Percy Faith and His Orchestra, "Till I Waltz Again With You" by Teresa Brewer, "Vaya Con Dios (May God Be with You)" by Les Paul and Mary Ford and "You, You, You" by the Ames Brothers.
Back then, say 1951
or '52, there was a huge field on the hill (“Brown hill”) above the Parkway
Well, the old carnival grounds gave way to a new school and gym. And, in that gym, the new Holy Name dance was born. It was 1953.Word spread and kids came from all over the city to dance and fall in love.
"The Theme from
Moulin Rouge" by Percy Faith along with "You, You, You"
At an early dance in the new gym, Jerry Vail came in person (My buddy Chuck and I were responsible, after meeting Jerry on an elevator going up to the WMEX radio station in Boston) and sang "Two Purple Shadows On The Snow" without musical accompaniment and it was magnificent. Disc jockeys with names like Jay MacMasters on WMEX and Bob Clayton on WHDH played the songs of the '50s. The combination gym and hall was filled to the brim every Saturday night with well dressed and expertly groomed teenagers, as many as 600-1000 as I recall.
The No. 1 songs of 1954. "Hey There" and "This Ole House" by Rosemary Clooney, "I Need You, Now" and "Oh! My Papa (O Mein Papa)" by Eddie Fisher, "Little Things Mean a Lot" by Kitty Kallen, "Make Love to
Me!" by Jo Stafford, "Mr. Sandman" by the Chordettes, "Secret Love" by Doris Day, "Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)" by the Crew-Cuts, "Three Coins in the Fountain" by the Four Aces featuring Al Alberts and "Wanted" by Perry Como.
Nancy, the strawberry blonde Kim Novak lookalike, and I connected with "Three Coins In The Fountain" and other hits of '54, so much so we went to my Junior Prom in the back seat of my buddy Don’s parent’s brand new lime green and white Buick Roadmaster. We were picked King and Queen. And, Bingo, the romance was over in a week.
Boys and girls dressed in a variety of outfits including Billy (Mr. B) Eckstein shirts with pique collars, a variety of dress shirts with French cuffs, cufflinks, sleeveless sweaters, sports coats of all kinds, skinny knit ties, pegged pants, blue suede shoes (I wore a black pair), saddle shoes, loafers called penny loafers, Apache Mocs from Hanlon shoes in Jamaica Plain, buckskin shoes with red rubber soles (I wore a pair with black rubber soles), suede belts, long pleated charcoal skirts, long sleeve white blouses (some Ship 'n' Shore with stud pin across collar). The wardrobe was basically everything the kids wore in "Peggy Sue Got Married."
Records changed from 78 rpm large diameter black vinyl discs with small spindle holes to small diameter 45 rpm discs with large spindle holes during these years.
"Little Things Mean A Lot" led me to Bev and we dated a lot through the summer of '54 and most of '55. My dad bought a '51 Ford with his Treasury number betting pool winnings, and Bev and I saw a lot of each other, culminating in my Senior Prom .One Friday night, Bev wanted to see a certain movie. I was broke, but desperately in love, so I punched out the pennies from my blue book collection albums. At that time, gas price wars kept the price of a gallon of gasoline as low as 12 cents ,so a bunch of pennies meant something even on a date.
The No. 1 songs of 1955. "Ain't That a Shame" by Pat Boone, "Autumn Leaves" by Roger Williams, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" by Bill Hayes, "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" by Perez Prado and His Orchestra, "Dance with Me Henry (Wallflower)" by Georgia Gibbs, "Hearts of Stone" by the Fontaine Sisters, "Learnin' the Blues" by Frank Sinatra. "Let Me Go, Lover" by Joan Weber, "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" by the Four Aces, "Medic" by Les Baxter and His Orchestra, "Sincerely" by the McGuire Sisters, "Sixteen Tons" by "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, "Unchained Melody" by Les Baxter and His Orchestra and Chorus,
Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets, "The Yellow Rose
“Love Is A Many Splendid Thing” ,the song, the movie and going to the Totem Pole to see Al Alberts and the Aces resulted in brief teen age loves with Joanne and Margie.
Every once in while, a carrot colored-haired girl named “Vi” would appear at the dance. Actually, Vi’s hair color and lipstick matched.
Vi would prance in and around the sawdust-covered dance floor on her very - very long legs. Vi went to Holy Cross Academy, I seem to recall. I heard later her catholic high class classmates called her “Vizzie”.
She was stunning- very slim and tall with creamy porcelin skin. A few freckles speckled on her high cheek bones. Vi always wore green tight dresses to emphasize her eye color and other attributes. She was funny, bright and kind of devilish in her manner.
When you asked her to
dance, she came to you like a magnetic force attraction. Her sparkling
twinkling jade green eyes were at your eye level. You felt like you were her
Siamese twin joined at the abdomen when you whirled around the floor. I tried
not to monopolize Vi’s “dance card” lest I appear too greedy for her seductive
modology. We occasionally saw each other at parties in the upscale
neighborhoods on the
I still wonder to this day why I didn’t have the courage to ask her out. After All, we had been pretty ”close”.
From a conservative dresser at the early dances, I progressed to a kind of dandy later on. Maybe having occasional use of my father's car had something to do with it.
Every Saturday evening, after putting the final touches on my appearance - from the Tony Curtis-like DA coiffure to the tips of my black suede shoes - I went downstairs and always played one last 45 rpm record from my wire, thin metal rack holder of favorites before “I left the building”.
My dad would be
sitting in his comfortable, maroon, pub back, wing chair with matching ottoman
I would pull the paper-sleeved record from the rack, remove the paper protector and put the red labeled 45 on the spindle. Then, I would click the release switch, crank up the volume and dance across the gray, carpeted room like James Brown. When the refrain in a deep baritone saying "My darling." Then "I love you" came on, and I would
mouth the words as I pointed my index finger at my father's face.
That special look (only he had it) came over my father's face. What he said to me is unprintable. After finishing up this entertainment, I laughed hysterically, gave my mom and dad a hug and left the house with their departing words still ringing in my ears 50 years later. "Be Careful, Hank."
The dances were quite sedate as I recall. The dirty dancing was going on somewhere else.
The dance ended with
the song "For All We Know" by Bob Manning. The melody is still
popular, but the words will ring in my mind forever. Evidently, Clint Eastwood
loved this song also, because he used Johnny Hartmann's version in his
passionate slow dance scene in the kitchen of the "
After the dance, the crowd
slowly exited the hall. A few couples held hands, but most were singles going
home or to Brigham's or Howard Johnson's on
or any high ground in Jamaica Plain to view
the lights of
Those were great romantic times at the weekly Holy Name dance, which slowed in frequency in the '70s, and now is held every three to six months with a disc jockey on Friday nights. The Holy Name dance was a big deal for each of us, if only for a few years. College or jobs brought the end for each generation.
One recollection that is constant when I talk to friends about those times over 50 years ago. The girls, mostly Catholic, were lovely and in total control.
*I recently (Oct,2002) found out that the magnificent Holy Name church on Center St. was originally going to be built on this hill site, but Danny Ryan’s grandfather convinced the planners that elderly people would struggle climbing that hill, especially in winter.