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November 30, 2001

This Perry High School dance band provided musical entertainment for young people in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The music makers, all students at PHS from left to right: Theodore Hartman, Johnny Marshall, Donald Fraizer, Homer Moore, next one unidentified and only partly visible, Clovis Sever, Bob Kennedy (director), Phil Galaway, Hugh Lobsitz, Charles Lamb, Bill Haynes and H. C. (Cab) Galaway Jr.

As a bewildered teen in the 1930s, when a style of dancing known as “jitterbugging” came along, my problem was a lack of physical coordination. Normally that is part of the traditional progression of arriving at young adulthood, something that goes away unassisted as more mature years are accumulated. I somehow missed that transition. The condition persists. In technical terms, it has something to do with a non-correlation between the hip bones and the knee bones, as well as the ankle bones and the toe bones. I do not fully understand the problem, but I have learned to live with it. The fact is, I am terpsichoreally challenged.

But that does not affect my appreciation of swing music, the form that brought about a whole new way of ballroom dancing among young folks, the social level I was approaching at the time. Then, as now, I enjoyed swing and its derivatives, including ballads. I do not pretend to be a dancer. For confirmation, direct inquiries to Laura or any of the ladies I have partnered with on the dance floor through the years. I have not yet heard the final comment on my failure to even try waltzing to a genuine Viennese orchestra while on a tour of Austria a few years back.

Working nights in the family drug store during the teen years, I always tuned the radio to a remote broadcast featuring one of the dozens of popular big bands when they played at the Trianon or Aragon ballroom, the Glen Island Casino at New Rochelle, N.Y., the Hollywood Palladium (big enough for 6,500 dancers), Frank Dailey’s Meadowbrook or any of the other stylish dance venues around the country. Those broadcasts made huge celebrities of the band leaders, like Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and dozens of others. They also made their kind of music a part of our country’s society, and the beat goes on.

Young people were enraptured by the music. They listened to it on the radio, attended big band dances when possible, and (most importantly) they bought the 78 rpm records cranked out by the music industry. Those who did not live close to the big urban areas where the ballrooms were located listened to the regional bands or the university musicians who sprang up around the country. In Perry, as in other small towns, we had a few local bands composed of high schoolers who did their best to sound like the big guys.

I loved the music and still do, but I can only listen to it. My feet still do not move in time with the music. I gave Dancing in the Dark a whole new meaning. Fortunately, listening to those grand old orchestras on CDs, tapes or LP records still satisfies my need for that kind of music, but I do not venture onto the dance floor for anything faster than a slow fox trot.