Two-step, jitterbug and bunny hop
Lost in the ‘50s one more week. One could do worse than be lost there, but let me digress just a moment before we start. Anytime I use a phrase like one could do worse than so and so, I always figured my high school English teacher will catch it for sure as being from Robert Frost, the poet writing about swinging on birch trees, but Dr. Tucker has now left us down here to remember her … and the many things she taught us. Rest in Peace my dear teacher and good friend.
OK, back in time to the formal and sometimes a little informal dances we attended in Linden and Demopolis in those times, with teenagers the country over doing the same thing. Homecoming at the Linden and the Demopolis Gyms, Sweetheart ball south of the Bogue and DTD dances on the river in DeMop.
We and I mean the fellows, too, did not show up in casual attire. Pretty doggone formal and Spivey I reckon you might call it. We’d go to pick up our date, and have to meet the glare of the daddy, who would be remembering what he had on his mind when he was our age, and then we’d have to endure the picture taking by the mama. Sure as the world, the flashbulb wouldn’t work, so the daddy would sternly mosey over, lick the base of the bulb, stick it back in, and finally … a flash … and we could be on our way.
We would have already checked the fuel gauge on the Ford or Chevy, and if it needed a bit of gas, just stop by Jimmy Cannons Pure Oil in Linden or Mr. Black’s in Demopolis, and get them to check the tires and oil, and pump in a dollar’s worth. That would amount to about five gallons of cruising juice at 19 cents a gallon.
Once we arrived, we didn’t have to worry about the record player not working on account of there was live music. Sut’s Six is one I recollect the best. Ol’ Sut would toot that trumpet, and then he’d come out with, “Jadda … Jadda … Jadda Jadda Gee Gee Gee.”
Did a heap of waltzing back then, and I reckon I was a fair “Two Stepper,” but when it came to that jitterbug stuff, I usually found an excuse to watch Frank Aydelott take the limelight in Linden, or up in Demopolis it was something to behold to watch Put Compton and Buddy Perry, later on to continue to thrill hundreds by their dance floor antics as Mr. and Mrs. Buddy Perry.
Well, I’d be feeling kinda low ‘cause I didn’t do well at the fast dancing, and was no Fred Astair at the Two Step, when all of a sudden like Sut and them would strike up the “Bunny Hop.” Now, all you’d do was get in a long line, holding on to the one in front, and you hopped around, and at the right moment kick out one foot and then the other, and kinda flap your arms in tune.
While I was not half bad at the bunny hopping stuff, on reflecting back a bit, I reckon I’d have to admit that most anybody could do the bunny hop.
Time came to leave the dancing, and on the way to Jowers’ Drive in Linden or the Cherokee in Demopolis for a snack, there’d be time for the old tube radio to warm up in the car, so y’all could listen to tunes that just thinking about ‘em transport me back to the 1950s. “Love me Tender,” “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation,” or the Platters coming forth with “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”
Since your after-the-dance snack only cost 60 cents for both of you, you’d feel pretty free with allowing that pretty little gal to put a whole quarter in the juke box there in the booth with you to play five more of those fabulous tunes of the ‘50s while you munched and sipped, and gazed at your date, and wondered if she was disappointed in your dance steps, or if she really did think you were a pretty doggone good Bunny Hopper after all.
— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.
(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, October 17 issue of the Demopolis Times.)