Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
When I was five or six years old, my oldest sister, Betty, was in high school, and she loved to dance. There were often two or three of her girlfriends at our house, and they practiced new dance steps in our living room. They would turn on our floor model Zenith radio, and then dance to some of the latest music.
Those girls tried all kinds of new steps, but the one I remember most is something they called “truckin.” To do that, they would find some music which they called “swing.” Then they would dance to it one at a time, starting in one corner of the room, and dancing directly to the opposite corner.
Actually, it was more of a strut or a swagger than a dance. And while they were strutting or swaggering, they alternately moved their shoulders forward and backward to exaggerate the strut or swagger movement.
They raised their right hand about shoulder high, with the index finger extended. They bent their wrist back-and-forth, wagging their finger in the air, as they said, “I’m truckin on down.” Then they all would laugh.
I thought that looked like fun, so I tried it myself, and those girls laughed even more at that. They had me do it again and again, and they continued to laugh. That’s all a five- or six-year-old boy needed to make him fancy himself a great dancer. So every time the girls came to our house to practice dancing, I swaggered across the floor, waving my index finger in the air as I said, “I’m truckin on down.” I was convinced I was a great dancer.
Years later, when I was in high school, I found out that I was actually a pretty mediocre dancer. Oh, I did all right with the slow tunes, like Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa.” Heck, anyone could dance to that. But the faster the music got, the more mediocre I became.
The hardest dancing of all, of course, was jitterbugging. When I was in high school, I tried it many times, because I really wanted to do it, but I was pretty lousy. The music was so fast, and the steps seemed so complicated, that I just never got the hang of it.
I had a friend named Jim Beck, who was two years older than me. He could jitterbug better than any other boy in high school, and I think he also made his dancing partners look good. He twirled them around, and that made their long “ballerina” skirts flare out. I think the girls liked that.
Jim and I had been friends since we were little kids, so I asked him one day if he could help me learn to jitterbug. He said it wasn’t a matter of learning steps. He said I should try to “feel the music.”
According to Jim, once I could feel the music, the dancing would come naturally. I tried to follow Jim’s instructions, and I really could feel the music, but I just couldn’t dance to it. My problem wasn’t with the feeling. It was with the dancing. So I never did learn how to jitterbug.
That’s right, my entire life has been jitterbugless. But that’s OK, because even at my advanced age, I can still swagger across our living room floor, wagging my index finger in the air, as I say, “I’m truckin on down.”
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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