Spring 1964. The last year of Junior High School. Next year, a brand new high school building ten miles out in the country. Three small rural schools would form a much bigger class…. The class of 1968.
But for now, we were still eighth graders and still had a month of school left and there was a dance coming up… The Eighth Grade Dance, a traditional end of the year event.
I found myself on the planning committee for the dance, probably because I hadn’t learned how not to volunteer for everything that came along. There wasn’t much planning involved. The dance would be held in the school cafeteria… what can you do with a school cafeteria except move all the tables out so there is room to dance? Maybe some decorations, but one whole wall of the cafeteria was floor to ceiling windows with a great view of the playground, the opposite wall was broken up with double doors on each end, and one end was the kitchen and cafeteria line. That left one wall to decorate. Simple. I remember cutting out round pieces of paper made to resemble a 45 record.
The school had record players and one of our teachers promised to have one setup in the corner for music. A couple of the boys said they would be the DJ’s, which really meant they would change the records when necessary.
I had a few 45’s of my own. Mine were mostly the Beatles, the Beach Boys, some Motown records, and one by Andy Williams.
None of us had ever been to a dance before. The girls (we were just 12 and 13 years old) had danced at slumber parties and with our girl friends but not with a boy. The boys had never given it a thought.
I remember asking several people to bring records to the dance so we would have some music and specifically asking one eighth grade boy who had older brothers and sisters and a pretty extensive record collection. He promised he would bring some good ones.
The night of the dance came, parents dropped kids off at the east side of the school next to the swing set, and we all gathered in the cafeteria. Awkwardly. All the tables had been moved into the hallway except for one that held the record player and records. Chairs outlined the walls. The dance floor looked huge! There was no starting announcement. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I thought someone would stand up and say “Ladies and gentlemen, start your dancing!” In reality we just started to hang out and I put on one of my records because the boy who was supposed to bring most of the music hadn’t arrived yet.
No one danced at first. We just all sat or stood in little groups. All girl groups and all boy groups. No mingling. Just awkwardly standing around. The girls outnumbered the boys at least two to one because this dance wasn’t interesting to most 12- 13 year old boys. There were some teacher chaperones and parent chaperones who walked around and tried to encourage people to dance, even by going out and dancing themselves. We just all rolled our eyes.
Finally, Eddie Kimball, who became the legend of the evening, asked someone to dance a slow dance. I am guessing Eddie’s mom or older sister had taught him to slow dance in anticipation of this very evening. So we all watched in awe as Eddie and his partner took their places on the dance floor and started to dance.
Eddie’s method was dancing in a box formation. One step left, one step forward, one step right, one step back. That was it. That was the dance. A few girls, me included, found other girl partners and we started to emulate Eddie’s box dance. The boys had nothing to do with it. They were still in their little groups either looking awkward or doing something stupid together and laughing.
I brought only one slow record… Charade by Andy Williams. So we played that over and over while Eddie changed partners. Soon there was a line forming of girls who wanted to slow dance with a boy. Eddie, who I had never really paid much attention to before, was now the center of attention.
I kept watching the door for the rest of the records to arrive. Finally the “record collection boy” walked in. Alone. He had nothing. I rushed up to him and said, “Where are your records? You were going to bring your records!”
“I forgot,” was all he said and went off to join a boy group. I shrugged my shoulders and made a mental note about not trusting boys with important jobs.
One of the cool teachers got us to do a snowball dance. The purpose of the snow ball was to get as many people on the floor as possible. A few couples start the dance, someone yells “snow ball” and everyone has to go get a new partner from the groups who are not dancing. It was successful at getting kids involved. But at the end of the dance, everyone hurried back to their comfortable spot on the wall.
The evening was spent listening and dancing to “Charade” over and over and over until people started to groan when it came on. There were a few other records we played but no one was brave enough to get out and do any fast dancing.
I shared a couple of dances with Eddie Kimball. He must have moved away after junior high school, he’s not in our graduation photos, but I like to think about him dancing his life away. Are you out there somewhere Eddie Kimball?
It might sound as if this dance turned out to be a real dud. As far as eighth grade dances went, I think it was probably as successful as any. And it made a legend out of Eddie Kimball, at least in my mind.