High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Monday, August 29, 2011

Zing Went the Strings Plus a Few Other Things: Remembering My First Slow Dance


I've decided that Annette's to blame!

Yessum...Annette Funicello made me

girl crazy by the age of 6.

Maybe it was the rat in me...

but I fell madly in love with the star

of the Mickey Mouse Club.

Annette was

my dream girl.

I actually used

to fantasize 

that someday 

she and 

would be 

united in 

holy ratrimony.

I wanted to be Annette's tall Paul!

"Tall Paul" - Annette (March 1959, 
highest chart position #7) 

I wanted Annette to be my 

pineapple princess!

"Pineapple Princess" - Annette 
(September 1960, highest chart 
position #11) 

Or maybe even my Shady lady!

"First Name Initial" - Annette (January 1960, 
highest chart position #20) 

I wanted her to have my mice!

"O Dio Mio" - Annette (April 1960, 
highest chart position #10) 

Fast forward to August 1963: 
I was 13 years old and about to enter the 9th grade. 

My church held a dance for kids in junior high and my parents forced me to go. Didn't wanna! I told them it sounded boring but that was code for "I'm scared to death." You see, I had never been to a dance before. I didn't know how to dance and had no interest in learning. For years I had watched the kids dancing on Bandstand and basically knew what to do. The problem was that I just couldn't imagine myself having the nerve to take a girl by the hand, lead her to the floor and embrace her. Dancing was...icky!   Baseball? Football? Basketball? Pool? Pinball? Bowling? Swimming? Bike riding?
Now you're talkin' my language!

When it comes to remembering that dance party I have tunnel vision. Truth is I can't remember anyone else who attended except me and...that girl.

(No, not Marlo Thomas!)

That girl...a young lady that I had seen in church with
her family on Sundays but with whom I had never spoken.
That girl...the one who reminded me so much of Annette!

That vision of loveliness matched in every detail Billy Reed's description of the quintessential heart breaker: big, soulful eyes, thick, lustrous brunette tresses...

and lawd have mercy, chilluns... bless her heart, the girl was an early bloomer, endowed with a figure that many fully grown women would envy. There she stood... directly across the room from me at the church dance! From the moment I spotted her my attention was riveted. Everyone else vanished. I simply couldn't take my eyes off of her!

Records started playing and kids started dancing...but not me. I stood on the sideline frozen in one spot unable to move. Why was I so damn shy around girls? Maybe it was because I grew up with a brother but no sisters in the house. I've always heard that boys with sisters have an easier time relating to girls than boys without sisters. Guys like me regarded girls as creatures from another planet, an entirely different species. I was in awe of them. They made me nervous. They put a whole lotta trouble in my mind. I didn't feel worthy to be close to them. Yet there I was at a church function where I was expected to "perform." The clock was ticking. Sooner or later I had to dance!

I remember a few of the records that played that night.
They included "It's My Party" and "Judy's Turn to Cry" by Lesley Gore, "Candy Girl," the latest hit single by the Four Seasons, and two earlier hits by Frankie Valli's group, "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry."

"Big Girls Don't Cry" - Four Seasons 
(November 1962, highest chart position #1) 

Marcie Blane sang "Bobby's Girl," Little Peggy March sang
"I Will Follow Him," Bobby Vee sang "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," and Jimmy Clanton, who hosted an oldies show in the early and mid 70s on WHEX radio in Columbia, PA, sang his third top 10 hit.

"Venus in Blue Jeans" - Jimmy Clanton 
(October 1962, highest chart position #7) 

After a long string of fast songs the deejay finally slowed things down and couples began swaying to the hit ballad
by Paul and Paula.

"Hey Paula" - Paul and Paula 
(February 1963, highest chart position #1) 

My blood ran cold. This was it. No more hiding. No more stalling. It wasn't that unusual for a guy to sit out fast dances because two or more girls often danced together without waiting to be asked by boys. A slow dance was
a different story. I would be committing a cardinal sin if
I didn't get with the program and invite a young lady to dance. Intellectually I understood that, yet I remained paralyzed with fear, standing there like a statue desperately trying to summon the courage to venture across the room into enemy territory. I wasted the entire Paul and Paula record debating myself.

When a second slow number came on.....that's when it happened! I can't remember if a chaperone came over and nudged me in the direction of that lovely brunette or
if somebody pushed us together and ordered us to dance
or if I finally decided to go for it and ask her myself.

All I know is that somehow...somehow I wound up on the dance floor with that Annette look-alike in my arms. It was my first ever slow dance and, miracle of miracles, I was experiencing it with the most beautiful girl at the party!
She took me halfway to paradise.

"Only Love Can Break a Heart" - Gene Pitney
(November 1962, highest chart position #2) 

It was the first time in my life I had ever been that intimate with a girl, the first time I ever held one.  We danced in silence and with every passing second I became more aware of the chemistry between us...a deep rapport that revealed itself through nonverbal communication...body language. Little by little I held her hand more tightly and she signaled approval by squeezing mine more firmly. Gently I pulled her closer to me. She offered no resistance. Her perfume filled my nostrils and I was intoxicated. Sugar is sweet, my love, but not as sweet as you...

"Blue Velvet" - Bobby Vinton (August 1963, 
highest chart position #1) 

Yes, there I was out on the floor in deep rapport with a dark haired beauty who also resembled a young Elizabeth Taylor.
I was discovering what heaven was like in two-and-a-half minute increments as one slow song followed another. That deejay became my NBF AND BFF when he spun another slow drag. This one sealed the deal and a future Dell rat was born!

"You Belong to Me" - Duprees 
(September 1962, highest chart position #7) 

Instinct took over.  It was as if I was flying on auto pilot.
Slow dancing came naturally to me. In my last post Billy Reed explained what happened next and therefore I won't go into the gory details. Suffice it to say that by the time the music stopped, our dewy bodies separated and we returned to our respective corners, I had concluded that dancing wasn't so icky after all. It was right up there with catching polliwogs. That night that girl and I had real chemistry and shared an electric moment. She knew it and I knew it.

Oh what a night 
Pre-September back in '63 
What a very special time for me 
What a lady, what a night! 

If I could save time in a bottle I would enjoy that golden moment over and over again. Your first time only comes around once and my first dance was as special as it could possibly be. I never danced with my earth angel after that night. I never dated her. I don't remember ever speaking to her again and eventually I lost track of her completely.
In case you're wondering she never showed up at the Dell.
Nearly 50 years have passed since that magical evening.

I was never to see her again... 
nor was I ever to learn what became of her. 
We were different then. Kids were different. 
It took us longer to understand
the things we felt. 

Life is made up of small comings and goings 
and for everything we take with us 
there is something that we leave behind.  

In the summer of '63 
we went to Zimmy's 
pool ten times. 
We saw a dozen 
movies and had 
nine days of rain. 
Car 54 was the 
one to watch.  
Stevie gave it up 
with his harmonica.  
And, in a very special 
way, I lost my fear 
of girls forever. 

Lovely lady, in all likelihood you have long since forgotten 
about that night and about me.  If, by chance, you do 
remember and happen to be reading this, please know how 
special that night was for me.  Thank you very much for 
the dance and for fond memories that linger on! 

Have a Shady day!


  1. What a delightful story, Shady, with a terrific soundtrack to back it up. It's great to read about the experience from the viewpoint of a boy. Girls are very vocal about theirs, but it's nice to finally read how the boys feel about it.

    You are a great story teller!

  2. Shelly - I'm glad you enjoyed my true story. You made a good point about girls being more willing than boys to openly express their thoughts and feelings. I never had a problem opening up. I was not the strong, silent type. I love to share and connect. Thank you very much for visiting, dear friend Shelly, and have a wonderful week!

  3. Lovely story, beautifully written and the backing tracks there were some of my very favourites of the period. How wonderful that you still have that memory of your first real dance my friend. As Shelly says, it's good to read about an experience like that from a boy's point of view. My goodness, weren't we all innocents back then?!

  4. Thisisme - I don't remember feeling very "innocent" after those three slow dances. (LOL) But you're right, it was a far cry from the blatant activity that goes on today. I have no regrets whatsoever about my coming of age years. The good times of youth and the bad were all a necessary part of our development. Thank you very much for writing to me from atop the Eiffel Tower, dear friend! Stay safe, pet Alfred, and have a wonderful week!

  5. What a lovely story! And what a lucky girl to have had such an effect on you! I can't say that my first romantic experience was as lovely.Thanks for sharing this story, I feel like I know you a little better!
    Emma x

  6. Emma - Hello, dear friend! By today's standards I was a little late getting started with the ladies but I was very much into athletics at the time, particularly basketball. After my first close encounter with a voluptuous Venusian, I began to lose interest in things like sports, studying, eating and sleeping! (LOL) I hope you're doing well, dear Emma. Thank you very much for your comments and have a wonderful week!

  7. Except for the Monarchs and Dupree's who I am not that familiar with you ran a group of my all time favorites. Those were a part of me for sure. Thanks.

  8. Tom- A very romantic and lovely post. Your first dance with a girl to the lovely song, "Only Love Can Break a Heart". Wow.

    Loved all the songs and I must say Annette was a beautiful girl and grew into a beautiful woman. I watched her on the Mickey Mouse club every time it was on. (I'm pretty sure my sister had her paper doll!)

    My husband grew up with four sisters, so he always felt at home around women. I was with you. Guys seemed to come from a different planet. I had no idea what they were about!

  9. Odie - I'm glad I finally posted a string of your old favorites, good buddy. May I assume that Annette was among them? (LOL) I hope they soon throw the switch and get your electricity restored up there. Thanks for taking time to swing by, Odie. I wish you blue skies in the coming week!

  10. Belle - It's quite interesting to know that your husband grew up with four sisters and therefore always felt comfortable around women. What they say must be true. Like you I never missed the Mickey Mouse Club and gazed in wonder at the beautiful Annette. She is responsible for my lifelong love of brunettes. It's very sad that she was stricken with a serious medical condition while still in her prime. Wiki says she lost both of her parents two years apart and had to flee her home earlier this year when a fire broke out. Thank you very much for coming by, dear friend Belle!

  11. This is such a beautiful story Shady! Like Shelly said, it's a great to read the guy's perspective! And Shady - these are some great tracks!

  12. Kristina - I'm happy to know that you enjoyed my story! These songs were released light years before you were born and I am thrilled to know that you found value in them. A little mystery keeps a relationship interesting but I think it is also important for men and women to open up and get real with each other. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am very sentimental about the past.

    There are places I remember
    All my life though some have changed
    Some forever not for better
    Some have gone and some remain
    All these places have their moments
    With lovers and friends I still can recall
    Some are dead and some are living
    In my life I've loved them all

    Thank you very much for your comment, dear friend Kristina, and please pet all of your fur babies for me!

  13. what a sweet story. School dances always made me so nervous so its nice to know that the boys were probably as nervous as I was. PS I would be your pineapple princess any day :)

  14. This is such a beautiful memory, Shady! Thank you for sharing it with us and I'm holding thumbs that, somehow, That Girl gets to read this herself!

  15. Amber Blue Bird - I can't imagine you being nervous at school dances unless you mean that it was unnerving for you to be mobbed by so many male admirers. I would be honored to crown you my Pineapple Princess. Please remember that if, for any reason, you are unable to fulfill the terms of your reign, the title will go to the runner-up. Thank you very much for your kind visit, dear friend Amber!

    Desiree - It would be quite a storybook ending if that teen queen recognized herself in this article and posted a comment. What are the chances? I'm so glad you enjoyed my story. Your friendship and support mean a lot to me. Good night to you in South Africa, dear friend!

  16. Aww, Tom...there you go again. Evoking a time and memories that are so sweet and precious. I remember my first date and dance. It was with a dear friend who had not quite entered into his growth spurt. A tad awkward for his sweet face and my chest were on the same level. I was very uncomfortable. I think he was not. We stayed close friends through college and only lost track of each other after I left my hometown.
    Annette Funicello...oh how I had the envies for that beautiful 'woman'. I can see how she grabbed hold of your boyish heart!
    All your tunes were at the top of my listening chart and I as the third girl in a family of five girls with our brother only arriving when I was 13 was the flip side to your life without sisters. I know you are right in your deductions. Familiarity breeds a relaxation unknown to those of us growing up without siblings of the opposite sex.

    Thanks again for a lovely that was a fun dance...down memory lane!

  17. ☺ I Wanted Her To Have My Mice ☺ You really cracked me up with that one, Shady! That stuck me as being extremely funny! I can sure see the attraction between a "rat and a mouse". My mood then turned to a more serious one as I continued to read, such a heartfelt story full of emotion, pain and pleasure. I was feeling your pain and fear. Those rites of passages are painful but so vital to our growth and life. Univeral. Wonderful, wonderful post ... the best! Loved reading about your experience, thanks for sharing it with the world!

  18. Cindy - Golly gee, my dear friend, these are such a sweet comments and I greatly appreciate them. Nothing means more to me than for people to get my humor and understand my pain. You always do. I am blessed to have a wonderful friend like you, Cindy! Thank you very much for your visit!

  19. Sush - Forgive me for missing your comment before. They're coming in two at a time and I didn't see it. You are absolutely right about familiarity breeding relaxation. It's a lesson that has many other applications. How many times do we hold ourselves back from doing something because we have a fear of the unknown or because we make a distorted mental image of what it will be like? If we give ourselves that little extra nudge and just do it, 9 times out of 10 we find that it wasn't bad at all or that we really enjoy it.

    This is a sad day for you, Sush, the anniversary of Katrina, and it means all the more to me that you came over for a visit. Thank you, dear friend!

  20. Hey, Brian! Thanks so much, my friend! I'm glad to know that you can relate to this. It's always a pleasure to have you come for a visit. Take care, good buddy!

  21. Such a sweet post. I truly enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Ashton - Thank you for visiting and reading, dear friend! I think we all remember a special moment that was shared with someone we never saw again. Those tend to be the sweetest memories of all. Thanks again for dropping by, dear Ashton!

  23. Mr. Anderson, I was seriously encaptured by this story! You described everything in such beautiful, vivid, captivating detail..It felt as though I was there shaking in my boots with you! And the lucky little lady, my oh, my she sure was a beauty! A young Elizabeth Taylor she certaintly was! :D

  24. Lauren - I'm glad you enjoyed my romantic true story. I get a wistful feeling thinking back to that night because moments like that tend to be rare. They can't be staged. They happen and then they're gone. It's the bittersweet nature of life and it's all good. Thank you very much for your visit and your kind comments, dear Lauren, and I wish you a happy and productive senior year!


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