Every afternoon at 4 pm I danced my heart away while watching American Bandstand and wished I could go “stroll down the avenue” with Dick Clark. One day Clark introduced Chubby Checker and I attempted to twist while my mother did circles in her wheel chair. For the next month my father would recite every accident known to man which was caused by The Twist. By this time I had every move down pat and was ready to try my moves at the Grade 5-8 dance in the Cowansville High School gym. My mother had made me a soft royal blue jersey dress with a fake fur collar and I had on my broken-in Mary Jane shoes ready to go.
The teachers lined up the boys on one side and the girls faced them not knowing who they were going to get as a dance partner. I looked at this tall lanky boy with a tight suit with high water pants and screamed at him,
“Hey you! I hope you know how to dance!”
He nodded and actually looked afraid of me after I yelled at him, which he probably should have been. The Twist music started and the both of us were just like the dancers on American Bandstand. How two people ages 10 and 11 who had never met each other before danced like professionals is beyond me.
After 20 minutes there were just three couples left in the finals and we were one of them. Ten minutes later after some fancy jumps and spins we won the contest and were each awarded a Cadbury’s Snack Bar. Billy, being the gentleman he was, carefully put the candy bars in his pocket and we danced the rest of the night away.
Later I found my friend Sheila and asked her how she thought we did. She promptly told me that the reason we probably won was that my fast dance movements kept spinning my skirt around and I was constantly flashing my underpants. She deemed it a hands down “underpants’ win. Mortified that the whole school knew I had on pink underpants I found Billy so I could retrieve my prize from his pocket. Because of the heat in the gym those two Snack Bars were now liquid poop in a wrapper and we quickly threw them out.
Two weeks later at a church dance the girls were once again lined up on one side, and the boys on the other side were instructed to choose their partners. Like a rushing tsunami Billy ran half way, dropping to his knees and slid across the floor to my feet. It was now official – I was now Billy’s dancing partner.
I don’t think boys have any idea what’s coming after they give a “shout out” and a wink of the eye to a young girl. Do they honestly know that within 24 hours the female knows every last personal detail and uses it to rope them in like cattle? Every day I used to ride my bike past his father’s business in Sweetsburg and then glance up the hill to see if he was outside. Twice a day I would call him and then hang up quickly when he answered the phone. Billy, if you still have doubts where those phone calls were coming from, your gut feeling was right.
As fast as he danced into my life, Billy “Peppermint Twisted” out of it just as quickly. And so for the next two long years the “Campaign for Billy” continued. By this time my mother had died and I had eaten my way up a few sizes from grief. When they announced the first school dance of the year and Grade 7 was allowed to attend I figured the last battle for Billy was going to be fought that night.
When I now think of this “last battle” I shake my head in embarrassment. With the conviction of William Wallace from Braveheart I had it all planned down to the last “T”. I was positive I was going to twist Billy back into my life that very night. Sitting in the hairdressers chair that very afternoon I instructed her to keep teasing and spraying my hair up as far as it would go. Gray box pleated skirt that the zipper would no longer go up was topped by a longish great athletic sweatshirt to cover up the safety pins.
As I spotted him in the far corner of the room surrounded by friends I slowly walked across the gym as they announced Ladies Choice. Each step held my foot like glue and drops of sweat trailed me as I saw the look of fear in his eyes. Billy knew what was going to happen and his friends were trying to stifle their laughter. It was inevitable that Orca the Killer Whale with the sticky unmoving hair was going to ask him to dance.
I stood humbly in front of him, smiled and asked if he wanted to dance. He looked down at his feet and mumbled a few kind words of how I must be happy they allowed the younger grades to come. Then there was dead silence and as he spoke the next few words I knew they would echo in my head for days, weeks or maybe even a lifetime. He said in a very polite hushed tone,
“No thank you!”
And with that I ran out of the gym to the downstairs girls’ washroom and cried my alcohol based eyeliner off. That was the end of my campaign for the love of one Billy Jones. Had it been puppy love or something else?
Years later as I heard Twist music on a 60’s night in some forlorn corner in Sept-Iles it brought everything 360. With no one wanting to dance I just went out by myself in the middle of the dance floor and twisted solo for three songs. Maybe I was never really in love with Billy or was I? Maybe all I really wanted to do was dance.
What is really funny is– that today I write about Lanark County history and my twisting dance partner is a historian with the The Brome County Historical Society LOL