We lived a couple of blocks from Main Street where Lawrence Welk used to play for dances above the old garage in Lester. The floor bounced a lot and everybody said it would collapse but it never did. The dance hall drew folks from quite a distance around. It had a decent floor, but the ceiling showed the rafters and braces of the roof. A Japanese lantern or two hung from the braces and a huge rotating globe hung in the center producing a shadowy (romantic?) light for the moonlight waltzes. A couple of old pot bellied stoves gave a little heat for the draughty place in the winter but who needed heat. An old chemical toilet and a broken mirror lurked in the ladies’ restroom. People didn’t sit at tables. A few benches outlined the dance floor but most everybody hung around the foot of the stage until you were asked to dance.

Tiny Little and his band drew the crowds and Al Menke as well as Lawrence Welk. Men had to pay forty cents a ticket and ladies twenty-five. Money was scarce in those days to us high school kids and it took at least a week to wrangle a quarter from somebody to go to the dance on Saturday night. The dole of an allowance was not a depression kid’s lot. Even babysitting was unheard of for anything more than “thanks”.

This one particular Saturday my mother decided we would can the sweet corn. My older sisters happened not to be around that day so I hustled to help mother, not only to get the twenty-five cents for the Saturday night dance but to get the coveted “permission to go", as mother had preconceived religious ideas about dancing.

I kept the old white cook stove fired up with corn cobs. I carried water in and out. We canned boiler after boiler of quart jars filled with sweet corn. We fed the men. Silently I worked in the hot, August kitchen. Would I get to go to the dance that night? I scrubbed the hardwood floor of the kitchen until it was white when we were cleaning up. How tired I was that evening! I didn’t even care if I couldn’t go to the dance. Oh no! One never was too tired to dance! Now then—to ask mother for the twenty-five cents besides the permission. That was quite a lot to expect. I trudged slowly upstairs. Maybe she’d let me go if I got dressed up. I walked into my room. There on that white bedspread lay a quarter! Without even asking I had the money and the permission! No pay check, no sum of money ever has looked as gratifying as that beautiful quarter lying on my bed. All fatigue left my tired bones and I got to go where the lights were bright, the music was playing, and people were dancing.

Emma Lou Maurer Tolvstad


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