Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Valentine Memory: The Night my Mother Danced with Lawrence Welk

A Valentine Memory

    What a charmer he was, Mr. One And-A-Two. Lawrence Welk, whose music was upbeat, light and unvarying, was a Gentleman. He made every Lady in the room feel like Lady, and he visited our living room every Saturday night. Each show followed the same format: music from the band, with performances by singers and dancers, and dancers. At the end Mr. Welk joined the dancers on the ballroom floor, where some of the women sported bubble hairstyles in a curious shade of champagne.

     He was a snappy dresser and light on his feet. He was every woman’s dream dance partner, and they would stand in a line that snaked around the ballroom, just to dance with Mr. Welk for a measure or two. (Ladies are used to standing in long lines). He greeted each woman with a beaming smile and inviting arms, his right hand waist height and his left hand waiting for hers, in proper dance position, as if he'd been waiting all evening for the privilege of dancing with her, and he never, ever stepped on her toes.

     I knew an elderly grandmother who got "all gussied up" every Saturday night to watch her favorite show. It was the high point of the week. Her visit to the beauty salon was a close second. One Saturday night Grandma lost track of time and the show came on while she was still in brush rollers, Noxzema face cream, and her old housecoat. She fled the living room, wailing, "Oh, dear, I can’t let him see me like this!"

     My father sold Dodges for a time, and the corporation sponsored Lawrence Welk’s "Dodge Dancing Hour" which later became "The Lawrence Welk Show." In return Mr. Wunnerful, Wunnerful made appearances at annual Dodge New Year’s Eve parties in San Francisco. On one of these occasions my mother danced with him, a memory that always made her smile and blush.

     For more than thirty years we depended on Mr. Welk to show up every Saturday night. Thanks to PBS, youngsters or nostalgic AARP members can enjoy a wistful glimpse of an era when life didn’t seem to move so fast, lyrics were understandable and clean and hopelessly romantic, and Bobby never stepped on Sally's toes.


Pam Williams said...

Our Saturday tradition involved music, too, but I'm old enough to remember radio days. I left home before Lawrence Welk became part of it, but we always began the day with the Metropolitan Opera broadcast playing in the background while we did our work. After all, Saturday is a special day... it's the day we get ready for Sunday. Then we'd play in the afternoon, or work outside, and end our day with more music. After dinner we gathered around the radio and Mother hummed along with Hawaii Calls, a program of island music, steel guitars and the close harmonies characteristic of the Polynesian sound. Then we'd end the day to the tune of Gene Autry's Melody Ranch--authentic Western music before it was Osmondized and Dollyed up. Mother loved the sound of the Sons of the Pioneers ("Tumblin' Tumbleweed") and I still remember the words to some of the South-of-the-Border songs that recalled ill-fated romances with dark eyed senoritas. That exposure shaped my eclectic musical tastes. Being raised in an age of dance bands and folk music and the advent of rock and roll had a profound influence. Unfortunately, Lawrence Welk was a throwback to those earlier times, but the older generation never forgot and he filled an important niche.

Elsie Park said...

What a wonderful memory! I enjoyed reading this post, Janet. Happy Valentine's day!