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Rural Customs: 1942

Rural Customs: 1942

February 1942. "Madison, Wis. Farm short course school at the University of Wisconsin. This class in rural society often practices square dances. Interest in rural culture and customs is stimulated at the school." You betcha! Medium format negative by Jack Delano, Office of War Information. View full size.


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Terpsichorean terrors

In the 1950s, when playing fields were snow laden and the students had tired of playing half-court basketball in their socks, high schools in upstate New York used to feature square dancing in P.E. classes. Not the most popular activity with the students, but a welcome chance to hold the hand -- however briefly -- of a young woman who might not otherwise welcome such untoward intimacy.

A few years later, at our oldest service academy (then all male), ballroom dancing was a required proficiency, no doubt inspired by the leadership's nostalgia for those pre-WW II cotillions. With whom did one dance in these classes? One's roommate, more than likely. Fortunately, my previous exposure to dance classes prevented my having to try to herd my 6'3", 225-lb. roommate around the ballroom. The night before "auditions," those of us who could hoof it a little attempted to bring our less twinkle-toed fellows up to minimal box-step standards, for being doomed to "remedial ballroom dance" seemed an unmitigated horror to most of us in those less enlightened times.

It's good practice

to be teaching those boys to dance both sides (belle and beau, boy and girl, whatever your club calls it). I wish their grandchildren were able to do it too.

Teaching Wisconsin farm boys to square dance

They were probably already down with the Polka and the Schottische.

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