Recently, my radio station, WDOS, was one of the hosts of a giant 1950s sock hop at the Oneonta Moose Club. It was a charity event, and it sold out immediately. It was great fun.
Few phrases trip the tumblers of time more vividly than the phrase "sock hop." They came of age during the infancy of rock 'n' roll and were held in school gymnasiums.
The school's gym teacher was always around to make sure you never walked on his precious (and no doubt expensive) varnished wooden floors. Hence, the "socks-only" idea.
For my generation, the sock hop was usually the first time you had a chance to connect with the opposite sex in a structured social event. The gym would be decked out in streamers and odd-looking toilet-tissue origami flowers.
I remember the sophisticated special effect at our dances was an old revolving green, red and yellow lighted Christmas tree stand that somebody's parents let us use. The music came from a record player (no live bands yet). And the adult-supervised refreshment table ran the entire gamut from A-B (which meant fruit punch and the PTA's cookies).
The dances of my time were expressions of heathen youth: the Pony, Watusi, Stroll, Cool Jerk, Monkey, Loco-Motion and the Twist. I loved to dance at the sock hops. "Dancing Chuckie" they called me. One dance, the Hully Gully, was wild, and unfortunately, "Dancing Chuckie" was banned from doing it at the Pearl Street School dances in Sidney because I posed a danger to others while "expressing myself."
Who could ever forget the "ladies' choice" dance at the sock hop? This was huge. Since we were only 13 years old, none of us boys ever came with a date, so this was the first "hook-up moment" of the night (and our lives), a moment we all knew could last two, three, or even four minutes.
From the record player came the voice of Bobby Vinton. The guys, all usually hugging the farthest walls of the gym, would wait, our hearts pounding, a torrent of sweat trying to penetrate that extra slap of English Leather we put on just before we left home.
The girls were pretty well set on who they'd make a beeline for during a "ladies' choice" and, frankly, it usually was not me. But sometimes it did happen.
A little girl in a blue dress with bobby sox, braces and cat's eye glasses started walking toward me one night (in slow motion, of course). Her name was Barbie Douglas, and she was from the seventh grade. I rubbed the scuffs off my loafers on the back of my pant legs, patted down my cowlick and waited.
My heart was pounding like the math room clock. Ever so slowly, she got closer to me. "She wore blue velvet, bluer than velvet was the night "¦" echoed through the gym. I was irresistible. I just knew it.
Barbie stopped right in front of me. She smiled and the lights from the Christmas tree stand glistened off her braces. Everyone else in the gym disappeared from view. I could see my own reflection in her cat's eye glasses. Bobby Vinton was singing just for me. "Bluer than velvet were her eyes "¦" This was my moment to cut my first swath through the forests of femininity. The English Leather was peaking.
"Hi, Barbie, how are you?" I said in my suavest, 13-year-old man/boy voice.
"Hi, Chuckie. Say, is your brother, Jim, here? I'd like to dance with him."
Gulp. My moment would pass. Tonight, my brother Jim would have his first three-minute moment. I would have to wait. But wait I did. I went out and got a cold glass of fruit punch, a couple of cookies, took another slap at my cowlick and went back into the gymnasium on a mission.
I went up and asked the emcee to play the "Hully Gully." He did not know that I had been banned from doing that dance so he agreed. On it came and I went out and joined the gang of young friends gyrating wildly in the center of the room.
Arms flailing, feet skipping, head bobbing and shirttails popping, I was once again in sock hop Heaven. I may not have been the object of Barbie Douglas's eye this night, but my time would come. I would prevail. Hey, I was Dancing Chuckie!
"There's a dance spreadin' round, like an awful disease, shake yo' shoulders and wiggle yo' knees and do the Hully Gully!"
Sock hops will do that to you, don't you know?
I'll catch you in two.
Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." He invites you to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.