Jim Hardie may have said it best when explaining the dance craze that hit Ellwood City in the late 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. “That timeline would include the very first of the Baby Boomers and the last teenagers of the 1950’s. Those that had one foot in one generation and the other in a new one got to experience the birth of Rock and Roll, Doo-wop, Folk and the music of the 60’s.”
I have gotten more than a handful of people that keep mentioning the dances in Ellwood City. Having not come from that time, the only dances I know about are the ones held Friday nights after the football games in the Lincoln High School small gym where three quarters of the students leave at half time of the football game to walk over to the dance. From what I have been told, the ones held today would not even be considered a dance, but rather a “gathering”.
We have heard stories of dances held in Ewing Park shelters with Christmas lights strewn about and the record player belting out the tunes (for those that do not know what a record player is, you’ll have to Google it.)
We have heard about different clubs in town that put on the best dances as fundraisers for their clubs including the Road Rebels Car Club and the Kingsmen Car Club. The Son’s of Italy hosted weekend dances, the Jaycees also sponsored dances for young people, as did the Shuffle Shop after the game.
The Shuffle Shop was a teen dance hall operated by local citizens inside the former Circle School Building. The Shuffle Shop (also known as the “Can”) is remembered today as always having dance floor crowded to the limits with enthusiastic jitterbugs and dance contests.
Tree of Life Jewish Synagogue hosted open dances for Jews, Protestants & Catholics in their new recreation hall at the end of the Ewing Park Bridge. Even the high school had a Dance Club. E.C.M. contributor Danny John served as president of the club whose job it was to put on a dance every Friday evening throughout the school year. The club took care of security, setup, arranging for a DJ, running the concession stand and cleanup afterwards.
Jim Hardie mentioned that the Dance Club would not have functioned without the guidance of the faculty sponsors: George Reese and Lou Oliastro. “They were exceptional men who allowed us the latitude to have a great time while gently, usually, keeping us from getting into trouble. Lou passed too soon but George is still around with his quick wit and humor.”
Jo Ann (Miller) Oxsen shared a personal memory of the Dance Club’s Friday night dances in the early 60’s. She recalled the time she and Vinnie Jeoffre (sp.?) won the Twist Contest (grand prize: Peppermint Twist record album). To this day she believes that Vinnie chose her as his partner because she was the shortest girl there that night.
I am sure all of us would enjoy hearing your memories of the dances held in Ellwood City. Please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to mention where the dance you recall was located.