Often on Saturdays, I watch Funtime Polka on PBS or Mollie B’s Polka Party on RFD TV. I’m sure some folks would consider this quite boring or hilarious or both. Perhaps they think it is a show for seniors. Perhaps so.
I watch polka shows because they remind me of my Grandpa Shorty (Aaron Fadden). Years ago, in my teens (the 1960’s) – we would travel to Grandpa’s house near Hill City, Minnesota and stay for the weekend. On the best weekends, we would go to Nine Mile Corner, a bar/dance hall between Grand Rapids and Hill City. Usually they had a polka band – and guess who my partner was? Grandpa Shorty. He was a good dancer. I loved dancing with him – when I got the chance. I begrudingly shared him with Grandma Lu or my Mom. I don’t remember much about the inside of Nine Mile Corner – other than it was busy and people were having a good time. We also were allowed to have soda and snacks – a treat reserved for special occasions. Alas, Grandpa has been gone for many years. Now I sit and watch the dancers and think about how much fun we had all those years ago.
On the TV shows, there is usually a four-or-more person band – with a mix of an accordian, keyboard, drums, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, guitars – and/or more. The bands predominantly play polkas or waltzes – with an occasional line dance, swing, or some boogie woogie.
My favorite is the polka. Polkas are a fast tempo, lively couple-dance. Of course, some of the dancers are livelier than others. That’s part of the fun of watching. Some double-step, making their dance even livelier. Some move very smoothly, gliding around in circles – moving across the floor. Some jump around. Some hardly move. A few are somewhat expressionless – but they are still out on the floor, dance after dance. Sometimes couples run into other couples and everyone chuckles. Some of the couples don’t seem aware of anyone else in the room – other than their partner. It’s also clear that many of the couples have danced together for years – they know the moves of their partner and effortlessly move across the floor. Others are focusing on their footwork. Whatever the case, the couples are having fun – and exercising at the same time.
Many of the dancers are gray/white topped – meaning their hair color is gray or white – and some don’t have much hair left. Also sprinkled in the crowd are younger folks and adults with children in tow – future polka dancers.
The outfits of the dancers are quite interesting. Some dress in street casual clothes, but many dress up – ladies wearing fancy dresses; men wearing dress shirts, ties or suit jackets (the jacket and the ties are usually gone by the end of the night.), and some dancers wearing Bohemian outfits – men with suspenders, short pants, and a tyrolean hat and women with colorfully decorated wide skirts, matching blouses and aprons – similar to those worn for square dancing. Some partners wear matching costumes – likely members of a dance club. Some wear matching colors. Many wear cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Occasionally there is a baseball cap or couples wearing matching custom-designed glitter caps. Everyone does their own thing – because there is no right or wrong – no dress code. The variety makes it even more fun to watch – which is also what many of the attendees do. They sit at the tables lining the dance floor and watch. Hopefully, at some point, they, too, will go out on the floor and dance.
Hoop-dee-doo (Perry Como) (1950)
I hear a polka and my troubles are through
This kind of music is like heaven to me
Has got me higher than a kite
Hand me down my soup and fish
I am gonna get my wish
Hoop-dee-doin’ it tonight …
My dancing days are over but I hope you will dance, if you can.
What’s your favorite dance?
Thanks for reading! I hope you return.