Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Can Dance-Finale

I can’t really end my stories about my career at Arthur Murray’s without talking about some significant events that occurred during and beyond.

Miss Wadley

While at the studio everyone was always addressed formally. No first names were ever used. I now have no remembrance of Miss Wadley’s first name although I did know it at one time. She had recently retired after a lifetime working at Union Pacific Railroad when she first came into the studio. She wore black old lady shoes and usually a black dress, to cover a pronounced pear shaped form, when she first became my student. She had never been married. Sometimes she didn’t smell the best. She didn’t have a sense of rhythm. When asked to do a waltz step by herself, the rhythm was slow, quick, quick, instead of even tempoed steps of 1,2,3.

Naturally, given all the potential available, I looked forward to our twice a week sessions once the odor problem went away, which was soon. We soon became professional friends. As she improved in all areas, the power of positive reinforcement was so greatly dramatically demonstrated that I never forgot it. Constance encouragement on my part and desire to improve on her part was a winning combination. At one point we performed a solo waltz together at a dance party and she followed perfectly. Later she became a life time member and the commission I received as a result went into my slowly building saving account. When I left the studio I knew she would enjoy many years of dancing in her ankle strap shoes and colorful clothes with perfect rhythm.

Pat Carter

The owner of the studio also owned 4 other studios and due to lack of profitability, closed the studio in Grand Island, Nebraska and the teachers there were transferred to one of the two Omaha studios. Among them was this good looking, skinny, naive girl, Pat Carter. She came from a very small village near Grand Island and looked to get out into the world so moving to Grand Island was a big step for her. Omaha was another giant step forward for her. She was anxious to fit in, but it was challenging because she was not yet 21 although at times she got into the club the instructors went to after work to dance.

We started to spend most of our spare time together and of course all day and most of the night at the studio. Before long we became engaged. I had made the decision to return to college and continue my quest to secure an engineering degree. I didn’t want to go without her so we got married just before Thanksgiving. All the teachers and the studio owner as well as some of our students attended the reception held at my mother’s house. And of course, Miss Wadley was there. Leaving the studio, my fellow teachers, and students was not an easy thing to do. There was some promise that I could have advanced up the rank and file and had a career at Arthur Murray’s. We both had developed close and warm relationships with all the people and there was a void to fill as we left.

My mother constantly encouraged me to return to college in order to secure a better future for myself. And I did see the logic of her argument and upon my re-admission being accepted, off we went to Ames, Iowa to get me re-enrolled at Iowa State, find affordable lodging, and find Pat a job on campus.

The rode ahead was not easy. I took all the jobs I could find and worked hard on my studies. With one more year to go, we found out Pat was pregnant in August 1958. We lived in a basement apartment and awoke in the middle of an October night to find the house was on fire. We escaped all right, although my hair got singed. We were able to recover most of our belongings because the fire was put out quickly although everything smelled of smoke.

In three days I had to leave on a required senior vocation trip to visit factories in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Kindly neighbors put Pat up for the week while I was gone. We found lodging in Kelly, Iowa some 10 miles away. Our new lodging was cheaper, but the extra cost of gasoline even things out.

In March there was a big snow storm we were snowed in. Somehow a rumor got started in the little burg of Kelley that Pat was in labor. Two men with anxious eyes knocked on our door to inform us that they would help us get her to the hospital in Ames by clearing roads ahead of our car. Two days later Pat did indeed go into labor. Pat’s labor lasted about 40 hours. I spend most of two days in the waiting room listening to various women scream their way to delivery as their husbands abandoned me to go their prodigy.

Finally our son decided he had had enough dilly-dallying and popped out. I can still recall the relief I felt. My wife was exhausted but both mother and child were well and safe.
From then on the rest of the school year went smoothly, I graduated, and the first week in June, we loaded our car and small trailer with our entire belongings and headed to Dayton, Ohio, where I had accepted an offer to work at Frigidaire.

Throughout the years, occasionally, I taught people to dance and got paid to do so. I even started working part time at the Arthur Murray studio in Muncie, Indiana to pick up a little extra change and refresh my repertoire. I believe dancing open doors for me that never have closed. Should anything ever happen to my wife, I fantasize that I would obtain work on a cruise ship and charm rich ladies around the dance floor, occasionally discretely accepting their room keys as a token of their gratitude. Once in their room they would give me a great foot massage and offer me a warm glass of milk. The nice thing about a fantasy is that it doesn’t have to be acted out or take place for the mind to enjoy its image. So in some recess of my mind, I will always be moving gracefully along the dance floor.


GETkristiLOVE said...

I forgot about that fire... what is it with you two having babies in snow storms?

dguzman said...

That's how I'll picture you too now. That and skiing down that hill. Happy New Year, friend.