There were a lot of parties in my adolescence. There were a lot of temple dances in those years too. I could do most of the dances that did not require touching: twist, mashed potatoes, monster mash. I could “slow dance”, so as long as my partner just wanted to stand and slowly move, no box step or anything. I could barely cha cha; I would lose count. I was never, however, successful at the lindy, formally known as the Lindy Hop. You see, I was and am uncoordinated.
Dances were on the East Side and the West Side. Synagogues were home to the dances I attended: Rodeph Sholom, Park Avenue, B’nai Jeshurun were the biggest gatherings. I really only remember the Rodeph Sholom layout, probably because I later spent several years active in that community. We entered through the main entrance, under the awning up the steps into the lobby, down the grand staircase to the basement (never called that). On this lower level there were multiple doors to the ballroom where the dances were held. There was no theme, no decorations of note. The band was on the stage. That was it. Just hang out and dance, and perhaps find those quiet spots.
I guess there were groups at PS9 before we were old enough for the temple dances. The elementary school groups that were joined together at JHS 44 created new groups. The system was intended to do this I am sure, but we were still mostly white and Jewish.
I had my girlfriend in fifth and sixth grade but branched out upon entering 7-8SP2. There was even what might be called cross fertilization with 7-8SP1. These two accelerated classes had the best and brightest, we were told. The system wanted us out of junior high school as fast as possible.
The West Side parties, held almost weekly starting around sixth grade and picking up speed in 7th grade, featured music and dancing, low lights and small groups. They also often featured “spin the bottle” and “post office”, the kissing games of the late 50s and early 60s.
I remember one party in my parents’ apartment at 222. They were in their bedroom with the door closed. Girls were in my room, boys in the living room. The meet up was in dad’s study. I think it was 1963. The study was kept dark, as was the hallway. I don’t remember the rules. When you look it up in wikipedia it doesn’t sound familiar at all.
I remember the kissing and the frequently hurt feelings of the less popular kids. There was always lots to talk after the mail was delivered.
We made out a lot through junior high and high school. Encouraged by the kissing games, we moved to school afternoons and weekend days. We learned whatever we knew from each other. This did not always lead to successful encounters.
*Credit to NYCAGO.ORG for the photo