Archive for December 2022

Dance Fever

December 23, 2022

This is me tearing up the dance floor with my mother in April, 1972 at my sister’s wedding reception at the Legion. As you can tell by my joyful expression, ballroom dancing was a favorite activity of mine, and I credit that love of the Terpsichorean arts to this man:

Russell Curry ran a Junior High Dance class in Dedham from the early 1950s through the 70s. The classes were held in the Oakdale School gym. According to the Transcript, Curry offered “instruction in ballroom dancing, Virginia Reel and a ‘Rock’ step, social graces, including introductions, reception lines, and general party behavior.” The boys wore suitcoats and ties, the girls wore dresses and white gloves, and upon arrival would sit on opposite sides of the gym until the dance selection was announced. Then the boys would take that long stressful walk across the floor to choose a partner. The only part of the class more stressful than this was “ladies’ choice.” At some point in the evening, the boys would take the arm of their partner and join the long receiving line to greet the evening’s chaperones, who were seated at the stage end of the gym.

“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Chaperone, my name is James Parr and this is Abbie Normal.” Handshakes all around, and then back to the dance floor to tackle the Rock step to the strains of “A Horse With No Name.”

Surprisingly, the classes were more popular with girls than boys, as evidenced by this Transcript headline that ran just 2 days before classes were to start in October, 1971.

Several of my DHS ’77 classmates and I are described in the article as the “brave crew of boys” who had already signed up for seventh-grade beginner classes. I remained part of the brave crew for the rest of seventh grade, but did not continue my studies the following year.

Arlington born Russell Curry was a well-known figure in the Boston dance scene beginning in 1938 when he joined his mother’s Curry School of Dance, an enterprise she had started in 1920. During World War II, Curry worked with the USO traveling to local army camps teaching dance steps to servicemen. In the 1950s, he began instructing young people across New England in social etiquette and dance. During his heyday, Curry taught over 15,000 students a year in 50 communities across New England.

In this news photo from 1944, Russell Curry and his partner Virginia Touse demonstrate a new dance called “The Boston” at the Hotel Bradford.

Curry retired some time in the 1970s and moved to mid-coast Maine where he continued to teach and choreograph shows for the Boothbay Region Playhouse. He died in Damariscotta in 1997 at the age of 79.

Despite my somewhat unenthusiastic participation in dancing school, I actually learned a few things and could demonstrate a decent waltz step, fox trot or cha-cha if called upon. I bet there are many other members of that “brave crew” and their one-time dance partners out there who could make the same claim.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year …

December 23, 2022

Back in the 1960s, my brothers and I had paper routes in town, delivering the Globe, Record American, and Herald Traveler. We got our papers from East Dedham News, which was operated by a man named Bob Stadelmann who was located in East Dedham Square. After the redevelopment of that area, Bob moved his operation to Sprague Street in the Manor. Eventually, I took over the routes by myself, delivering afternoon dailies and the Sunday editions in my Tower St. neighborhood.

Christmas was indeed the most wonderful time of the year for paperboys, for that’s when we got our holiday tips. You can’t imagine the excitement felt by 10-year old me on a cold Sunday morning in December as I placed the thick newspapers between the doors of my customers and found a card-sized envelope that might contain an extra buck or two. This card came from a Mrs. Donavan:

This next card was a cardboard stocking with slots on the inside that held ten dimes. It impressed me so much I’ve kept it for over 50 years! (After removing the dimes). Lillian O’Connor lived about three doors down from me on Tower Street but apparently did not know my name.

I gave up my paper route in high school but continued selling Sunday papers for East Dedham News. Bob’s son Mark would pick me up in his van and drop me off with a stack of papers at this island at the intersection of High and Milton streets, where I would stay until noon, or until I ran out of papers.

The intersection of High and Milton/Bussey

This job was such an important part of my high school experience, I mentioned it in my senior yearbook profile. I also wrote a poem called “Sunday Morning Lament.” It begins:

I sit all alone on an island in the street.
The wind at my back, the cold in my feet….

and continues…

A rip or a wrinkle in the funnies won’t do.
They all want a paper that’s clean and brand new.

Despite my poetic protestations, it was a good part time job for a high schooler. I sold a lot of papers, made a lot of money in tips and met some interesting characters, one of whom passed me a counterfeit $10 bill one morning. I was so scared, I gave him his paper and his $9.45 in change and stuffed the phony bill in my apron. Later I showed it to my mother who hid it deep in the top drawer of her dresser where it stayed for decades.

My change apron, from the bicentennial year 1976
Returning home to Tower St. with unsold papers, ca. 1975

Christmas 1972

December 16, 2022

Enjoy these ads that ran in the Transcript during December 50 years ago. I’m sure blog readers will remember most of these Dedham businesses- a few of them still exist!

The Walnut Street Water Tower

December 9, 2022

It’s been twenty-one years since workers dismantled the 103 ft. water tower on Walnut Street that had stood there since 1881. At the time, it was the oldest steel water tank in the country, but because it had no real historical significance (and was sitting on prime real estate in Oakdale) there was little objection to its removal.

Here’s a postcard from the early 20th century featuring the picturesque East Dedham Standpipe:

You can see the picturesque standpipe in this 1895 view from the top of the courthouse.

And finally, here is the “standpipe” on a pictorial map of town from 1954. I’m sure lots of people have their own special memories of this old Dedham landmark, feel free to share them in the comments!