Like most little girls, whenever I had a pretty dress and music was playing, I would twirl around and around to the music. But the first time that I was ever in a “structured” dance with a partner was in fifth grade. I grew up in Los Angeles where at Hickory Elementary School you were introduced to different sports every semester. One year we learned to play baseball, and another year it was volley ball. However, when you were in fifth grade, the spring semester was for learning how to square dance.
Miss Brown was my fifth grade teacher, and she was a formidably large woman in her fifties who had given her life to teaching. She was strict and stern, and we were all a little afraid of her. So when she told the boys to stand next to a girl and swing her around by the elbow, they muffled their “ewws” and “yucks” and did just what she said. When she told the girls to hold those boy’s sweaty hands and promenade around the circle, we did. Sweaty hands aside, I thought square dancing was amazing. To be able to work with other kids and create patterns and move to the music was wonderful.
An interesting side note about Miss Brown. In fifth grade, we studied the westward expansion. While the other fifth grade classes were drawing pictures of forts, Miss Brown brought in a bunch of refrigerator boxes, and we cut them up and painted them and turned our classroom into a western town complete with mercantile shops with cardboard awnings. She would read to us stories about the “wild west,” and we would write letters to the other students in the class and take them to our western “town post office” to mail them. To this day, I love creating “historical sets” and living out history.
A few weeks ago our family lived in a canvas tent at the Fresno Civil War Reenactment where there was book reading, letter writing, music and dancing. I think Miss Brown would be pleased.