I was 16. The year was 1954. The 1960s hadn’t even dreamed of starting.
If you put a gun to my head and asked me what activity I most enjoyed in my teenage years, I would have a say it was the CYO (Catholic Youth Organisation) Sunday night dance. It went from 7:30 PM to 10 PM.
It was held in a small church meeting hall or in the complex of property which was the St Columba’s Catholic parish of Wentworthville, a suburb outside Parramatta to the west of Sydney. We, the young CYO members, would get there early and rub kerosene soaked sawdust onto the floor to make it more slippery. There were not many rubber soles and heels in those days. A beautiful man, Jack Walsh, was the pianist. His co-musicians played the violin and the drums. They played the same songs every week. I remember they always played “Jealousy” for the La Bomba.
As for me I would walk home at 10 PM on a Sunday night and I was already was looking forward to the next Sunday night. An older woman of some 19 years, Elsie McMahon, took me under her wing and taught me how to dance. This was the great barrier we had to cross — “learning to dance”. The joy of the evening for an extrovert like me was the Progressive Barn Dance which gave every male a short time with every young female in the room. 25 years later when the CYO had a reunion I discovered to my amazement that each female danced in exactly the same style with eactly the same quirks. We also learned the Gypsy Tap, the Maxina, the Jazz Waltz and many others.
Names I remember were Elsie’s younger sister Maxine McMahon, Peter McMahon, Marie Giblin, Jeanette Smith, Dick Lynch, the Trad family, Portia Trad (teamed up with a Kelly) Verity Trad and John Trad who had heart trouble and who died at a very young age. It was my close friend Dennis Gaul (Jeanette Smith fell madly in love with him), my cousin Annette Dunstan, the fashionable Virginia Ligghezolo and the Maltese members– Charlie Zarb, Charlie Borg, Louis Camilleri, Esther and Melita Camilleri. There was June Spiteri. Tommy Howard became the President later on, when I was secretary. He married the beautiful Marie Docking. Jim Docking came to Melbourne and married Faye – they were my first and longest standing Melbourne friends. Johnny and Marlene Dobler, Angela Flamisch and Brian McBride, Alan Goode, Ray and Colleen Hunt, Anita Bourke , June Mortlock, Sonia Crowe – my memory isn’t as bad as I thought it was. Eric Valentine, Ray Weidesweiller, Wacka Beach, Billy and Barbara Ericson. Many more names.