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Backwords: The Saturday Dance

“Dancing was for girls. Snooker, darts, cards and dominoes were for boys….’’ Mike Shaw recalls those Saturday night hops of long ago.

I am to ballroom dancing what a 20-stone man is to hang-gliding.

My wife has been telling me for years that I have two left feet.

It all goes back to the days of my youth, when any lad who even mentioned dancing lessons was branded a cissy.

Dancing was for girls. Snooker, darts, cards and dominoes were for boys.

So while the opposite sex were learning the intricacies of the waltz, fox-trot and quickstep, we spent hour after hour trying to pot the reds and hit double-top.

Some of us were brave enough to ignore our parents’ warnings and practice our darts at home.

It was all harmless fun. Until one day a dart hit the wire, bounced off the board with amazing velocity and speared our dog as he slumbered in front of the fire.

That incident resulted in a stern rebuke. And darts in the house was banned completely when mother came back from a shopping expedition to find the living room wallpaper looking like a pin cushion.

I played my first billiards and snooker on a scaled-down table at the home of a friend. But that had an element of danger too.

My mate’s parents were extremely tolerant, but even they were rightly indignant when one of the reds flew though the air like a cannonball and splintered a handsome wall mirror.

A few years later we were old enough to travel to town for our amusements.

And there were two or three snooker halls to cater to budding stars of the baize.

Sissons in Market Avenue was our favourite venue. But if we couldn’t get in there we could always try the Empress in Venn Street or the Adega just off the main street.

Mind you. conditions were far from perfect. A haze of cigarette smoke hung over the tables, most of which had a threadbare covering, and some of the cues had damaged tips that sent the ball in most unlikely directions.

There were usually long queues for the tables, especially on Saturdays, but we could always pick up a few tips from the more experienced regulars while we were waiting.

By the time I was old enough to take a serious interest in the opposite sex, I was already beginning to regret not being able to dance.

Just occasionally, at the regular old-tyme dances held in the working men’s club at Booth Banks, West Slaithwaite, I was brave enough to take to the floor.

But my tentative and un-coordinated efforts invariably proved a disaster and left me blushing with embarrassment as I crawled back to my seat in the corner.

Saturday night dances were all the rage then, at venues like Marsden Mechanics’ Hall and Marsden Bandroom.

And when I became a cub reporter, highlights of our news diary were dances where they picked beauty queens such as Miss Marsden, Miss Slaithwaite and Miss Colne Valley.

Taking down the competitors’ particulars was a very pleasant task! And there was always a bar, of course.

Thankfully, dancing was not part of the reporters’ duties.

Nowadays, the complicated steps are no longer a problem.

All you need on a disco dance floor are bags of stamina and no inhibitions.


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