In synch to the smoky, sensuous rhythm, we clung tightly and we swayed and we danced and we rubbed bodies together.
And in the corners of her smile, she hinted that she wouldn’t mind messing around a bit.
About this time, thirteen-year-old Mary Bovee was catching holy hell from the nuns at St. Mary’s Academy.
On rainy afternoons, she had a habit of skipping out on her ecclesiastical studies and holing up in the Portland central library. In that grand old building of Ionic design, she would immerse herself, sometimes for hours, in books and abstracts on classical Russian ballet—the dancers, choreographers, dance companies, impresarios, and the special life of Anna Pavlova, most celebrated prima ballerina of all time.
At some point in the afternoon, she would then scurry on to the ice rink for daily ice skating lessons with her coach, Eileen Grell of England.
After several years of hard work in the study of ballet, Mary had converted her ballet training and talents to the excitement and disciplines of ice skating shortly before her family moved back from Seattle to Portland.
It is said that even at the height of her fame, Pavlova would practice her art fifteen hours a day. Perhaps such visions danced in Mary’s head as she approached the rigors of ice skating with an intensity that her coach had never before seen in a student. At St. Mary’s academy, however, the unyielding nuns would not put up with a school day cut short for ice skating, no matter how promising the student. Mary Bovee was determined. Her parents supported her goals. Eventually, she bid farewell to the nuns and transferred to Portland’s Jefferson High School. At Jefferson, school officials understood her youthful goals and went along with an arduous training schedule that now began at one p.m., lasted through the afternoon and sometimes into the evening.
Somebody, it may have been my grandmother, once told me that dancing never hurt anybody.
It was an era when we danced the nights away to some of the most magical and enchanting music America has ever known—great jazz, swing and the blues, along with a host of haunting and memorable ballads.
We had some schlock, too. But mostly, we lived and loved to the songs of Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael and the rest of the talented Tin Pan Alley gang.