Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bringing Families Closer - One Dance At a Time

Husby and our Middle Son, Duffy.
Spinning music.

Every weekend for over twenty years, Mikey’s Music Machine entertained groups of families.
It was a DJ company.
Catering particularly to school, church, community or reunion groups.
My Husby spun the music and the kids and I danced.
Teaching as we went.
Everything from the old time Virginia Reel, Butterfly and Schottische to the modern line dances.
What our family did, other families followed.
It was . . . marvelous.
Through the years, we had many, many wonderful experiences.
But one stands out.
Let me tell you about it . . .
We had been booked by a school in Canmore, Alberta.
Near Banff.
We were setting up.
A matter of twenty minutes or so.
During that time, a man stood watching us.
Finally, he approached.
“This’ll be a fun evening,” he said sarcastically. “Why on earth did the school invite the kids?” His mouth twisted. “How can the adults have any fun if there are kids running around?”
I stared at him.
Mikey’s was all about adults and kids.
Having fun - together.
How could I answer that?
“Ummm . . . we encourage the parents and children to dance together,” I said.
He snorted. “Oh, that’ll be fun!”
He walked away.
I turned and continued to run wires.
A few minutes later, a young girl (about 10 or so) came up.
“Well this dance is going to be a total loss,” she said.
I looked at her. “Really?”
What else could I say?
“Well, we’re not going to be able to have any fun with all of the parents here!”
Her lip curled daintily over the word, ‘parents’.
“Oh, well, we’ve found that, actually you can have lots of fun,” I said, trying to be hopeful.
She rolled her eyes and turned away.
I finished what I was doing.
And walked over to my Husby.
“This is going to be a tough crowd,” I whispered into his ear.
“Yeah. I’ve already had two complaints and we haven’t even started yet.”
He grinned. “Let’s change attitudes, shall we?”
He flipped the switch.
My kids and I walked to the middle of the gym and started dancing.
Usually, we had the dance floor to ourselves for that first song, our Mikey’s Music signature song.
Grant spoke over the music, explaining, briefly, how the evening would go.
Then he moved into the Twist.
The first of many contests for the evening.
“Okay” he said, his voice loud over the speakers, “Now this is a dance that everyone knows. The Twist! It’s also a contest song. We will give a prize to the family (he emphasized the word) who can do the very best twist!”
I should point out that we usually gave away suckers and other wrapped candies.
People would dance themselves silly for one.
Moving on . . .
The floor was immediately crowded.
Families forming small groups, all twisting madly to earn a prize.
The song ended.
The prizes awarded.
And Grant moved into our second contest of the evening.
It began by teaching everyone the Old Time Waltz.
“Okay grab a partner for this one. Once we learn this dance, we’ll have another contest. All you have to do is count: one, two three; one, two three!”
My kids and I were already demonstrating.
People watched for a moment.
Then joined in.
The song ended and they were ready for the contest, which began with each couple receiving a sheet of newspaper and spreading it out on the floor.
“Now all we want you to do is dance the Old Time Waltz on the newspaper,” Grant would say cheerfully. “Carefully! There are no prizes for torn papers!”
Okay. That’s easy.
They began.
The music floated around for a few moments. A Strauss Waltz.
Happily, the couples, mostly a parent and a child, danced carefully on their piece of newspaper.
Grant stopped the music and everyone looked at him.
“I forgot to tell you one last thing,” he said. “When I stop the music, you have to jump quickly off your paper . . .”
People did so.
“. . . and fold it in half.”
A groan from the crowd, then laughter as they complied.
“Now hop back on and we’ll dance some more!”
Everyone continued to dance on a rapidly shrinking ‘dance floor’.
“There are no rules,” Grant added, “other than both of you have to be on that piece of paper. No heels or toes can touch the floor!”
People got more and more creative. Usually resorting to one carrying the other, or employing other supporters to . . . support.
Slowly, couples dropped out as they succumbed to gravity.
The awards were given.
And Grant drifted into another old time dance, the Heel-Toe Polka.
And that’s when we got our touching surprise.
Remember the man who had approached us as we were setting up?
And the girl?
The two of them danced past me at this point.
Working out the steps to the polka and laughing.
I watched them go by, then glanced at my Husby and raised my eyebrows.
He looked at them and grinned.
That father and that daughter spent the rest of the evening on the dance floor.
I will never forget the look on their faces as they, perhaps for the first time, became friends.
Mikey’s Music Machine.
We had so much fun and created so many memories.
For so many reasons.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Mama Zen! It was such a fun time!

  2. Beautiful!!!! This story truly touched my heart.

    It also brought back a lot of great memories. There was a family from Rosemary who did the same thing your family did. The Eastman's. Bishop Roland Eastman and his family held weekly dances and taught everyone from the age of walking to the age of 99 how to dance together. Families. That's where I learned to dance all the old time dances. I LOVED it.

    Thanks for doing that for families all those years. I bet there is more stories behind your story than you even know. ; )

    1. I think I would have liked the Eastmans! I learned to dance, standing on my Dad's feet at a barn dance. That was what we were trying to re-create. It is so wonderful that other people see how important it is . . .! Thank you!!!

  3. Oh, I miss that! The Balloon Stomp was another favourite.


    I wanna get doing that again...

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you! So nice of you to drop by!!!

  5. Sometimes all we need to become friends with our family is a little music (and the promise of candy).

    1. Music and candy. Does it for me! :)

  6. Well this is wonderful.
    I never believed in the generation gap thing.
    Families is what it is all about.

  7. I was reading the last few posts I've missed this week on my trusty Google Reader and just HAD to stop by and tell you how much I appreciate your writing.
    Clever, suck me in every time.
    I always save your blog to read last so I end on a good note.
    Big Props.

    1. Thank you SO MUCH, TB! You've absolutely made my day!!!

  8. A lot of square dancing at my church, and no candy, but great fun. Thanks for remembering.

    1. I'd love to hear about your square dancing!!!


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