Dance floor good place to learn to play ball

Two girls fought over me once. 

Well, it really wasn’t me that caused the fight. It was my dance steps. 

You see, in the 60s, I was only one of few guys that learned how to dance the “Mashed Potatoes,” the dance started by “fellow” Philadelphian Dee Dee Sharp. It was just like the “Slop,” another dance I had picked up which called for similar footwork. 

I attended a dance every Sunday night at St. Joe’s at 16th and Allegheny, a section of North Philadelphia where Catholic priests ran an orphanage for boys. Never met any of the orphans, but it did give us kids from Brewerytown a chance to stay out of trouble and mingle with the opposite sex. 

Most guys simply “hung out,” trying to be “cool.” Lucky if they even danced a slow dance. Wanted to just look and be seen, I guess. 

Not me. My father would lead the “Greek Snake Dance” at weddings and parties, and he must have been a good role model, because I never felt shy about trying to dance. Or appearing like a fool if I failed. 

Dances kept kids out of trouble

Guys would create a special routine as “Mashed Potato Time” played. Two or three of us would pretend we were ballplayers. One was a batter, while another was a pitcher or a catcher. 

I’d go into a “wind-up” with my arms waving over my head, the whole time “mashing” my feet together in tune with the song. I pretended to throw a ball and the other dancer would swing and either miss or hit the pretend ball. 

If you were really good, you’d do a “split:” fall to the dance floor with both legs “splitting” out like two halves of a scissors. You wouldn’t be all stretched out from the groin on down, but merely give the “appearance” they were extended that way. 

I could do a split! 

And that’s what got the attention of two girls who vied with each other to dance with me. One was a girl named Marty, a year older than me. Didn’t know her. Only learned of her name later. She was a cute brunette who danced with style, occasionally making eye contact with an inviting smile. Never followed up. Too shy in that department. 

But some other girl either pushed or bumped Marty out of the way to dance across from me. She didn’t last long. Marty shoved back, nearly knocking the girl to the floor. More shoving followed and before you knew it, somebody grabbed somebody’s hair. And the fight was on! 

I stopped dancing as others around me also came to a halt, watching the girls go at it. Friends of the girls broke it up and the last I heard the two were agreeing to meet afterwards “to settle things.” 

They never did, as far as I know. And I was willing to dance with both if they only picked up the baseball dance routine. Don’t need to fight when you to learn to play ball with each other. Found that out on the dance floor.

4 comments on “Dance floor good place to learn to play ball

  1. alexandrabrooks says:

    Love this blog Michael. I remember these dances well. Thanks for jogging the memories!


    • contoveros says:

      It’s the latest, it’s the greatest,
      Mashed Patato, ya, ya ,ya

      A Mashed Potato started long time ago
      With a guy named Sloppy Joe,
      You’ll find this dance is so cool to do,
      Come on baby, gonna teach it to you.

      Mashed Potato, feel it in your feet now,
      Mashed Potato, come on get the beat now,
      Baby, come on honey, come on baby.

      And then they dance it through and through,
      They look for records they can do it to,
      They got a dance was outta sight,
      Doin’ the lion sleeps tonight.

      Mashed Potato, Ya a weem o wep a weem o wep,
      Mashed Potato, ya, ya, ya, ya,
      It’s the latest, aw baby,
      It’s the greatest, come on honey,
      Ya, ya ya, ya,

      Now everybody is doin’ fine,
      They dance alone or in a big boss line,
      And they discovered it’s the most, man,
      The day they did it to Please Mr. Postman.

      Mashed Potato, wait a minute, wait a minute,
      Mashed Potato, deliver de letter,
      It’s the latest, come on baby,
      It’s the greatest, oh honey,
      Ya, ya, ya, ya.

      Well they got with more and more,
      Ya ought to see ’em around the floor,
      The Mashed Potato ??????????
      They even do it to Dear Lady Twist.

      Mashed Potato, ya, ya, ya, ya,
      It’s the latest, come on baby,
      It’s the greatest, oh honey,
      Mashed potato, feel the groovy beat now.


  2. Emily says:

    The ladies do love a dancing man, no doubt. My Dad took my sister and I dancing when we were kids, taught us the basics. It’s such a shame that men in my generation are such wusses about taking dance lessons.


    • contoveros says:

      I still dance. Do a mean dervish whirl.

      I think guys from a lot of generations preferred to sit it out rather than take a chance on the floor.

      They don’t know what they missed. I always enjoyed it.


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