Library basement had other memories for me

A few issues ago, Lorna Krawchuk reminisced about rain water running down the basement staircase of the old Leaside Library and flooding the community room.

The mention of that room stirred a pleasant memory in me of weekly dances held there in the late ‘50s, and it had a soundtrack, Conway Twitty snarling It’s Only Make Believe.

When we opened the community room doors they revealed a wide staircase, visible from many directions, leading down to the white-tiled dance floor. Cool guys used this to make dramatic entrances.  

In the movie Peggy Sue Got Married, Nicholas Cage descends a similar staircase to the high school reunion dance with a smooth saunter of empty arrogance that I recognized immediately.

The steady couples often dressed alike, wearing ensembles of red v-neck sweaters over white shirts with the collars up. Males wore black slacks; females, straight skirts (today’s pencil skirts) and white shoes. They only danced with each other, of course, while the rest of us stood with studied nonchalance praying someone would ask.

One night a hoody guy who was in a motorcycle gang asked me to dance.  (Motorcycle?  Gang? Really?  I never saw a “hog” parked on the street, or even in Leaside for that matter.  But I digress.)  Looking back I think he asked me because I was nearly as tall as he was.  Pairing with a petite person would make him look like he was alone.

As he held me in his powerful arms (Harlequin Romance talk) the wire in my underwire bra somehow escaped from my sweater and twisted into his. When the music stopped and he wanted to walk away without a backward glance as befits a man of machismo, he discovered that we had become very close.

Whose hands should separate us?  The word awkward was invented right there.  He was furiously whispering in my ear, since he could not move, about what we would now call his street cred.   Just before his escape I thought the gangsta’ was going to cry.

Late one spring, just before school was out, my grandmother told me that my cousin from Victoria was coming to Toronto with her parents on their way to Europe.  Her name was Sharon Fraser.  She was my age and I was to entertain her.

I decided to take her to a dance at the library.  She told me on the ride there that she had never been to a dance like this before.  I had guessed that when I saw her outfit, consisting of a white Peter Pan collared blouse and full pastel cotton skirt with frou frou crinoline!

To remedy the situation, I loaned her my pale pink lipstick.

Shortly afterwards, a dashing young man asked her to dance.

Months later she returned to Victoria where her grandmother asked her about her trip to Europe.

By then, travelling had taken second place.

The life memory for her that summer was the dance at the Leaside Library.

Article written by Karen Fraser.