A great time was had by all
May 7-8, 1999
We made the trek to Pittsburgh for our weekend dance marathon. The festivities began in earnest on Friday evening with a dance with our fave band, Dr. Zoot (Their MP3 single "Ghosts of Swing" has jumped to #1 on the independent rating service www.mpulse.com)
The dance venue, the Irish Center, is something of a tribute to modern environmentalism (positive take) or the demise of Pittsburgh (negative take). The facility was built on a reclaimed slag dump east of the city. (Slag is everything that isn't steel that comes out of the blast furnace, sort of like 2400 degrees fahrenheit garbage) When I was a kid, they would haul this stuff, blazing away, in railroad cars from the Homestead works, across the Monongahela River to this desolate location. The railroad ran across the ridge of a fairly steep valley that was thought to be "unbuildable". When the train stopped, someone would pull a lever and the blazing slag would be dumped down the steep slopes --- it was a sort of poor man's fireworks. People would actually drive out to watch slag dumping. The place where we had the dance had been constantly on fire from say 1880 to 1972 --- today, it is filled with vegetation and we even saw a deer.
In chatting with the staff, we found that the Center is owned by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), an Irish fraternal society. There were several comic moments when participants discovered that the signs on the rest rooms were in Gaelic. I found out the hard way thet "Fir" means "Men".
I also found out that a splinter group of the AOH was known as the "Molly Maguires" and they led the fight for labor rights in the Anthracite coal fields in the 1880s. According to the Pinkertons, the mine owners, and a bad 1970s film (with Sean Connery...) the Maguires were terrorists. Around here, they are held to be heroes struggling against massive injustice.
A large group of people turned up for the dance and we had a really great time! Dr. Zoot generated enough heat to rekindle memories of the nightly fireworks. The band is about to release a new CD and we are very much taken with one of the songs, called "Swing Sister".
The Couple from Ohio
Thanks for making the Trip!
May 8, 1999
Our workshop went very well --- we had 53 couples and we worked more or less solidly from 10:00am until 4:00 pm. Candidly, I had more fun than I've ever had. We had a great all ages group, even some people that I recognized from West View Park Danceland in the late 1950s The record goes to a couple who came all the way from Ohio.
Brand New Zoot Suit
Thanks, and El Pachuco thanks you!
Honorable mention goes to a fellow who bought an entire El Pachuco Zoot Suit rig for the event. We really had a lot of fun with this group!
Working on Mirror Charleston
6 Hours of work!
We taught from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm with a brief break for lunch. The class worked very hard --- this photo shows one couple working at Mirror Charleston late in the afternoon
...of Allison Park
Lou (pictured here with my partner) is a long-time Pittsburgh dancer and remembers the big crowds at West View Park in the late 1950s.
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