by E. Virginia MacKay (Webb), '48 BSc
In a dusty box of momentos, which has somehow survived two transocean moves and some infrequent but ruthless housecleaning sessions, I discovered several dance programs saved from my undergraduate years during the '40s. These were the years during and just after World War II when we listened and danced to the "Big Band Sound" of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Les Brown, and the Dorsey brothers. We waltzed and foxtrotted and "jitter-bugged"; the "twist" and "rock and roll" were to be the dances of our kid sisters and brothers and our children.
These were also the years of the formal dances that every co-ed on campus dreamed of: the junior Prom, the Engineers' Ball, and the "Froph" (which was sponsored jointly by the freshman and sophomore classes). The planning committee for each dance chose a theme for the decorations and the dance programs. In my box are several of these programs that I had carefully saved so I could remember and enjoy those exciting evenings all over again.
In 1944, the junior Prom was called the Jack Frost Frolic. The program — all in shades of blue — shows Jack blowing his frosty breath from behind a huge snowball. The theme of the '45 Froph was Moonglow, and the program shows the title and a smiling new moon printed in silver against a black background. In '46, the theme of the Froph was Aftermath, and the green and gold program is shaped like a frosh beanie.
If vou were a co-ed, your date "traded" dances with his classmates and filled in your program before the dance. Each dance had a name — dreamed up by the committee — and these names make amusing reading now. For Moonglouc, the program lists dances called Silver Fantasy, Mais Oui, Twilight Mood, and Enchantment.
The program for the '45 Junior Prom, Kampus Daze, lists Arts Amour, Med Meander, Nurses Nocturne, Tuck Bound, and Gridiron Glide. For the Jack Frost Frolic, Overshoe Overture is the first dance, followed by Glacier Glide, Toque Tussle, 'Toboggan Loggin', and Mukluk Mix-up. And two of the dances in the Aftermath program are Book Boogie and Writer's Cramp.
All the women students on campus belonged to the Wauneita Society, and the Wauneita dance gave them their turn to invite a date for the evening and find partners for the dance programs. This dance had an Indian theme, with dances called Cree Crawl, Indian Love Call, Tomahawk Trot, Blackfoot Boogie, Wigwam Wiggle, and Wampum Waddle.
The engineers showed their inventive and mechanical abilities in the dance programs for their balls, as well as in their decorations and displays. I remember a model of the Peace River Bridge and, another year, a working model of an oil rig. I also remember having to duck through a long dark tunnel — the tar paper project of the mining engineers — to enter the "Drill Hall" for one of the balls.
The program of the '45 Engineers' Ball looks like a slide rule, with an insert that slides out to show the list of dances, including Brownian Movement, Simple Harmonic Motion, High Voltage, Sympathetic Vibration, and Godiva's Ride. Another program, this one from '46, has a movable dial with two slots showing the names of the dances and your partners as the dial is turned. The dances include Catenary Caper, Heat Exchanger, Live-Wire, Jet Propulsion, Flotation, Eurectic Reaction, High Tension, Low Resistance, and Yield Point. All highly technical, and some highly suggestive of what the engineers had on their minds!
Today's youth are rediscovering the Big Band Sound and listening to String of Pearls and Deep Purple and Sentimental Journey, but I doubt that the customs of junior proms, white gloves, and dance programs will catch on again. And I think the word co-ed vanished about the time the term women's lib appeared.
The box has been packed away, to be dusted off and investigated again some day, but I enjoyed a few moments smiling over the memories of the dances — and of the dancers — and chuckling over the names of the dances in the programs.
Published Spring 1985.