A short story about my kinfolk and me and the music, taste & style as experienced as a teen…
She lived as a teen in the 1850’s
Joachine Demarais Williamson, my great, great, great grandmother would have listened to some traditional folk songs during this era as well as songs like Nelly Bly, I Have Got the Blues Today, and Captown Races. Camptown Races was upbeat and hand clappity (a new word I just made up) and it was shoe stomping too. Even when I hear it from time to time or just bust out and sing it, yes, yes, that’s correct, I actually do just bust out and sing Camptown Races now and again. I get all hand clappity and upbeat, its super fun, you ought to try it, and I bet that’s what she did…or at least when no one was look’n! Choruses in songs began to evolve and be a major part of songs back then. What would I do without a chorus? Oh man, that’s like my favorite part of a song. As a child my sister’s and I would take turns and fight over who got to sing the chorus in our favorite songs! Glad that happened back when Ol’ Joachine was cutting a rug!
Her wardrobe consisted of long, heavy, bunchy material from head to toe, buttons and lace, no skin showing, bustle wearing dresses. Except the only photo of her I have is when she was much older in an old worn out dress just like the one described but it’s definitely plainer. With age people don’t tend to be very trendy, just back then it was modest, not functional, just plain modest. I wonder what she slept in. I hope she got to cool off at least some part of her 24 hours! I wish I knew more about her, I can only imagine her enthusiasm for entertainment by the look in her eyes. To me she is saying “Well, go on now, go on and get, and get your fiddle and spoons and come back and play me a tune”!
She lived as a teen in the 1880’s
Mary Jane wore a heavy long black dress with buttons from her stomach to her neck with lace around the neck and her hair in a bun. She listened to music like Polly Wolly Doodle All the Day, Oh My Darlin’ Clementine, The Whistling Coon, Turkey in the Straw, Hello Ma Baby, and ones that we all might be more familiar with like The Entertainer and Yankee Doodle Boy. The dance style was interpreted as joyful intermingling couples dancing and was considered romantic. Dances like the Arbor March, the Quadrille and The Stars were popular. When I watch dance history videos of this era I am reminded of a similar childhood dance called London Bridges minus the falling down part! I wonder what it would have been like to have been all prim and proper.
I am not going to lie, I am so glad I didn’t live back in those days, not the prim and proper part so much, but to wear those dresses without Air conditioning, no thank you. Besides that, although jovial, the music doesn’t really move me (Maybe except Polly Wolly and the Turkey and the Straw) but I’m happy it moved her.
She lived as a teen in the 1910’s
Maggie Hayes, she loved to go to dances she said in memoir “The happiest time in my life was when I was a teenager going to dances”. She shares in her writings that she started going to dances when she was age 14 and she would go to every dance that she heard of, dancing was her greatest pleasure. “We would start dancing at night and dance until the sun came up.” I think it’s funny she remarked that she “avoided many boys whom I knew were trying to dance with me.” Maggie was selective, ha!
Some songs from her era was Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes are Smiling, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Swanee, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, and Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
I have a photo of her when she was a teen and she was dressed in what I would consider a Little House on the Prairie dress, but it cuts off just below the knees. No bonnet on her head, that era had passed, but a large bow in the back of her hair and her high button shoes. I like to think this is the perfect picnic dress. It’s got plenty of material for you to sit on like a picnic blanket then after you can run up to the top of a hill and spin around in circles with a piece of straw in your mouth like the good ‘ol days! When I think of her joy as a teen it reminds me of my joy when I was a teen, Oh what fun I had!
She lived as a teen in the 1940’s
Inez Hayes Armstrong, as a teen wore bobby socks and oxfords. When she got dressed up she would wear a flowy skirt just above her knees, a small heel, a fur coat and her hair pulled back from the sides with a poofy top. Her only make-up was face powder. She shared that she would smear so much on her face that one time her mother remarked “Inez, you shouldn’t put so much powder on your face or people will think you fell in a flour barrel.” I can relate to going overboard learning to apply make-up as a teen, that shimmery blue eye shadow and thick mascara, no matter, I loved it just like my grandma loved her powder, ha!
Her entertainment was going to the movies, I must get that love from this grandmother also, and it’s a favorite pastime of mine. In her era the music consisted of Swing, Big band like the Lawrence Welk, Latin, and familiar names like The Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Cab Calloway, and Frank Sinatra. I love looking at pictures of her in her teen years in all her different wardrobes. She wore romper type overalls (adorable), skirts, long slacks type shorts, high waist shorts with a belt, hair strategically fashioned, fancy little hats, dresses while bike riding, short sleeves, button tops that showed some skin and tops that can be worn off the shoulders (oh la la, get’n fancy Grandma). I imagine they she played the radio all the time, the type of radio where you can imagine the commercials of Ovaltine, Coca-Cola, and Sunbeam bread advertisements.
She lived as a teen in the 1960’s
Marian Jean Armstrong Millo, my mother. As a teen she loved The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Supremes’, The Four Seasons, Sonny & Cher, Elvis, Herman’s Hermits, The Mama’s & The Papa’s, Nancy Sinatra, Steppenwolf, The Turtles, The Archie’s, The 5th Dimension, and so much more of that era.
She made her own dresses, mod style, way above the knee’s, or sleek looking form fitting slacks, with sweaters or waist line blouses and the shoes were mainly flats. Her hair was teased, sometimes with a ribbon.
She loved to dance and I’ve seen her do them all, she showed my siblings and me when we were growing up and we all loved to mimic that time. The dances were The Twist (Please let’s bring this back), The Watusi (What I would give to have my husband’s hips move like that!), The Mashed Potato (That takes some skill right there), The Pony (Usually how I look on the daily every time I have to go pee), The Swim (I’d love to dance with John Travolta with this style), The Jerk ( I can’t stop dancing this way, it’s my spirit animal), and The Skate (A definite fav)!
I love looking at pictures of her in this era, it’s definitely a time I would have loved to live in mainly because of the dress style and music. Plus all that home cooking and television shows like Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, and the Lucy Show, what fun! I’m sure she did have a lot of fun back then too!
Rene Nolte (me), I lived as a teen in the 1980’s
I LOVED growing up in the 70-80’s!
The music, the entertainment, the clothes, new restaurants.
My parents controlled the music in the house in the 70”s so I listened to all their favorites, which really became my favorites like The Doobie Brothers, The Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, The Bee Gees, The Village People and oldies from the 50’s and 60’s were often played in the home.
We never not had music playing and I loved it. In the 80’s I had an 8 Track player, a record player, and then a cassette player. For Christmas one year, I got the mother lode… A Jam Box! I was living the dream! I bought my own 8 tracks and records and cassettes too with my allowance.
My first album was Michael Jackson, Olivia Newton John, I also had music from Blondie, Pat Benatar, Hall and Oates, Duran Duran (Heartthrob, Sigh), George Michael, Stevie Wonder, The Sugarhill Gang, Beastie Boys and lots of new wave music. Then my parents opened up a Teen Dance Club and my dad had TON’s of music so I didn’t have to buy any, he had them all and my siblings and I had all the space in the world to dance and play music on the daily! When I wasn’t in my dad’s teen club, I was in a different teen club dancing, I LOVED to dance, and I know where I got that from, my ancestors!
MY clothes were bought on a budget but I was selected.
I had a member’s only jacket, I had a pair of parachute pants, they were aqua, and I LOVED them. I spent all my Christmas money one year on those babies! I had the checkered vans, boat shoes, surfer shirts, Sergio Valente and Jordache Jeans. I may have worn the same clothes over and over again but I was obsessed with them! Are parachute pants making a come back?
My daughter was a teen in the 2010’s
My baby girl, Alexis Re’ Welker. She danced all her life just like her mother did. I grew up in dance classes and so did she, she was always around music because we always had music playing just like I grew up with. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree right?! Her music era was different than mine, by now lyrics are pretty out there and a lot of hate and say what you want fills them. I needed to filter versions of songs from vocalist like Eminem, Ludacris, and Lil Wayne…the beats though, she always found a dance that fit the beats. She also liked Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea, Lil Jon, Dem Franchize Boyz, Young Dro, Beyonce, Drake, Adele and so much more.
Dance clubs wasn’t her thing though, parties was, and Homecoming and Prom and every chance she could, she’d blast the music in our cars while parked and would jam, getting out and dancing if she felt like it. Some knew all the latest dance moves, or she made some up and did mash ups of them all. The dance names were different in her time, different from every era since the beginning of time, dances like The Stanky Legg, oh yeah, I’m sure you can’t forget that name. The Superman, The Dougie, Teach Me How to Jerk, Lean Wit it, Rock Wit it, Walk It Out, Soulja Boy and then some… but she knew them all and could dance them like she was the one who made it up!
Her clothing as a teen was fashioned by stand-alone Boutique shops. I’d take her to all different shops, she loves to shop, like me. But she was my only girl and the baby and so therefore she was spoiled and I didn’t mind. Shopping for clothes, shoes, out to eat foodie and oh yes, the dress and swimsuit shopping too, that and heels, she ALWAYS looked good. Unless she had a grunge day, which was only about once a week. She would also wear jeans with holes in them and team/school sport t-shirts she would also wear a lot, she did play sports all through school but she could rock a t-shirt. I think it was and is mainly her confidence and attitude. Her sense of humor in all things are epic.
Now she’s a mom and is obsessed with 2 stores, Target and Olive Ave. Whatever they have, you’ll see her in it! I know she had a blast as a teen, perhaps too much fun and definitely spoiled. On the last day of school as a Junior I picked her up and said I’m taking you home to pack, were going to LA on a shopping spree. She was mad at me…she complained the whole time she was packing and even as we headed to the airport. I said “Alexis, you should be thankful and happy, you are like the luckiest girl on the planet!” She replied in a loud but humorous tone “No, no I’m not the luckiest kid on earth, Augustus Gloop is, and he’s the luckiest kid on the planet!” I couldn’t stop laughing…needless to say, we had a blast!
I can’t wait to write my granddaughters teen stories of their era, my oldest granddaughter is 7, middle one is a year and a half and youngest one is 7 months. Oh what fun to be had? I hope they can and will ponder as I did about my ancestors and see how times change, music changes, style changes but what doesn’t change is the feeling you get when you hear the music you like. To make it even better, the style of your personality, what you dress like that goes with that blend of music and taste and what you spend your time doing. I hope all good memories to be had just as they were before and so on and so on and so on.
I hope you enjoyed this stroll through time via my American family female vibes. Do you know your family’s music history and style? Write your own families story next! 🙂
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Loved reading your blog so much! I learned things I didn’t know or had forgotten. You really did your research. I have 5 pages of a few notes to add as soon as I get a chance! 😍
You get your love of music and dancing honestly as we come from a long line of talented musicians both voice and dance! It runs in the family. I don’t know about the Armstrongs but definitely from the Hayes side. I’ll add a few thoughts although I could write several chapters on the subject. I, too, loved to go to dances as a young teenager like my Grandma Maggie. Likely they were church dances too where I learned to square dance and Do-si-do! (We were taught the basics in elementary school in PE class)! Sadie Hawkins dances in high school were so fun dressing up like Lil’ Abner and Daisy May (way before your time but think of them like the Beverly Hillbillies and you’ll get the picture)! My date and I even won the dance contest one year! Another year I asked David Ford (you Kim and Dwaine, jr. went to school with his sons) to go with me because girls ask the guys for Sadie Hawkins. I sang my first solo in church at age 10 and continued to sing in competitions school solos all region choirs madrigal groups quartets the lead in musical O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A weddings funerals, etc. Some of my fav music genre’s include Honky Tonk music (NOT to be confused with C&W 😝), in the style of Hank Williams, Zydeco music from New Orleans aka spoons and washboard music entertainment, Irish dancing Riverdancers are absolutely hypnotic to watch with their bagpipes and piccolos, Bluegrass banjo music Hillbilly music of the Appalachians with its mountain fiddle and nasal twang and Cloggers from the Heartland, the hymns of our pioneers (“Pioneer children sang as they walked..”) African- American spirituals (“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”), and gospel hymns sung about Christian values. My parents paid for me to take voice lessons in 7th grade from an English teacher who minored in music. $20 for the month at $5 for a 30 min lesson. She taught me how to breathe properly from my diaphragm, Italian and Latin arias. I recently learned one of but granddaughter’s has a picture collage of he as a teenager because she loves the style of my era growing up in the 50’s & 60’s! I must say it was totally classy time with the sundresses with spaghetti straps shift dresses shirt waist dresses capris short shorts Bermuda shorts strapless formals beaded empire waistlines and mini dresses ruffles elbow length gloves textured hose and garter belts (sexy) beehive hairdos french twists high teased hair with bows, etc. penny loafers and saddle oxfords and bobby sox. My Mom and Grandma Norris wore Coty face powder with the little powder puffs on the top of box. To this day I can remember that smell… ..sooo good! I also appreciated and “wanted my MTV” of the 80’s! When you kids were in school I kept the TV on MTV all day long! It was still mostly fun clean wholesome happy music like when I grew up. It was the best of times!
ClApPiTy ClAp! 🤗