My grandma was born in 1902-ish. She went to three colleges, Purdue University, Indiana University and Michigan…something. She didn’t graduate from any of them. My mom thinks they just sent her off to whichever college one of her brothers was attending. She seemed to really enjoy going to college–she had this awesome scrapbook:
It has photos and valentines and letters and programs…and dance cards. I can’t show you everything, because it would take as long to scroll through this blog post as it took me to turn through the pages and open a million yellow scraps of paper… But I was kind of in awe of the dance cards.
Here is one, from the Gamma Beta Phi Mu Delta (is that a sorority, fraternity, or one of each?) Fall Formal in 1925. It’s leather.
The spider-webby stuff is a parchement-y translucent paper. That faded triangle …
…is because the front cover has a little pocket with a mirror:
The back cover has a little coin purse:
And the inner pages are the dance list where you would sign up your partners.
Here’s a sampling of others–cloth and copper and cardboard and wood.
Growing up, I never felt like I had much common ground with my grandmother. We didn’t see her often, and when we did it seemed she kind of repeated herself a lot about stuff I didn’t really understand, and always wanted to play “rummy cub” with my mom. If she talked about going to dances, as a child, and even a teenager, words like Lindy, Charleston would have meant little. It would have sounded like “blah blah blah” to me. I started dancing those dances after her death.
I would love to know about these dances–like did they have recorded music or live bands? What were the popular songs to dance to? Was there a frenzy of dance-card filling-out at the top of the evening? Were there certain people she liked to dance with because they were really good, and guys who made her cringe when she wrote their names down? What were the politics of the dance card filling–phrases of polite rejection, etc? Was she as happy and popular as these pages make her seem? Or was there a story under the story? Was she supposed to be husband hunting? How is it than none of the men on the dance cards ended up being the one? My mother and I now realize we have no idea how my grandmother met my grandfather, but it wasn’t at college. Was he a dancer? I know he was away a lot for business and can’t imagine that after she married, Grandma got to go to very many dances.