It was 1952 that I first met Elaine, the lone female, when she came to work at the Royal Insurance Company in Collins Street, Melbourne. She got dumped in what they termed the ‘Accident Dept’ , I, too, was having a quiet time there before getting shifted to the ‘Accounts Dept’ .
Elaine was a sweet young Catholic girl (The Royal seemed to employ mostly sweet young Catholic girls to do the grinding dull work) of 15, always had a big ready smile; and, as far as I can recall, was stuck in the same dept,
doing the same dull work; an endorsement clerk, right up until the time I left the Royal, and probably until she eventually chucked it in!
A new dancing craze was to hit Australia in ’52, straight from the good ol’ U.S. of A,. Square dancing, and Melbourne became the home of the craze.
Naturally, me being a dance mad teenager, I got stuck right into the swing of it. My mate Doyley and I, started off at the Orama Ballroom, in Footscray, and it wasn’t long before we’d joined up with a half dozen like minded square dance fanatics, sashaying here, allemande there, with a Do Si Do thrown in for good measure. Really great fun, and we became very good at it! So much so that we went for the big time.
The big time Square Dance was held over in Prahran, (not far from where the bloke who started me on this rant lives now) at Leggett’s Ballroom. At that time it was the largest ballroom in the Southern Hemisphere; and had Australia’s number one Square Dance Caller. Jim Vickers Willis.
He was a Pommy bloke who’d climbed onto the bandwagon, he wasn’t the best as far as I was concerned but he had the biggest following and the dance was always broadcast on the wireless/ radio on a Saturday night. These were the good ol’ days before TV!
Some one suggested that it’d be fun to go to Leggett’s on a Saturday night, and enter the ‘competition’; they had an elimination round, and the last set of 8, got to meet and shake hands with the caller, Jim! So over we went
We didn’t win the first night, we got knocked out pretty early, indeed it took us a few weeks, before we got to be declared the winners, and got to go on stage, be congratulated by Jim and shake his hand, to great applause mind you! 😀
If you’ve got this far, and have been paying attention, you will recall that I said that the Saturday night dance, was broadcast on the radio/wireless. There wasn’t much to do if we weren’t actually dancing, and Doyley and I had managed to work our way, kind of, backstage.
There was a cyclorama, of sorts, and stuck behind this was a young bloke who’s job it was to read the ads during the break in dances and then announce the next set.
His name was Graham, he was the same age as Doyley, 18 years. He was glad of a bit of company which wasn’t surprising stuck where he was; still he went onto bigger and better things, as did Elaine.
It was some years before I met Elaine again, I bumped into her in Melbourne one day and we stopped to have a chat, I asked how she was going and she said fine, I asked how things were at the Royal, and she laughed, and said she’d given that away long ago; I asked what she was doing now.
And she told me that she was a singer and appeared as a regular on the ‘In Melbourne Tonight’ show on TV. I admitted that I had never watched that program and had no idea what it was, she took great delight in bringing me into the latter half of the 20th century.
Elaine apparently was Australia’s answer to Debbie Reynolds, she didn’t tell me, I did some sleuthing, seems she used to warble a song called ‘Tammy’ quite well. She did win a ‘Logie’ award as the best singer on TV.
I never saw Elaine again. She met and married a Texan and moved to Texas where she died very young aged 54 in 1992.
Graham, of Leggett’s Ballroom Square Dancing fame, went on to become the host of ‘In Melbourne Tonight, and even greater heights in Australian TV and folklore. Graham won 5 or 6 Gold TV Logies. I believe.
It was he that gave the Logie’s their name. Named for John Logie Baird the inventor of television.
Who will be in the next link when I move from the 50’s to the sixties? You’ll just have to wait and see, one thing you can be sure of, there will be a similar link with the next three