Remembering the Dance Pavilion
at Woodcliff Park, Poughkeepsie, New York
I was just about to chuck my dreams of a life lived in front of klieg lights,
When I saw a sign on a dancehall wall that read, “Marathon
Though I wasn’t sure of my tango and my thrift shop shoes were too tight,
I managed to find me a partner named ‘Sal’ and we waltzed all through that first night.
The tempo increased come morning,
but the steps Sal and I knew by heart,
So we skimmed our way ‘round that dance floor, as fresh as we’d been at the start.
The folks in charge of the contest, said a hundred bucks would be the first prize,
And since we were both completely broke, we could sure
use a sum of such size!
Even split half and half with my partner, those greenbacks would keep
me in style,
due rent to the landlord . . . give me peace of mind for a while.
The following night
was a doozy, most dancers half-dead on their feet,
But my partner, Sal, let me drag him around to a lonely drummer’s beat.
Next morning arrived
the dance fans, to cheer on what couples remained . . .
Shuffling slowly about the scuffed oak floor while their muscles and joints complained.
Then contestants began
to totter . . . those not in best physical form . . .
They crawled to the sidelines exhausted, in numbers that seemed about norm.
With only three couples
remaining, upright on that scarred dancehall floor,
Sal and I had a good chance of winning . . . if we could just last twelve hours more!
Hang on for that one more night needed to
win the mad marathon Dance . . .
Take home a sum seemed like a fortune; give my dreams of success one more chance.
But I broke both
high heels while hauling my limp partner ‘Sal’ ‘round the floor,
And I had to pry my
shoes from my feet before I could dance one step more.
Barefoot, my silk stockings in tatters and a terrible migraine to boot,
My chutzpah had just about had it when somebody started to hoot!
That sound quite incited my moxie, and I gazed dazedly at the crowd . . .
Saw a gang of young hoodlums come jeering . . . booing and laughing out loud.
Some ruffians were ‘dancing’ to mimic those still
on the floor . . .
Prancing and giggling and ‘singing’ until
they were thrown out the door.
The other folks started applauding . . . those fans who’d been there since the start,
And THEY were the people I danced for . . . the ones who had stolen my heart.
The prize had retreated to nowhere, and my partner just didn’t
exist . . .
All I knew was the sweet, sweet sound of applause
. . . a sound I could never resist.
I woke to find myself lying flat out on a hospital bed,
With every inch
of me hurting, from my bloodied toes to my head.
My partner, it seemed, had fared better, come out of the dance on his feet . .
Able to scoop up the hundred we’d won before beating a hasty retreat.
I never did know where he went to, and nobody knew his last
But ‘Sal’ took me straight to the cleaners . . . playing his chiseler’s game.
He’d grabbed every cent of our
winnings, half of which were quite rightfully mine;
But he wasn’t
really the winner, which is why I have written this rhyme.
For my story appeared in the papers . . . News, Mirror, and Herald Tribune,
Then roses arrived from Bus Berkley with a contract to dance to HIS tune!
So I’m not going back to Peoria
or to sleep in a fleabag hotel,
Nor being fed soup at some mission where they preach
such a lot about hell.
No, I’m living the life most girls dream of . . . as a star on the bright Broadway stage,
As the critics decided to crown me, “NEW YORK’S MUSICAL COMEDY RAGE!”
Elizabeth Doolittle Hampel is a longtime resident humorist, novelist, and artist of Middlebury, VT. Born in New York State, Betty,
as she prefers to be known, writes for the pure pleasure of it. The widow of prominent Vermont artist Harrison Hampel,
a number of her short stories have appeared in national magazines, as have many of her commissioned portraits and landscapes
been reproduced on magazine covers. Prolific in any medium, Betty Hampel writes in many voices, in many styles, of many
eras. Among her published works are Mirror Image and Gumshoe, Xlibris,
2009, from which this biographical information is quoted.
ALVA Press, Inc., is most delighted to include Betty Hampel among authors included in its newsletter
and on this site.