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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 11/17/2001

Dancing provided a lifetime of pleasure

If you would like children to pursue a certain course of action throughout life, be sure to forbid it while they are still young.

So it was with me and dancing.

During the 1920s, ballroom dancing was frowned upon for proper young women, and my stern midwestern mother forbade my taking lessons. How well I recall one afternoon in my hometown of Lidora, Iowa, when my schoolteacher was showing me a few steps in preparation for a high school play.

My mother found out what was going on. She stormed into the town hall, stepped between us, and dragged me out of the room by the arm.

Dancing was fabulously popular in the 1920s, and not knowing the steps was a decided handicap. I was a senior in high school, preparing for college, where I knew social dance skills would be an asset.

Once I enrolled at the University of Iowa and started making my own decisions, I went to open dancing on Saturdays at the student union and danced with whomever asked me.

My husband, George Benson, late editor of the Toledo Times, used to tease me that I married him only because he danced so well. We both loved to “cut a rug” and indulged our passion for dancing at the old Commodore Perry and Hillcrest hotels. Those were my best dancing days.

We both took lessons at the Eddie Hanf Studio, in an upstairs space in downtown Toledo. We learned the fox trot and rhumba as well as the tango and other special dances. (I never cared much for the tango ... and I know if I bent that way now, I would break myself clean in half!)

George took private lessons from Eddie's wife, Ruth, while I learned fancy steps from Eddie himself. This dual training in the same style gave us a more polished appearance when we danced together.

My husband died in 1959, and I did not dance for several years. In attending a dinner-dance with an aircraft flight association acquaintance, I discovered that I was rusty. I signed up to take private lessons, this time from Ruth Thomson, daughter of Ruth and Eddie Hanf. I danced occasionally for several years, then gradually gave it up, as I did many other pursuits.

Dancing days now are gone forever for me, except in memory. My mid-age dancing years never were equaled for sheer pleasure, but I always will be glad that I ignored my mother's prohibition. A lifetime of dancing was a lifetime of joy.

Millie Benson is a Blade Columnist.



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