Thursday, August 16, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: Dance cards and a special photograph


For me this photograph is truly a treasure, a simple black and white image as valuable to me as a nugget of gold. When I learned that the trove of photographs my mother saved over the course of her life would come into my custody, this photograph was among those I knew I would be most happy to have; however, when I looked through my Mom's collection, this picture was nowhere to be seen. It was not among all of the photographs my mother kept in various albums and boxes.  I felt very sad when I could not find it, wondered what had happened to it, and mourned its loss. Then, last weekend when we were at my parents' home, continuing to clear it out, my brother came across a manilla envelope inside one of the drawers in our father's highboy dresser. Lo and behold, within that envelope was this photograph. I was absolutely thrilled to see it.

I remember looking at this photograph when I was a child, looking at it and loving it. It was one of several shots taken at 'dress dances', as they were called. A dress dance meant black tie and a ball gown, a late-night supper, and dancing to an orchestra. My parents, Mary Ball and Michael Geraghty, usually attended with a large group of friends, as well as some family members. Everyone always looks so happy in the pictures.

As a child I used to love the elegant look of it all, and day-dreamed about one day wearing a beautiful evening gown and dancing in the same ballrooms where my parents once danced. Of course, dress dances and ballroom dancing went out of vogue long ago, so my dream did not come true, but still I love to gaze at the photographs and imagine what it was like on those evenings, in the years before my mother and my father were married.

I can identify several of the people in the photograph, but for most their names are lost to me now. My father is second from the left in the row of men standing behind the ladies. Next to him, and third from the left is his uncle, my grand-uncle William Halpin. My mother is seated second from the left in between my father's aunt, my grand-aunt Mollie Magee Halpin and May Halpin Daly Barnwell. It's funny to see Mollie Magee Halpin happily seated next to my mom Mary, since Mollie strongly encouraged her nephew Michael Geraghty to court Mary Ball's sister instead of Mary. Thankfully, my dad only had eyes for my mom.

In addition to this photograph and others like it, among my mother's effects I found four dance cards which I do not recall ever before seeing. Each one gives the details of the dance, the menu for the supper, and the programme of music to be played. The largest of these small 'programmes' is three inches wide and five inches long; the smallest is only two by three inches. On a couple of them, in a youthful version of my mother's handwriting, is a listing of some the people with whom she attended.

Reading these little cards, and gazing at the photographs, I can imagine many happy evenings with my parents, Mary and Mike, dancing together, lingering over a late supper, and dreaming about their future.


Inside the card for the dance at the Gresham Hotel Ballroom, January 1950.

Copyright©irisheyesjg2012.
Click on images to view larger version.

8 comments:

  1. How wonderful that you discovered the photo, especially since it is so dear to you. LOVE the dance cards!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Carol,

      Thanks for your comments; they are always much appreciated. I was certainly doing my happy dance when my brother found the photo.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. I'm so happy you refound the photo! I've found some of my grandmother's dance cards that actually have a spot next to each dance for her partner to sign. I love seeing the list of men she danced with and rarely did she dance with the same one twice.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Debi,

      Thanks very much for your comments; it is nice to hear from you. How great to have your grandmother's dance cards. I just love the idea of having a little window into the lives of our family members before we came along.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. Too bad dress dances have gone by the way. How fun to get dressed up for a fun evening like this. Glad you found the treasured photo!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thanks so much for your comments; they are much appreciated. I am so glad to have found it too.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. So glad you re-located that "missing" photograph. The way we are able to remember things in our mind's eye is helpful, but it's even more helpful to have that tangible remembrance.

    Interesting that you mentioned childhood dreams of enjoying ballroom dancing in your future. While the style has seemed to go the way of history, there are some pockets here and there of more modern folks helping to permit ballroom dancing to make a comeback. Tapping into groups like these, you may be able to realize your youthful dream, after all. It is a delightful--and beautiful--pastime.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jacqi,

      Thanks so much for your comments; they are always much appreciated. I studied ballet and danced for over ten years, so in a way I did get to enjoy my dream of dancing, but I wish the ballrooms in which my parents danced still existed. I remember the very first time I was Ireland with my parents when I was a child, and we passed the site on which the Olympia Ballroom once stood. My mom was so very sad that it was no longer there. Clearly it was a really enjoyable time in her life.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

      Delete

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