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And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

Like no one else had ever danced before. I can’t explain what happened on that floor. But the music played, We held each other close, And we danced. Yeah, we danced.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 1

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

Coupland represents the new wave in dance halls, a strange designation for a 105-year-old building. But dancing at the red-brick cavern is a relatively recent phenomenon. Opened as a mercantile in 1904, it knew a brief life in the fifties as La Casa Grande Ballroom. When it was a roller rink in the seventies, some kids probably danced there, and later, when it was a saloon known as Slow Joe’s, barkeepers poured out cornmeal when drinkers wanted a dance. But the floor back then was plywood.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 2

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

He made those strings sing. I haven’t heard anyone play like that before or since and I thank God for that every day. It made the air around us crackle and spark. It loosened the joints and jolted the mind. You felt the urge to move deep in the bone, buried in the marrow. I grabbed Sarah’s hands and we began to move across the floor and everyone followed suit, some with partners and some without. Some were doing the foxtrot, some were doing a waltz, and some of us were doing the twist. We danced, moved, shucked, jived, rocked, and rolled.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 3

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

Reverend Harper died at one point. I watched it happen. He was holding up the still fainted Misses Grendel (whose feet still moved with the music) when he dropped her and fell to the floor. He twitched once, his feet beating a quick, staccato rhythm, and then was still. Misses Grendel got back up and kept on moving. I watched Harper as I danced, trying to see if he was breathing.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 4

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

The Westerner is one of the few halls without a wall of fame; no show posters or autographed publicity stills hang on the wood paneling, chiefly because of the hall’s historically split personality. Opened in 1929, it hosted whites-only country dances until 1956, when John Manuel Villafranca, a 31-year-old rural-route postal carrier, talked the owner into letting him lease the place out for Sunday tardeadas, or afternoon dances. As many as eight hundred people would show up each week, Hispanic families from all over south Central Texas who came and danced to orquesta tejana acts like Beto Villa and Isidro Lopez, the Tex-Mex equivalent of big-band western swing. By the early sixties Villafranca was managing the place and had replaced Saturday night’s country bands with conjuntos. But he kept Fridays for the white crowds, for “Teen Age Dances” featuring Roy Head and the Traits and BJ Thomas and the Triumphs, parties that were nominally hosted by a white couple he knew. He’d have tipped his hand if he’d put photos of Mexican Americans on the walls.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 5

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

Underneath the fog, I began to feel frightened. I began to see the faces of the other people now. I saw their terror. Reverend Harper’s face had grown redder than it had been before. Sweat poured down his face, but still he kept moving, twirling Missus Grendel around and around, her head lolling from side to side. She had fainted, but her feet were still moving. We moved past Bill, who danced with Susie Watkins, and I saw her frightened eyes darting around the room, but Bill bobbed his head in time with the music and his glassy eyes looked at nothing in particular.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 6

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

You listen, but your eyes go to the dance floor. If the band hasn’t started yet and the floor is empty, you’ll notice the long, dark planks, probably pine or oak, shining from decades of being polished by boot leather. They show none of the proverbial sawdust, just splashes of light reflected from Christmas lights hanging from the rafters. As you scout for an open table along the worn, clapboard walls—where parents pull supper from small coolers and granddads fold brown bags on half-pints and kids itch to go slide on their knees in front of the bandstand—you’ll keep looking back at the floor.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 7

And We Danced Out There On That Empty Hardwood Floor

The dance hall on the second story is lit by strings of multicolored Christmas lights draped low over the floor. Tables and chairs circle the floor, with signs reserving seats for regulars. Couples spin around, boots slipping across the hardwood with a soft chh-chh on each beat.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 8

It was huge inside. There was a hardwood floor beneath our feet that looked like it must be oak, a dark, dark oak polished to a mirror shine. There were candles in holders all along the tent-pole posts and when I looked up, I couldn’t see the ceiling for all the darkness. It was like looking up at a starless night sky, where the moon didn’t dare show her face.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 9

We all stood there, like stunned cattle, then marked to the tent flaps. No one ran, because they couldn’t. It was a miracle we could walk. Sarah stepped ahead of left, but I stayed behind. I turned and looked, and saw at least twenty people still standing there. Harper was among them. They were all grinning, their eyes empty. They stood and made no sign of wanting to leave.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 10

In this one, it’s snowing. There are snowflakes in Yoongi’s hair, his eyelashes, melting on the shoulders of his coat. The street is empty, except for Jungkook, standing under a perfect circle of yellow light from the streetlamp. Beyond that, there’s nothing. No buildings, no cars; just the street going on and on, curving in the distance around the shape of the earth.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 11

Yoongi sits up on the hardwood floor and scrubs at his puffy eyes, and Jungkook swears he hears Yoongi’s back crack when he moves. You’ve ruined it, Jungkook’s brain tells him. Yoongi peels an eye open and peers at him.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 12

He was there, on the center tent-pole, sitting on a small, wooden platform about twenty feet off the floor. God knows how he got there, because there certainly wasn’t any ladder going up. He dangled his feet over the edge and held his fiddle in one hand and the bow in the other. The fiddle and bow seemed to be made of that same dark wood that the floor was and gleamed in the candle light like a thing alive. I almost doubted that the fiddle even needed the Song and Dance Man to make its strings hum.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 13

Then her partner stepped on her ankle and I heard the crunch from across the room. He was still dancing; his eyes blank and empty as he moved. She screamed again and started to crawl away, but instead stood up. She started to dance, bringing her weight down on the broken ankle again and again and again. I turned away, but I couldn’t block the sound of her sobbing.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 14

The Cherry Spring Dance Hall is empty today, but it was once one of the hottest spots in the hill country for major early rockabilly acts. Everyone from George Jones to Elvis Presley played at Cherry Spring. Today, the hall is awaiting renovation from owner D.C. Owens, who hopes to reopen it one day. (Contributed photo by Deb Fleming)
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 15

SEATON — Alice Sulak, nee Sefcik, sat behind the bar on the ground floor of the hall her father built. Dozens of couples stomped and scooted around the dance floor upstairs as Czech music floated down through the thin floor.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 16

Little Joe y la Familia is the family’s favorite act now. Joe Hernandez and Villafranca got along much like Willie and John T. Floore. Villafranca put up the money—$125—for Joe’s first recording, with David Coronado and the Latinaires in 1958, and over the years the Westerner remained a regular stop when Joe was traveling around the state. I attended one of his triumphant returns in October. The room was still decorated from an early-summer wedding—most of its business now is quinceañ­eras and weddings—with Christmas lights wrapped in white chiffon draped from the low ceiling to white posts on the edge of the dance floor. The audience was mostly older folks, all dressed to the nines and all apparently old friends of Little Joe’s, who handed the microphone into the crowd between songs for dedications. He also accepted a number of gifts from people who knew he’d just celebrated his birthday. There was just one strict rule on the dance floor: Even if you weren’t dancing in your partner’s arms, you had to keep moving in a circle. 1005 W. Constitution, 361-575-9109, clubwesterner.com
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 17

Eventually, Jimin and Taehyung pass out in Yoongi’s bed, Namjoon falls asleep right in the armchair, and Hoseok and Seokjin have rolled out futons on the living room floor, sharing a blanket. Jungkook has fallen asleep on the couch, stretched out across it, face pressed into the pillows.
and we danced out there on that empty hardwood floor 18

Dancing came in earnest when Tim and Barbara Worthy bought the place, in 1992. They laid an oak wood floor and hung feed sacks from the rafters to help with acoustics and patterned their operation after Austin’s Broken Spoke. Like Spoke owners James and Annetta White, Tim shook hands and Barbara called the shots. If dancers stood still while the band played, she’d walk the floor and twirl a finger over her head like an umpire signaling a home run. The dancing promptly resumed.

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