Party Like It's 1960

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Song BooksThe Pasadena Senior Center turns 60 this month. The doors opened for the first time on May 22, 1960, and the newspapers reported that 2000 people attended the opening festivities. I’ve been spending time recently looking for information about those early years. Researching online, I found a set of color postcards of the Senior Center from the early 1960s (ah, the joys of the internet, and the amazing things available on Ebay!). ’ll be sharing a postcard each week in our Anniversary month.

I’m starting with the image closest to my heart: a dance party in the ballroom! I had seen a grainy black and white copy of this photo before, but color really brings out its character. I can’t resist the red polka-dot dress of the lady on the right (I want one just like it!), and a closer look reveals an amazing yellow-and-magenta print on the Hawaiian shirt of the man dancing nearby. The plain hall is dressed up with green and white floor-to-ceiling curtains and faux Chippendale chairs. The Center was significantly remodeled and expanded in the late 1990s, so this room as photographed doesn’t exist anymore. It was replaced by our Scott Pavilion; a larger and more elegant space, yet still sporting a room divider same as its predecessor.

It stands to reason that a Senior Center would have a tradition of ballroom dancing. Seniors attending the Center in the 1960s had danced their way through the 1920s, 30s and 40s and it was a way of life. We still dance to tunes from those eras at our parties today, courtesy of the Great American Swing Band. Actually, to tell the absolute truth, we aren’t dancing to them at the Center right now, due to the sad and necessary social distancing measures in place to combat the spread of our current pandemic. However, when you think of the date of this postcard, early 1960s, we know that every senior at that party was born before 1914: therefore each dancer had survived the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, as well as the trauma both World Wars. If they could dance again, so can we!

I’ve always loved dancing, but I became a ballroom dance addict two years ago, when I joined the class at the Senior Center. Before the world shut down in March, I was ballroom dancing two or three times a week and loving every minute. Since it is pretty impossible to foxtrot six feet away from your partner, dancing, like so many other things, suddenly stopped. Done. Dancing alone just isn’t the same as waltzing around the room with a partner. But one thing wasn’t cut off: the dance friendships I made at the Center. We still talk, commiserate the lack of dancing, and share tips to keep in shape for that time – soon, I hope, soon! – when we can all gather again and visit, listen to music, and dance. Just like in 1960.