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Darrell Huckaby - Let's go to the hop

Do you remember sock hops?

I don't mean have you heard about them or seen them on television shows and movies. I mean do you really remember them?

I do, and they were a blast. I think sock hops got their name because they were usually held on high school gymnasium floors after Friday night football games, and back in the day gym floors were sacred. A mere mortal would never even think about stepping onto one in his or her street shoes, so as students filed into the dance they would step out of their shoes and line them up along the wall and cut loose in their stocking feet - or sock feet, as the case may be - thus the term sock hop.

Of course, I was raised in Newton County and was brought up to believe that lightning would strike you if you stepped on Ronald Bradley's court in street shoes. I think it might have to. I will never forget the day Mrs. Burke, the most feared math teacher in three counties, walked across the floor in her high heels. Coach Bradley immediately accosted her and promised that he would not walk into her math class barefooted if she would not walk on his floor in her high heels.

The point is, we didn't dance on our gym floor, shoes or no shoes. Our sock hops were held at the Teen Can, which was located right across Newton Drive from the school.

The traditional dances were a lot of fun. The room would be decorated with crepe paper streamers and balloons. There would be a refreshment table, of course, with watered down punch and those little round butter cookies; the ones with a hole in the middle. Traditionally, the music was provided by a record player - if you remember sock hops you remember those old 45s - and a good time was had by all, with very little stress and very little expense.

Those were the days. The times were much more innocent.

Honesty compels me to admit that I never danced very much at those Teen Can sock hops. I was only in the ninth grade when they quit having them and was much too bashful to ask a girl to dance. But I remember standing along the wall with a half-dozen butter cookies on my finger and a Dixie cup full of weak punch wishing I had the nerve to ask Sheila Bates, who was a senior and homecoming queen, to slow dance when they played "Soldier Boy."

For some reason they quit having sock hops in the Teen Can around Christmas of my freshman year. I think it had something to do with integration. It seems like every decision they made back in those days had something to do with integration. At any rate, sock hops faded out, but dances after ball games did not. They just moved to the National Guard Armory.

I don't think we had punch and cookies at the National Guard Armory, but we did have live bands. Usually it was the "Changyn Tymes." I am not at all certain that is the correct spelling, but if it's not, Markie Davis will set me straight when this gets to him, and I am pretty sure that Lynyrd Skynyrd got the idea for the funky way they spelled their name from Billy George. I am certain that you could keep your shoes on, too, at the Armory because Linda Evans chastised me more than once for stepping on her toes with my "big clodhoppers" while dancing to "To Love Somebody."

Promoter extraordinaire Jack Lord also hosted a few dances out on Washington Street with bands that he brought in from all over the world. Hey! Smyrna is in the world. A lot of those were on Friday nights after basketball games. Members of the basketball team were forbidden to go to those, lest they lose sleep and not be prepared for the Saturday night game. Sometimes we went anyway, and even if all I did was hand a towel to Thad Blankenship during timeouts, I was still a a member of the team and, as such, pretty certain that I wasn't supposed to attend the dances.

One night, Linda Hoffman, who was the No. 1 statistician, forgot to give Coach Bradley the folder with the stat sheets and he showed up at the dance, looking for her. Bruce Lynch, Wallace Christian and I dove under the bandstand to hide. He never said anything about it, but I think Coach Bradley knew we were under there, because he stayed for the rest of the dance.

Later, the Jaycees built a teen center out on Brown Bridge Road and hosted a few dances out there, but I think I had graduated by then.

I told you all that to tell you this. A couple of my history classes at Heritage High have been studying the '50s, and we had a sock hop this week to show them what they had been missing. The guys looked pretty cool in their rolled up jeans and white T-shirts, and the girls were even cuter in their poodle skirts and bobby socks, but when it came time for the teachers from my generation to show them how to rock and roll - well, let's just put it this way: The philosopher who said that youth is wasted on the young wasn't just whistling Dixie!

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.