Two words…Cedar Cinema, and disco dancing.
I know, I know. That’s FIVE words (plus an inserted comma), but I hope you get the picture. If not, read on!
Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, disco was king in America; the rage even hit Brookfield in all its’ leisure suited and pastel shirted glory.
The now-defunct Cedar Cinema was our home to weekend dancing action, complete with a shimmering disco ball and hardwood floors to spin the latest moves on. Here one could gyrate, rotate, and stay out late listening to The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band and numerous others; it was a time of innocence and a chance to emulate John Travolta, much to the envy of your high school peers.
Hence the title of this piece; part of the lyrics herald from a song called “Cherry Bomb” by John Mellencamp (if you haven’t noticed by now, I feel a certain kinship to John, as his songs deal with teenage angst and growing up in the Midwest. He is a Bloomington, IN, native). One of the lines of the songs states matter-of-factly, “Dancin’ meant everything…we were young and we were improving. Laughing, laughing, with our friends; holding hands meant something, baby…” That is how it felt back then, to be young; on the dance floor with the person you cared most about; when the world was yours for the taking (or so you thought) and Friday and Saturday night dances were your proms and homecomings rolled up into one big blowout celebration.
It was on this magical dance floor at the Cedar Cinema where I found the one true love of my life and the woman who I would one day marry. Her name was Jeannie Bagley, and dancing with her was an experience that I still fondly cherish these many years later. I was 16, and she was 14; both of us young, innocent, foolish, and full of the vigor and vitality that only comes with being a teenager.
On those ever-so-short weekends, we were THE couple to reckon with on the dance floor at the theater; our bodies glided with the simplest of ease across the floor. There was never any hesitation nor missteps; we simply knew what the other one was thinking or going to do and we followed suit accordingly.
As a point of reference, there are numerous scenes in the movie “Saturday Night Fever” where Travolta and his lady partner would be dancing, and the envious crowd would open up into a circle to watch them; this is how it was at the Cedar Cinema when Jeannie and I danced. I kid you not. It was one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced. My chest puffed out (as much as a skinny boy’s is able to, anyway) and I felt like I was Mr. Disco himself. John, eat your heart out!
And then, at other times, the beat would thump down to a steady and lulling cadence and our arms would wrap around each other; the comfort I felt as Jeannie rested her head on my shoulder was immeasurable. There were no words, no thoughts, to describe what that young love felt like…only an assurance that it was meant to be.
During those two short years that we were dancing partners many things happened in our lives; both sets of our parents bitterly divorced; I wound up working as a deejay at the local radio station (some of you remember when it was KGHM-AM; I was one of the younger homegrown “talent” and it was there that I found my “gift of gab”); many B-Liner editorials worked their way from the slightly warped and creative Davis mind to Jim Hart’s class, and then on to the Daily News-Bulletin pages. Yet, through all the turmoil and strife we faced, we always found time to dance on those weekends; it was the outlet where we would share our thoughts, our fears, our everything in bursts of feverish dance routines.
Then, in the blink of an eye, high school graduation loomed on the horizon; beyond that was the great unknown of military service, and our adult lives. The years quickly marched on, and those bittersweet memories of time spent with Jeannie faded into the background. Never forgotten, yet never fully realized to sweet fruition.
And thanks be to God, the story ends happily…except for one rather sad footnote. I relocated back to northeast Missouri, found Jeannie was still here; we rekindled our close friendship and found that both of us still had those feelings for each other. We courted, fell in love again, and just before we were to be married, both of us tearfully watched arm-in-arm as the Cedar Cinema was completely torn down. It was a very meaningful day for us as this iconic structure faded not only from our pasts, but also from the pasts of thousands of others, to be lost forever.
My wife and I managed to retrieve two cherished physical memories from the huge pile of debris that early evening; one was a small piece of our precious wooden dance floor…the other, lying bent and forgotten in the dirt, was the ticket window speaker, aka a sound transmitting ventilator, patent granted on November 1, 1938.
Talk about memories…
Not so very long ago, Jeannie and I completed our trip down memory lane, when we stood in the now grassed-filled lot where our magical dance floor once was, and held each other on a crisp fall evening.
And slowly, we danced…as the inner music once again filled our ears, and we were swept back in two-step time to a more tender age, when the night was young, and our hearts beat as one.
DeGraw Theatre/Cedar Cinema/Lain’s Cedar Cinema…thanks for all those wonderful memories that we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives.
And for my precious wife, Jeannie…happy 1st anniversary, my love.
Dancin’ really did, and still does, mean everything.
Richard occasionally breaks the ol’ dance shoes out and cuts a rug with Jeannie during warm summer evenings. His column appears monthly in the Linn County Leader. If you would like to leave feedback, whether good, bad or indifferent, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org