... and dancing the starry nights away.
They say that February is the cruelest month of the year. But we can try to overlook February's cold weather, which here in Melrose so far this year has been (warmer than usual)(colder than usual)(freezing)(take your pick), because there is much we can celebrate this February, 2001. Celebrations like Lincoln's Birthday on Feb. 12, President's Day on Feb. 19, Washington's Birthday on Feb. 22, and don't forget Groundhog Day on Feb. 2.
But the most promising February celebration of all is this: February brings us Valentine's Day! This day, named after the two third-century Saints Valentine, patron saints of lovers, arrives on February 14, whether we're ready for it or not. It's a day that calls for activity - so what are you planning to do about Valentine's Day this year?
That's hard to say. The best way I can answer this question is to look at the past for memories to guide us. And strangely enough, some of my happiest Valentine's Day memories come from the days of World War II, when our GIs were in a life-or-death conflict with both Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire. Those of us on the home front did what we could, and one of our important contributions was ... dancing. Thousands of cities and towns all over our nation had dance halls in those days, where the USO arranged that our state-side GIs could have the chance to dance with the local girls who volunteered, to reassure us all that life would one day be normal again.
Yes, we did our part in Melrose, for we had a dance hall, too. Thanks to our resident expert on Melrose history, John Murphy, our dance hall was the "Oak Manor" on East Foster Street, at the corner of Leonard Road. Some of us here at the Melrose Mirror cherish memories of Oak Manor, and of dancing there the starry nights away.
And the music that spoke to us in those days - this was the music of the Big Bands, the swing bands. Do you remember dancing to Glenn Miller's "In the Mood"? Do you remember Vaughn Monroe's "When the Lights Go On Again All Over the World?" Or Vera Lynn's "There'll Be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover"? Or Dinah Shore's "I'll Walk Alone"? Or "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe", sung by Frank Sinatra, as well as his romantic "Stardust"?
Or for sheer fun, do you recall the most wonderfully insulting "Der Fuhrer's Face"? Or the sound of the Andrew Sisters singing "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"? All this romance, fun, and laughter showed that Valentine's Day was alive and well in Melrose even during those grim days of peril, and that we did our part toward peace.
So then, what are you going to do about Valentine's Day this year? I don't know about you, but this Valentine's Day, in the year 2001, at the age of 82, I shall find someone to hug.
I recommend it.
February 2, 2001