Today’s song is ‘Changing Partners’. This is a song with music by Larry Coleman and lyrics by Joe Darion. It was published in 1953. The best-known recording was made by Patti Page and it was also recorded the same year by Dinah Shore, Kay Starr and Bing Crosby. Patti pages version reached Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100’ chart and Dinah Shore’s version reached Number 12 in 1954, followed by Kay Starr reaching Number 13 and Bing Crosby’s cover of the song reaching Number 17 in 1954.
Between the ages of 8-11 years, I attended weekly evening sessions in Old Time Dancing in Milnsbridge, Liversedge at the ‘Keir Hardie Dance Club’. I’d always been keenly interested in all manner of music, song and dancing ever since I had ears to hear, mouth to sing and feet to dance. I cannot recall if it was the opportunity to learn new dancing routines, or the chance of spending an evening with my arms around a good-looking girl, that excited me most. Even at that young age, I was aware of the difference between boys and girls, and being of an impatient disposition, I never quite appreciated why a person had to be of adult status before they were able to ‘fall in love’.
I know that I frequently convinced myself that I’d met the right girl worth waiting a decade for before our parents would grant their consent for us to marry. Indeed, my mother often asked me smilingly when I arrived home from school at the end of the day, “How’s your school day gone, Billy? Have you fallen in love again?”
When I think back now, why a young boy like me should be coming over all romantic at the age of 8 years upwards, I need to remind myself of the times in which I was growing up, as well as my prime interests. When I was 8 years of age it was 1950/51. The 50s was a time of no television in the family home, only a wireless (radio to all you under the age of 65 years). The country had recently emerged from the ‘Second World War’, the rationing of certain foods was still in force and the country was in the process of rebuilding itself after years of severe austerity. People needed to forget the hard, grey years they’d been forced to experience, and they wanted the sun of prosperity to come out once more and stay out. Fun was the most sought-after commodity in the life of the young person, while secure routine and daily stability were required most by their parents who had gone through the war years of scarcity and uncertainty.
Every song that was listened to on the radio and played in dance clubs, church halls and dance rooms across England was a song of ‘love’ and every melody that crossed the airwaves made every young girl and boy’s heart skip a beat and beat that bit faster. Everywhere one heard a song being sung, someone was singing about the joys of ‘falling in love’ or ‘being in love’. This was the era when ‘romance’ found its true place once more back in the hearts of the nation and the dream of every young woman was to find a good man to marry.
Being more interested in music, song and dance much more than my peers, it is only natural that I started to fall in love with beautiful girls much sooner than they did. While they were fighting each other in lumps on the streets over who had the hardest conker or could kick the can farthest, I was more interested in finding the softest and most lovable girl on the dance floor. I was never tongue-tied when it came to chatting up the girls as I always knew the words to say they wanted to hear. These were the words I’d hear (and they’d also hear) every day on the radio; romantic words that formed the verses of the numerous love songs listened to!
Then; when my life was at its happiest, my world collapsed around me. Just before my twelfth birthday, I was run over by a wagon as I played football on Third Avenue, Windy Bank Estate and the vehicle stopped on top of me with the trunk of my body twisted around the main drive shaft of its undercarriage. I had many life-threatening injuries (the most serious being a damaged spine) which kept me in hospital for a full nine months and then left me unable to walk for the following two years after hospital discharge. The things I missed most during these lost years of my youth was playing football and going dancing. Indeed, just before my accident, I‘d won an advanced certificate for Old Time Dancing at the ‘Keir Hardie’.
Over the following seven years, until I attained the age of twenty-one, I engaged in all manner of sport and activity which would advance my stages of agility and achieve more balanced movement. Chief among these activities was my return to dancing. I required over four dozen operations on my damaged left leg (which had set ‘broken at the knee’) after the surgeons spent my first six weeks in the hospital fighting for my life. By the time my life was out of danger of being lost, the growth was stunted in my left leg. I was left with a three-inch deficiency in my left leg compared to that of my right leg. Restoring a sense of balance became my greatest priority, even before improving my mobility.
No longer was I able to glide around the dance hall floor in perfect motion and beautiful balance and poise as I masterfully inserted my feet between the small steps of my dancing partner in combined step. Old Time Dancing was now out for me, as was Modern Dancing. Indeed, as I hobbled back into a world resembling normality, I’d visions of never dancing again.
Then, as if my prayers had been heard and answered in heaven, Rock and Roll hit the scene and jiving and bopping became the new steps on the dance floor. What was exciting about this new music that Presley and many others introduced into our lives, was there were no set steps or specific routine of body movement to follow on the dance floor. Individuals and couples could do ‘their own thing’ and devise all manner of moves.
Girls learned to twist like spinning tops on a sixpence; boldly showing off pieces of sumptuous female flesh and parts of their anatomy that centuries of fashion design and medieval modesty had concealed from masculine eyes. Their free-flowing colourful dresses could now adopt open-umbrella proportions at the height of their spin, keeping all dance attendees visually entertained whether they danced or just looked on. Within a short span of time, dancing couples had learned how to twist, turn and throw partners at will. It was a wonderful time in my life. The freedom of movement this new dancing style of bopping provided gave me back my place on the dance floor. I was back where I was meant to be, immediately across from woman incarnate, looking into the eyes of some young woman I’d fallen in love with as I mentally rehearsed the words I’d say when I asked to walk her home at the end of the night.
I dedicate my song today to our close friends and neighbours, Brian and V’ron Moorehouse. Brian is my allotment buddy in Haworth and we usually go for a few drinks on a Thursday night at our local Haworth pub when we set the world to rights with two hours of intelligent, wise and witty discussion.
Brian and V’ron have been married for forty-six years now and are as much in love today as they were when they first married.
They met at an Irish gathering of ‘Finders’ on the sands of Skibbereen. This is an old Irish traditional game of love matching, where all shy people who are too reserved to ask a member of the opposite sex out on a first date, meet up with the objective of getting fixed up with like-minded people of the opposite sex. Usually, but always so, the young men and women at these Finders’ gatherings are of the virgin and unspoiled variety.
The group of young men and women sit around an open campfire with all the men on one half of the circle and all the colleens on the other side of the circle. They take it in turns to spin a stick in the middle of the ‘love circle’. Wherever the stick stops and whoever it points to after you’ve spun it, is the boy or girl you are partnered with for the rest of that evening. Brian told me that he mistakenly thought he was partnered to V’ron for the rest of his life when the ‘love stick’ stopped at her, and so he proposed to her that very same evening they first met, without giving himself the opportunity of having second thoughts.
V’ron once told me that she had to spin a good pile of old sticks around a great many campfires before she found the man she wanted to be stuck with and marry. She told me that after Brian had spun his ‘love stick’ and the stick stopped at herself, she looked into his eyes, kissed him on the lips and handed him back the ‘love stick’ saying, "I'm having you!" In his eagerness at the thought of the womanly prize on offer, as well as being excited with the prospect of happiness, sex and romance in front of him, Brian unthinkingly snapped the stick in two and threw it on the fire, fanning the flames of a lifelong romance before dancing around the campfire like a demented pixie on heat.
Thank you both for being good friends to me and Sheila. I dedicate my song today to you as a loving couple who will ‘never change partners again’ now that you have found each other. Bill and Sheila x
Love and peace Bill xxx