Appreciation dance draws oldies faithful back to Stockdale
They were dancing in the street in Stockdale on July 12.
“The (parking) lot is filled,” T.J. Wilkinson, chief of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, said just before 8 p.m. “They really turned out for this one and they are having a great time.”
“They” were the nearly 600 oldies aficionados who enjoyed an evening under the stars at an outdoor appreciation dance presented by the firefighters to express their gratitude for the support of the thousands of people that have attended Stockdale record hops over the past 57 years.
“We have always been, and will continue to be, deeply appreciative of the support they have shown,” said Al Marcy, first assistant chief and entertainment chairman of the fire department. “They are the reason the dances have been successful.”
Marcy and Wilkinson came up with the idea of an outdoor dance at the firefighters' spacious and scenic recreation area located off Route 88 between Roscoe and Allenport.
“We thought it would be something different, a way for everyone to relax in an outdoor setting, listen to good music, rekindle old memories and just have fun,” Marcy said.
Those who attended responded to the concept in a big way.
“I just love coming to the Stockdale dances,” said Gloria Calabro of Uniontown. “The people are always so friendly; the DJ and his music are wonderful.”
Calabro was one of several women dressed in poodle skirts and matching accessories from the 1950s.
“It just adds to the fun, the spirit of traveling down Memory Lane,” she said with a knowing smile regarding her attention-getting outfit. “I love to dance, and dressing like this complements the idea of going back in time. We're proud to be part of the Stockdale memories.”
The original Stockdale record hop for teenagers ran from Dec. 21, 1957, through 1964 and was one of the biggest events of its kind in western Pennsylvania.
Joe Rohaley, a native of Daisytown and a 1959 graduate of California Community High School, was among those who attended those dances. He drove six hours from his home in Chester, Va., to attend the appreciation festivities.
“I wouldn't miss it,” Rohaley said. “There are a lot of great memories here. I think I used to park my car right where I'm sitting now and then walk across the (railroad) tracks to the fire hall, where the dances were held. They always had great music and so many big name stars performing in person.”
Recording artists such as the Skyliners, the McGuire Sisters, Lou Christie, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Platters, the Flamingos and Little Peggy March were among those who enhanced the popularity of the original Stockdale dances. Crowds of nearly 1,000 teenagers from throughout the area often packed the firemen's social center for those dances.
Like the indoor dances, the appreciation event was a BYOE (Bring Your Own Everything) gathering.
Many of those in attendance brought vegetable, fruit and meat trays, salads, fried chicken, snacks and baked goods and a variety of liquid refreshments.
The firefighters, led by company president Jim Gregg and Mark Holman, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers.
Disc jockey Ralph Trilli, co-host of the Cruisin' Sunday oldies show on WJPA in Washington, provided the music – a mix of songs from the 1950s and early '60s as well as tunes for line dancing – at the appreciation event. He was assisted by engineer Carl Calcara.
Trilli showed his versatility as the bright full moon – aka “supermoon” – rose in the sky over Stockdale.
He called attention to the glowing orb and played “There's A Moon Out Tonight,” the 1961 hit by the Capris.
“There were several songs we could have played to capture the moment – ‘Magic Moon (Clair e lune)' by The Rays and ‘Blue Moon' by The Marcels, but the Capris are always a favorite, so we went with that one,” Trilli said.
While many of those in attendance danced, others chose to sit in their lawn chairs or on beach blankets.
“We don't move as well as we used to,” a woman sitting with her husband said as she asked to remain anonymous. “But we're having a great time just listening to the music. We actually met here at Stockdale in 1960 and have so many fond memories of those days.”
Mayor Barbara Timlin of Stockdale offered similar thoughts.
“I recall going to those dances,” Timlin said while enjoying the sights and sounds from a front row seat along the perimeter of the outdoor setting. “We're always pleased to have the people come back to Stockdale for these dances. It's so nice watching them have lots of fun.”
John Zunic of Belle Vernon, who leads a regular group to the Stockdale dances, may have summed up the feelings of those in attendance best.
“Are we having a good time?” he said as he flashed a symbolic “thumbs up” sign. “Can't wait for the next one.”
The Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department will present its next oldies dance Nov. 1 at its social center. Details will be announced.
Ron Paglia is a contributing writer.