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Largo dance celebrates V-J Day


Swing dancing. • It's not just for the "Greatest Generation" anymore. • Saturday night, dozens of guys and gals of all ages showed up at the Largo Community Center to celebrate the 65th anniversary of V-J Day — Victory over Japan Day — the date when Japan announced its intention to surrender at the end of World War II.

Beginner lessons were given from 7 to 8 p.m. by instructor Arleene Norman, or better known on this evening as the infamous Tokyo Rose. She owns Savoy South, a business that puts on swing dance parties at the community center every Saturday night.

After the lessons, the lights went low, the disco ball started spinnin' and the place got rockin' with Big Band vibes like Sing Sing Sing and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Of course, there were plenty of heart-melting slow dance ditties, too, like the Tennessee Waltz.

On the stage, a slide show featured vintage movie posters, pin-up girls, and World War II combat scenes.

Many came in period clothing.

Elaine Long, 65, wore a navy blue dress, cinched at the waist with a full skirt. White pumps, hairpiece and belt completed her look.

"This is an old dress of my mother's," said the Clearwater resident. "These are old pearls she gave me years ago. I'm a bad one for saving things."

Others brought memories and memorabilia.

Anna Berkey, 83, of St. Petersburg, had her yearbook from the Cadet Nurse Corps, a program to train nurses during World War II. "Uncle Sam paid my way," she said.

The war ended before she graduated (in 1947), but she had a nursing career that spanned three decades.

Though she never served on foreign soil, she said she did her part.

"They took us to dance with veterans at Fort Dix (in New Jersey)," she said.

Lee King, 88, of Clearwater served in the 37th Infantry Division and showed off his badges, awards and ribbons, including a Bronze Star for valor.

James C. Alison of St. Petersburg said he was proud to be a Marine.

"I've been a Marine all my life," said the 87-year-old. "I'm not on active duty anymore, but I wish I was, though I doubt they'd take me."

Bill Carlisle, 82, of Dunedin was among the veterans who helped cut a cake donated by the Greater Tampa Bay Dance Meetup Group, a networking group for dancers.

"When I was in boot camp, they dropped the bomb," he said.

For Amy and A.J. Freda, it was a night of freedom and liberation — from the baby.

"We haven't been out for a long time because we have a 6-month-old at home," said the 28-year-old St. Petersburg mother. "This is date night for us."

Swing dancing

When: 7 to 11 p.m. Saturdays. • A special sci-fi-themed swing dance is slated for Sept. 25.

Where: Largo Community Center, 65 Fourth St. NW • Smoke-free venue; all ages welcome.

Cost: $5 (includes group dance lesson from 7 to 8 p.m.)

For more information: Call (727) 518-3131.

Largo dance celebrates V-J Day 08/17/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 9:25pm]
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