Dancing Too Close at the LaSalle Canteen

“Leave room for the Holy Ghost.”

As a teenager, I went to dances on Saturday evenings at the LaSalle High School Auditorium. Called The LaSalle Canteen, it was a place for friends to gather under the watchful eyes of the Christian brothers while we danced to the spinning 45’s.

I remember how much fun it was…sorta… most of the time. The trouble was finding the right girl for a partner, preferably the one who was your unspoken girlfriend, one you have a shine for, were wooing, took to, oogled (Google was a long way off), went walking with, tried to reach first base with, asked the ‘can I call you question’, carried her books, borrowed her pencils, borrowed her homework, met at/sometimes sat with at the movies and was shorter. Well…. You know what I mean.

It took some time before my confidence rose to an appropriate height on those nights, or anytime for that matter. There were Canteen struggles that slowed me down, stymied me.

Courtesy of Dreamstime

Courtesy of Dreamstime

Like…she was standing with a group of girlfriends.

Like…someone else was dancing with her.

Like….it was ladies choice and you ran to the boy’s room.

Like…. you came out of the boy’s room and your ‘girlfriend’ tapped someone else.

Like…it just wasn’t the right song.

And finally, finally, when you did get around to asking her to dance, two things happened:

1. The Brothers came around, took a close look and admonished, “Leave room for the Holy Ghost,” and
2. It took so long for you to find each other that there was only one dance left, just when you were warming up. And the tune? Why “Good Night Sweetheart” by The Spaniels of course.

Who had these experiences at 14? C’mon, C’mon , Let’s hear ’em…

© 2017

By | 2017-07-10T16:10:05+00:00 March 13th, 2017|Stories of the 1940's and 1950's|34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Ann Storti March 13, 2017 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    OMG, Dr. I, this brings back so many wonderful memories. At the age of 14, I was allowed to attend our local Swing Haven Canteen in Johnston, RI. Let me tell you once you entered Myrtle Hall there was no way you could leave. For under the watchful eye of Ann Votolato each and every one of us “kids” we watched very carefully. Ann and her husband Mario, who played the drums along with his 78’s, accepted no excuse from us. Our parents knew we were at the dance until “Good Night Sweetheart” was played. I was the shy, and youngest, who attended the weekly dance with my girlfriends. All dressed up and excited to listen to the tunes of the day we briskly walked down Clemence to Plainfield Street. As time went by, and one of us were allowed to take the family car, after the dance we’d go to the Atwood Curve for a burger and Coke. In May of 1992, we had a Swing Haven Canteen reunion to once again dance to the “oldies” at Rhodes On-the-Pawtuxet. People came from far and wide to honor the Votolato’s for their years of patience and guidance. It was a night to remember ….. of the times we couldn’t forget.

    • Ed March 14, 2017 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Great story so well told, Ann. Sounds to me like you had a blast and want to get back to that Canteen at Myrtle Hall. Burger and Coke, huh?
      Do you have any pictures of those good old days?

  2. Karen March 13, 2017 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    But you dear boy did NOT have to sleep with your hair in orange can “rollers” the night before to get ready for the opportunity of a lifetime. A dance with the man in the making of our dreams. That girl was so tired she put her head on your shoulder and closed her eyes trying to get a little nap! Ah yes, I remember it well!!!!

  3. Lawrence Holfelder March 13, 2017 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    I did not reach that level until I was married 10 years! Untouchable Wholefreeder

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Ha. I was close.

  4. Mike Montigny March 13, 2017 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    I went to St John the Baptist in West Warwick, the nuns were very strict. At our Junior High graduation dance, Sister Mary of the Rosary, who had a nose bigger than Jimmy Durante’s whom we nicknamed “Nosy Rosie” was in charge of the affair.
    When a nice waltz started to play, I grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and began to dance to get the party started.
    The nun grabbed me by the shoulder and screamed out these words to everyone!
    “The boys dance with the boys and the girls dance with the girls!!
    We all laughed at this request thinking she was just joking with us.
    She was dead serious because when I went to dance with Jeannette she pulled me by my shirt and slapped the back of my head and repeated her instructions.
    I immediately reached out to my best friend Sammy and began to dance. Everybody joined in and had a great time just laughing and thinking how silly we all looked.
    We laughed until Father Jalbert entered the room. “What in God’s name are you doing? When she explained her instructions, he told her to get her coat and leave the hall. He turned and said you can dance with girls, I said it was okay and we were having fun! He too slapped me upside the head.
    A great memory we still share at reunions.

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm - Reply

      Very funny, Mike. I had never heard this one. Lots of “friendly” slaps in those days. But we learned, didn’t we….

  5. Contessa March 13, 2017 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I went every Sat. night with my friends and that’s where I met Nicky, my husband later on. But, my father picked me up every week and took me and my friends home – too young to date yet. I loved the dance and especially Good Night Sweet Heart.
    Will never forget the fun and hiding from certain boys so we wouldn’t have to dance with them. Such memories…..

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Good days, indeed. Met Nicky there? I guess you left no room for the Holy Ghost, Eh?

  6. Bob conroy March 13, 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    I remember those dances great times
    Those were the days

    Bob Conroy

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      I remember you guys there. The gang from Bell’s and the neighborhood. Lots of fun.

  7. Bob Tyzbir March 13, 2017 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    I went every Saturday night. Joe Trillo was the DJ and brotherBlack Pat patrolled the dance floor looking for hugging couples. It was great times and lots of fun.

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      You’re right! Forgot about Joe Trillo and Black Pat. Bob, there was a quartet that occasionally sang. Not sure of their name, but Ed Gormally (?sp) was one of the singers, I believe. Do you remember?

  8. Joyce Bellemore March 13, 2017 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Does anyone remember Brother Richard….. he was famous for leave room for the Holy Ghost!!

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks for reminding me, Joyce.

    • Ed March 14, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      Now I remember him. Thanks.

  9. Donna DeNucci Ritella March 13, 2017 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    I loved going to the LaSalle Canteen Dances. And, yes, the Brothers would always tell us to leave room for the Holy Ghost during a slow dance. Oh, the good old days!

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      A load of memories for many.

  10. Vin DiBiasio March 13, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    As soon as I read your title, the first thought that came into my mind was,” Make room for the Holy Ghost”.

    • Ed March 13, 2017 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Yep. the Holy Ghost was working hard on those Saturdays, Vin.

  11. Joyce Simard March 13, 2017 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Every school or town had a Canteen Dance on Sat.nites.Those were the days!!!!

    • Ed March 14, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      So much fun indeed!

  12. Joe Mansolillo March 14, 2017 at 1:15 am - Reply

    Yup Ed, two young sixteen year olds met at the LaSalle Canteen. So glad we didn”t “make room for the Holy Ghost” because one became Mrs. Mansolillo and the other became Joe Mansolillo DDS, married for 49 years!

    • Ed March 14, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      So very nice. The Holy Ghost was your friend, Eh?

  13. Peter DelGiudice March 14, 2017 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Ed: That is something that I haven’t thought about for many many years. I remember the Canteens. You hit it right on the button in regards to dancing too close. Thanks for the article .

    • Ed March 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the kind note, Peter. Fun days.

  14. Natalie McKenna March 14, 2017 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    They did not have weekly or monthly school dances when I was going to school at St.Francis Xavier Academy in Providence. We had Sophomore Hops, Junior and Senior Balls which were chaperoned by some parents. However, when I was graduated from High School, I used to go to Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, the Alhambra Ballroom, Roseland, etc.I used to go by bus, alone. At Rhodes, which I loved going to, the girls would sit in the back facing the stage that the orchestra was on (which always held really great bands) and the dances were in sets, Foxtrot, Waltz, Jiitterbug, Latin, etc. and a young man would come over and ask for a dance, which usually was a set of maybe 3 or 4 tunes (I can’t remember now). He would escort you to the dance floor and we would dance till the set was over, at which time he would escort you back to the place that you had been sitting and say “Thank you”. If you did not want to dance you simply said no, thank you and he went to find another partner. This was not an oddity at this time (1949-1952) but when I told my daughter about it she could not believe it. She said that if you were at a club today and some one asked you to dance, if you said “no thank you” they would start in by saying “Why, I’m not good enough for you”, etc. She said, “Mom I wish I had grown up in your time!” I must admit, I am certainly glad that I did!!!!!!!!!

    • Ed March 14, 2017 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks for those memories, Natalie. I was aware of the big band dances at Rhodes as we went to many when I was in college. But I do not remember the women sitting and waiting and dancing. I share your daughter’s thoughts. They were good, innocent and safe days indeed.

  15. Sharyn March 14, 2017 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    I went to the Canteen for 2 years and every time I swore was the last. Then, I met him. We danced, we walked the halls hoping to be alone long enough for a quick kiss; we counted the minutes to 10:30 when they would open the doors and let us out. A quick walk to NelsonSt. school and a make out session in the freezing cold doorway unti I had to get back to the A&P for my mother to pickup my girlfriends and me . good Night, Sweetheart!

    • Ed March 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      Funny story, Sharon. I never got that far. Went to the creamery after the canteen. The Holy Ghost was still hovering.

  16. ray coppa March 15, 2017 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    When a junior at LSA I did have an opportunity to attend a dance at another high school with a young girl who I believe, was a sophomore at the time. I didn’t have a car so that she arranged to have us both go with a friend of hers who was able to take the four of us quite comfortably to the dance. The driver of the car, an upperclassman at the same school, had as his date the most beautiful girl imaginable…I remember her quite well with her blond flowing curls…to this day. After the dance, on the way to get the car, the driver hands the keys to me and told me I was to drive the return trip…It was a hard thing to say and I don’t recall if I was ever forgiven ….

    And that is when I truly became aware of the necessity of learning to drive…when I uttered to him in a very low sorry like voice that I didn’t know how to drive.

    • Ed March 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm - Reply

      Funny, Ray. You stymied his back seat excursions. The big question is,”Who was THE girl?”

  17. Joe Rainone April 4, 2017 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    I remember the LaSalle Canteen very well indeed. Living in Johnston there was always a car full of my friends that made most every dance. I recall after dancing with a gal that you wished to know better, you asked if she would like to go downstairs for a coke. Remember the basement cafeteria, where you could take a break from the dancing and music and purchase a coke for 5 or 10 cents?

    • Ed April 4, 2017 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Yes, thanks Joe. I had forgotten about the cafeteria. A coke for ten cents? Gad!

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