Lake Macquarie History

Daughters of the Dance

Anne Davy (nee Crawford)

The latest fashion in the late fifties-sixties, think Grease and West side Story, was white cotton blouses and full multi-coloured skirts with at least three rope petticoats. Bright cummerbunds or studded scalloped belts cinched our tiny waists. In black and white photographs of the day young girls seem happy and relaxed. Nothing in these pictures reveals the careful, long hours of preparation for the Saturday dance.

The morning began with washing and starching of those petticoats. We considered ourselves experts at this task. No nineteenth century maid could have done a better job. We followed the instructions on the packet faithfully. Lifting the steaming kettle from the fuel fire we added it to the powder. The water had to be boiling as we stirred the gluggy starch to a paste and added the cold water. The petticoats were added one by one. They were then draped over an umbrella to dry on the veranda. When dry the petticoats had to stand to attention. If they fell limply to the floor the whole process had to be repeated. The last step was sprinkling with water, rolling them into a sausage shape and leaving them for a few hours before ironing. This was long before the days of shot -of -steam irons.

We then washed our hair and set it in rollers pinned tightly to the scalp, covering them with a scarf that tied around our necks a la Lana Turner. For the remainder of the morning we would either read the paper, paint our nails or visit friends on our bikes dressed in smart pedal –pushers.

Later we would take long baths, remove the rollers and brush out our hair. My blonde locks flicked up at the ends like Sandra Dee. My sister’s deep auburn hair was cut short like Audrey Hepburn. Those stiff petticoats held out our skirts to perfection. Unlike in the American movies teen-age Australian girls did not wear socks. Socks were for children. White or beige flatties and a matching plastic handbag completed our outfits.

That evening we would catch a bus from Swansea to Belmont North with all our friends. At the local hall, now Belmont Neighbourhood Centre, we would dance to Rock around the Clock played by local bands, our full skirts swirling revealing glimpses of tanned limbs and fluoro undies of vivid pink, yellow or green. Those were the innocent days of the fifties.

Times changed; fashions changed as we matured all petticoats were happily discarded. Our hair was teased in bouffant styles. Hemlines were scandalously raised and Miniskirts became all the rage. We danced to New Music, The Stomp and The Twist embracing the Swinging Sixties.