Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The 92nd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is Dance!

My mother, Colleen, started dancing in the 1930's when she was in third grade. She had problems with her feet so her doctor recommended to her parents that she take dancing lessons, particularly ballet, to help strengthen them.

Initially, she took lessons in the basement of a lady's home and eventually started taking ballet, tap, acrobatics and baton at Ruth Doherty's School of Dance located at the corner of Broadway and East Pine in Seattle. Ruth Doherty's was in the Odd Fellows Temple.

They were a one car family so there was no toting and fetching to and from activities like there is today.  When the family lived in Ballard and later Victory Heights, Colleen's mother would take Colleen and her brother to the studio for lessons on a trolley car (from Ballard) or take the bus. Afterward, they might ride the bus to downtown Seattle and go to the Bon or Frederick and Nelson's. Other days they would go to the Security Market (a farmer's market) and buy groceries and maybe some lunch. Then they would walk to the Yellow Cab Company where Colleen's dad worked as a mechanic and he would take them home.

At Christmas, the dance studio would put on a program for the Shriners at their Shrine Temple. In later years, the Christmas program was held in the Civic Auditorium at what is now the Seattle Center (later the auditorium was remodeled and named the Seattle Opera House and after a more recent renovation Marion Oliver McCaw Hall). The first year their dance program was in their new location, at Civic Auditorium, ended up being a bit of a slippery slope! The dance floor having just been waxed was like ice. The girls had to dance the Can Can and perform cartwheels and flips. They were slipping and sliding all over!

Ruth Doherty's studio also did a program for the Moose Lodge every year. One year they had a horse in the program of which Colleen was the front. She and her partner wore tap shoes and danced a sort of comedy routine.

During World War II, Ruth Doherty would get requests to do programs for service men. Ruth would always give the girls a talk, in front of their parents, that they were not to dance and socialize with the servicemen.  The men loved the programs, especially the little kids, as many had children of their own and were missing them.
Colleen danced and assisted with Ruth's classes until her second year in college. Working for Ruth Doherty's School of Dance was Colleen's first job and was how she earned her dance lessons. She would help keep the little girls in their lines, work one on one with some of them in learning their steps and work the front desk.

All those years of dancing while growing up had a significant impact on Colleen. After she enrolled at the University of Washington, Colleen was accepted into Orchesis (a dance honorary) where she did Interpretive Dance. She chose Physical Education as her major and went on to teach PE at West Seattle High School and other schools.

I don't recall my parents going out to dance on Friday or Saturday nights but ever since I can remember, they had season tickets to the Seattle Repertory Theatre. It was always a big deal because they would get all dressed up and we kids got to have a babysitter and sometimes even TV Dinners. Mom and Dad would have seen many fabulous performances by top artists at Seattle Rep over the years.

As a child, I had no interest in dancing and took no dance lessons. However, once disco dancing became popular all that changed. I took my first dance class with a high school friend where we learned The Hustle. Once I was in college, I signed up for Ballroom Dancing. Mom was really happy about that. I can remember her telling me that you never know when it will come in handy. She was right, of course, and the class was so much fun that the next semester I signed up for another dance class. I don't remember what it was called but we learned all the really popular disco type dances of the time.

So in the end, somehow, either Mom passed on her love of dancing to me or I came down with Disco Fever.

[Mom]. Interviews by Michelle Goodrum. 19 July 1997 and March 2010. Notes. Privately held by Goodrum, [address for private use].

© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. I love the ballet picture - I have pictures of each of my daughters in that pose. (We did a lot of toting and fetching!)

  2. Great photos...I too have pictures of myself in recital outfits by a tree in our front yard. :) In a few years I'll probably continue the same tradition with my little girl.

  3. Greta and Kelly - It's great to have the multigenerational pictures. Times do change but in many other ways they don't at all.

  4. It was something I dreamed of doing as a child. So of course I made sure my daughter had an opportunity to take dance.
    There sure was quality time spent back in the day, when just one car or the bus was available. What fun to take a trolley car.Very interesting post.

  5. What a great story. I enjoyed reading it.

  6. Ballet to disco to my days of honky tonk dancing --- dance is indeed king. The music and movement bind us to that old ritual.

  7. I'm trying to remember what ballet position your Mom is in....third or fourth, I think. It is wonderful that your Mom followed through with her dancing. Too often it is only part of the school years. Great post.