An envisioning . . . hotel ballroom in Atlantic City at nine o’clock on a summer Saturday in the mid 1920’s as the jazz orchestra strikes up Howard Lanin’s immortal “Black Bottom” and the evening begins . . . .

Oh to go back and be here.

August 1923 and Saturday evening at the biggest hotel ballroom in Atlantic City. Jazz orchestra starting its first number just beyond the potted palms. A roof garden above for those with two left feet to hear every note.

A terrace just beyond with palms scattered around and never-ending gin as the beach sings its siren song just past the boardwalk.

Special trains laid on from New York City, Wilmington, and Philadelphia. Atlantic City the most wonderful place to be if you were young in all the world. Enough young people to fill a train every twenty minutes from just about anywhere if only their elders did not have to take up all those seats to get to big meetings at the stock exchange.

A charleston or two and then a turkey trot. A girl to kiss and a boy to chat with over a cigarette that looks to have a foot-long holder.

A feather sticking straight up from the headdress of all the tangoing girls like the ones in a picture book, the same color and only a wee bit longer than the fringe on the hems of their dancing frocks. The feathers long enough to scrape the floor with every dip.

Supper and then another dance. The wail of the saxophone meandering through the salt air into the wee hours till almost dawn.

This is dedicated to my grandfather, Charles Walker Perry, whose birthday was yesterday. During one of his University of Pennsylvania summers, he slogged away in an Atlantic City insurance agency owned by one of his father’s friends. He learned a lot but never forgot the dreariness of working all day while he listened to what must have felt like everyone else his age wandering up and down the boardwalk having a splendid time. We can only hope that he got to dance the night away with a pretty girl at  least once.

Image: Ballroom. Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey. A historic resort hotel. Built in 1902-1906 and demolished in October of 1978. Image via historic-structures.com.

 

Ballroom. Marlborough-Bleinheim Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Undated image.
Ballroom. Marlborough-Bleinheim Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Undated image. via historic-structures.com

 

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