We recommend playing the video while reading, for full effect of the author’s touching text
Author’s program note. All families have lore, that is, things their members believe to be true but may only be a figment of their collective imagination. They say, “Remember the time when….”, and everyone does, whether that recollection is real or not, whether the matter took place as recalled or not. Because the very idea of family, the most important institution of all, is built on such memories. This is such a story. I will swear on a stack of Bibles every word is true… although that may not actually be so. That doesn’t matter… it’s family gospel… and therefore precious.
Here is a piece of Lant family lore… I believe it will resonate with you and make you smile.
My parents loved to square dance, and just because I was born (February 16, 1947) saw absolutely no reason why they should stop doing so… even if they just couldn’t find a baby sitter. “Shirl,” he probably said, “We’ll just take him along. It’ll be just fine. He is 3 after all.”
And when you’re healthy, happy, still on the sunny side of 25, in love, hankering to promenade… why then you do the thing most calculated to cause sensible elders to exclaim, “Donald Marshall Lant, have you got a lick of sense?” And he’d look sheepish, of course, but it was worth it. Because he’d got to swing his purty li’l partner, and no one — absolutely no one — could take that away! And the memory was sweet…
Lulu Belle and Scotty.
Myrtle Eleanor Cooper (1913-1999) and Scott Greene Wiseman (1908-1981) were known professionally as Lulu Belle and Scotty. Cute, perky, wholesome to an almost nauseating degree, they were one of America’s major country music acts of the 1930s and 1940s. An astonishing 20 million rabid fans used to tune into the “National Barn Dance” on WLS-AM in Chicagoland to listen and forget the cares of the day.
Thus, when the chance came not just to hear their favorites on the radio but to see them and dance live to the music they loved, why then the mere fact no baby sitter could be found was not going to be an obstacle. And so the three of us piled into a car that only worked at all only because of my father’s alchemy and nimble fingers… we were going to square dance… with Lulu Belle and Scotty no less.
“Roll away with a half sashay.”
My parents were sociable people. They liked people and people liked them. And so when the three of us arrived, there would have been the kind of high energy greetings, quips, and cracks that distinguished the boys (and girls) who had won the war. “Don, you dawg. Still driving that hunk of junk?” “Shirley Mae, you look soooo good.” “And who’s this cute little guy you brought? No baby sitter, huh?”
Then the most important person of the evening appeared and moved, with just a hint of swagger, to the mike. He was the caller, and there could be no square dance without him. And didn’t he know it? Thus, as he took control of the mike, he took control of everyone present… and so everyone paid rapt attention to every word he uttered. He was a grand figure… very often with deep roots in Appalachia where so many of the square dancing traditions had begun.
If so, he was spare of figure, lean, even gaunt. He believed in Great Jehovah, stern God of the Old Testament, the Great Republic, his right to moonshine, what was suitable for a man… and a woman. He could be courtly; he could be forbidding and even cruel… but at a square dance he was all suave condescension. And he knew, with Louis XVIII, that punctuality was the politeness of kings… and so this monarch of the evening started on time, every time. “Evenin’ folks. Are you ready to swing your partner?” The yells were raucous, resounding, ear-splitting, all shouting at the top of young voices that they were indeed ready to obey his every command.
And so the music began, a shot to your expectant brain and toe-tappin’ feet. We can easily imagine it to be one of Lulu Belle and Scotty’s greatest hits, “This Train Is Bound For Glory.”
“This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory, this train.
This train is bound for glory,
Don’t carry nothing but the righteous and the holy,
This train is bound for glory, this train.”
(Find it now in any search engine. Its insistent sound is waiting for you now.)
In the hands of such practiced masters as Lulu Belle and Scotty this traditional American gospel song (first recorded in 1925 by Wood’s Blind Jubilee Singers) became a rollicking rendition perfect for square dancing. But first, there was the little matter of what to do with… me! And here is where we see so clearly the difference between 1950 and today…
Sitting at the side of the dance floor would have been elderly ladies (reluctantly) past their capers… (still) hopeful gals (wall flowers)… and boys too fastidious about their possible partners… or folks just plain shy. In short, all my ready-to-soar parents had to do was see who was sitting out this figure, and the baby sitting problem was solved.
I helped them out, so family lore has it, because I had (God’s honest truth) a smile to die for and party manners which have not deserted me to this day; no whimpering like certain friends and relations I could name. I was glad to go, glad to enjoy, glad to see them so happy… and if I could brighten the lives of others not quite as happy, why so much the better. It was what one did at a party, and I aim to please. Blithe, unworried, pleased to follow the strict and intricate commands of the caller, my parents danced on whilst I, having partied enough for one evening, slept the sleep of the just, contented.
And so a handful of happy hours passed until Lulu Belle and Scotty played their signature song. It was a ballad, not a square dance, and the caller, with whatever degree of reluctance, gave way to the waltz that demanded two people locked in an embrace, eyes only for each other: “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”, composed by Scott Wiseman, “Scotty”, and released in 1945.
“Have I told you lately that I love you
Could I tell you once again somehow
Have I told you, with all my heart and soul…?”
Well, Dad, I’m tellin’ you now. Thanks for always taking me with you. Thanks for taking me along. Have you told your father lately that you love him? Well, friend, tell him right now…
About the Author:
Author of over 63 books. I have been a student at 12 universities worldwide, including The University of Dijon, The University of Munich
, The University of St. Andrews, The University of California – Santa Barbara (summa cum laude), The University of California – Santa Cruz, Northeastern University, and Harvard University, from where I received my M.A. degree (1970) and Ph.D. in History (1975), and where I was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. I have taught at over 30 universities across the nation including University of Maine, Boston University, University of Connecticut, Hofstra University, University of Pittsburg, Chatham College, Case Western Reserve University, Eastern Michigan University, University of Minnesota, Southern Methodist University and many more. My program on consulting, sponsored by Oklahoma State University, was the first university program to be broadcast from outer space. The initial broadcast went to over 30 universities. Over the course of many years, I have written books on a wide variety of important subjects. These subjects include business development, marketing, copy-writing, publishing, nonprofit fundraising, public relations, and consulting. They also include volumes on animal rights, the British Monarchy, vegetation, mothers, fathers, international relations, politics, people I’ve known, and love. In addition, my two volumes of memoirs entitled “A Connoisseur’s Journey: Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” received 9 literary awards, including one from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for Lifetime Achievement. You might think that at age 71 with so many published materials, and a host of prizes indicating how popular my publications are, that I would wish to retire, to lounge and snooze over someone else’s hard work. But you see, my work can never be finished, because every time I put fingers to keyboard, I like to believe that I am changing the world just that bit. And when one knows one is doing good, there can be no argument for giving it up.
You can access all my books at amazon or at www.drjeffreylant.com