Spend this Christmas with a few lively folks

By Darrell Hassler

Until last summer, Lawrence Welk music usually did not make me a dancing fool—something about the saxophonists or the Smith Family Tree Singers or whatever. They never did it for me. When Grandma and Grandpa used to watch it on Sundays, I would go to their other TV and watch Benny Hill.

But that was until last summer. That was when I had the most interesting job of my life. I worked for a non-profit organization called Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly where I helped run a vacation home for “old people” mostly from Chicago. Most of them were poor or lonely or both. The one week “vacations” in Rochelle, Ill. were free.

This is where Lawrence Welk comes in. Every Friday, when the vacations were about over for a group, we would go to a nice restaurant in Oregon, Ill. The food was pretty good, but it was the dancing that made the night.

The first time I went to this restaurant I almost vomited when I heard the music. The band consisted of two guys in ruffled wedding tuxedos and a lead singer who looked like “Chest Hairy” Larry from Three’s Company. I thought the singer would hang himself with the medallion around his neck.

But even worse, they started playing. They had a bunch of popular Lawrence Welk-like tunes I recognized, though they were in highly mutilated form. But the band members didn’t mind. They seemed thrilled to have the gig.

And the seniors around me were thrilled, too. They wanted to dance. Most of them were women, I was a guy and my boss, Terry Egan, told me I had to. So I danced.

And danced. And danced. We did the waltz, the twist, the shout and others.

The chicks, they loved it. Me, well, I liked them loving it. It turned out that these “old” women, who are supposed to sit in rocking chairs and talk about the old days where everything was uphill in snow both ways, were actually dancing maniacs. The hysteria caught on. We were swinging all night.

I thought these kinds of nights only happened at Otto’s and Motel 6 with women under 20 (and over 18, of course). But I was wrong. I was with a bunch of swinging singles who danced on feet, canes and wheel chairs. Only in the glory years.

So, what’s my point?

My point is that it’s Christmas time, and they are ready to go again with a Christmas Eve party near O’Hare airport. Terry, my boss, is looking for about ten students to volunteer their help at the parties. The food and transportation is free.

And if that’s not enough, there will be another party on Christmas Day in Rockford. Terry needs people who have cars to take the seniors there. He also needs people to deliver food to seniors who cannot go.

Terry, an NIU alum, said he can remember when he stuck around NIU over Christmas break. He’s thinking there are others who are doing the same this year. Terry wants you to party and dance with the elderly. There will be men for women volunteers to dance with, too.

So, even to those who will not be staying in NIU, give Terry a call. His number in Rochelle is (815) 562-5722. He needs your help.

Have a good Christmas.