by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Sock hops were held as early as the 1940s to raise money for war relief efforts, but the dances grew in popularity and became known as a type of informal school dance throughout the 1950s and 60s. It was called a "sock hop" because we were required to remove our shoes so we wouldn't scratch the school gymnasium floor.
Music was the other defining characteristic of a sock hop. “Rock-and-roll” became popular in 1951 when a Cleveland disc jockey, Alan Freed, first used the term. At the same time televisions were becoming common place in American homes and teens, including those in Grain Valley, were beginning to watch shows like American Bandstand.
Like "American Idol" today, "American Bandstand" became popular among TV viewers. The show began broadcasting from Philadelphia on October 7, 1952. Dick Clark became the host in 1956 and the show went national in 1957.
At that time Lottie Gibler ran a café in the building which is now known as The Iron Kettle. Carol (Perry) Gorley was a classmate of her daughter, Kay Gibler (Class of 1961). She remembers going to the café on most days after school to listen to rock and roll tunes and dance with her friends. Later, Lottie’s son, Malcomb owned the restaurant and ran a “Teen Town” there on Saturday nights.
In the spring of Carol’s senior year, her classmates had a Pizza Party and Sock Hop to raise funds for their senior trip. Senior parents helped with the project by cooking pizzas in the home economics room. Remember Chef Boyardee Pizza Mixes? As a freshman and younger sister of a senior, I remember helping to make and serve the pizza. I also remember my mother and Earlene (Tate) Mueller going into the gym and dancing with their sons!
By 1961 Grain Valley did not have a teen town but there were lots of school dances including three of four sock hops each year. This photograph appeared in the 1961 Treasure Chest Yearbook and was captioned, “Dancing or acrobats at the Pep Club Sock Hop???” If you are a Grain Valley graduate before 1965 you will remember basketball games in the gym and the second-floor balcony.
What are your special memories of GVHS?
The Historical Society invites you to join us for Coffee with Classmates –the Rock ‘n Roll Years (1950-1970) on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 beginning at 10:00 AM. We will reconnect, reminiscence, and share memorabilia from our days at Grain Valley! I hope you will join us.