Story by Lon Tytell
The Warwick Lions Club and the Warwick Valley Rotary Club joined forces with the Warwick Sesquicentennial Committee to provide a memorable experience, the Valentine’s Day Senior Dance on Tues., Feb. 14 at Park Avenue School. About 150 people attended the event which is part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the Village of Warwick.
Students from the Warwick Middle and High School Warwick Wire Choir played pop and classical tunes before and during the time attendees ate appetizers and desserts. Donations by local restaurants, eateries, members of the Warwick Lions and Warwick Valley Rotary provided these wonderful delicacies. The eateries that provided the delicious food included: Plum House, Edenville Deli, OPA! Greek Grill, Long Spring Restaurant, Benito’s, TNT, Luca’s, Charlotte’s Tea Room, Fratello, ShopRite, Asian Delicacies, Italian Villa, Yesterdays , Subway, Blarney Station, Pennings, Jean Claude’s Bakery and Oxford Station. Norman Issacson who attended the event with his wife, Susan, thought the wide variety of food was excellent, well prepared and plentiful.
Lions, Rotarians and students from the Interact Club, Thunder Bolts and CCD confirmation classes served the food. The teens also assisted in hanging up the coats , setting up and putting away the tables and chairs. The gymnasium’s decorations were created by Mayor Michael Newhard, Warwick Lion Pam Sharer and Park Avenue students under the guidance of teacher Sally Woglom. The decorations helped create the perfect venue for the New York Swing Exchange, who performed Big Band Swing standards from the 1940’s and the 1950’s. Couples who danced throughout the night really seemed to enjoy themselves.
“What a night!! The Big Band sound of the New York Swing Exchange filled the beautifully decorated Park Avenue gym. This was an evening of nostalgia and romance. The Warwick Lions and Warwick Rotary outdid themselves. Thanks to so many who helped make the evening possible: the local restaurants for their generous donations, Park Avenue students who made decorations, the Village Board for their support and the Sesquicentennial Committee for all their hard work,” said Mayor Michael Newhard.
Christine Stage, a member of the committee that organized the dance said, “The Mayor envisioned a free dance which would be nostalgic for the seniors in our community, including a big band for dancing and food and drink. The Warwick Lions were more than happy to join forces with the Warwick Valley Rotary Club. It was important for the seniors of our community to be part of the year- long 150th celebration. It was a lot of work. We reached out to the different senior groups in the Town of Warwick, contacted restaurants and places that provide food, picked up the food, and made arrangements for the New York Swing Exchange. When we saw the decorated gym and the happy people there, it was well worth the effort.”
Neil Sinclair another member of the organizing committee added, “The Rotary and Lions Clubs are so proud to participate in this great event for the Sesquicentennial. We are honoring our seniors which is really important. I can’t say enough about the job the Lions Club did in doing the heavy lifting for this event. Thank you to Patricia Starick and my fellow Rotarians for making our seniors happy campers.”
Park Avenue Principal Sandra Wood said, “What a fabulous night for the Warwick Seniors and the many folks who put on this phenomenal event! Twinkling lights and heart balloons made the gymnasium pop with excitement. The ‘Heart’ award goes out to Ms. Sally Woglom and her student council for making all the hearts to decorate the gym. It was just a wonderful night filled with dancing, eating, and good memories for many at Park Ave.”
A Special Memory
Warwick resident Ken Durland who attended the Senior Valentine’s Dance shared a special memory, “What a great senior Valentine’s Party held in what was in my day, the Park Avenue Jr./Sr. High School for the town’s kids. As I walked into the gymnasium, I was struck with two sets of memories- one as a student (graduated in 1946), and the other relative to the 18 piece New York Swing Exchange band playing for the affair from the stage.”
“First of all, I had to grin at the chairs set up on opposite sides of the room, as in the past with girls congregating on one side and boys on the other. The room was decorated beautifully primarily by the students. The 40’s was a great time for us still in school, but tough for the families of all the young men and women away from home, serving in the Armed Forces. Consequently, there wasn’t much competition around musically, so I organized my first band as a sophomore called, ‘Sons of Swing.’ We ended up playing for most of the dances in school including Graduation parties, Senior Balls, Junior Proms, Sophomore Hops and anything the Freshman came up with! Members of the band stayed pretty much the same and included Kjell Pedersen, Don Kimble, Albie Hicks, John Bradner, Art Richards and even some adults who wanted to play with any band at that time.”
Durland continued, “I decided to try and fill my long standing desire for the big band sound. I found a lot of musicians (many of them local music department teachers.) The Ken Durland Swing Band was born almost 20 years ago. The Village took us into their programs. We did summer concerts on the bandstand in Stanley Deming Park complete with horns blaring as applause, along with a great number of beach chairs and blankets filled with Warwickians. We also found a home with the Master Arts Series of concerts performed in the Warwick Reformed Church. The day finally came when I had to admit running the band was getting to be a little too much and turned it over to Jim Briggs. Naturally the name had to change and the guys came up with the New York Swing Exchange as a fun play on words. Tuesday they dug into a huge book of music for tunes that sort of fit the era and if the activity on the dance floor was indicative, it went over rather well. A great party well received.”
Seniors Share Their Love Stories
While the seniors were eating the appetizers and desserts, they were asked to write down their thoughts about how cupid’s arrow hit its mark for them. The following is a sample of some of the written comments:
Mary met Phil long ago in the hallways of Park Avenue. He was a senior and she was a Freshman. They were married 58 years. “I saw him and my heart leapt out of my body.” Mary remembered and smiled.
Michele and husband, Charles, were Park Avenue sweethearts too. She moved to Warwick from Queens and that summer a bunch of girls and guys came to welcome her. “It was a big deal,” she said, “because I came from a big school and that never would have happened.”
Mike recited his Valentine message to Carol, “You are the love of my life. Thank you for being at that dance that night we met. Love always.”
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