Rockin' Around North Springfield

Rockin' Around North Springfield

North Springfield celebrates 50 years with sock hops, sing-a-long.

For one brief, laughter-filled afternoon, students and teachers at North Springfield Elementary went back to the 1950s, complete with sock hops and an American Bandstand-led sing-a-long.

To celebrate the school's 50th anniversary, students spent weeks learning dances and songs from the past half-century in preparation for the school's birthday party on Friday, Oct. 20.

After three back-to-back sock hops, physical education teacher Suzanne Metz was exhausted but giddy.

"They all had so much fun with each other and their teachers," said Metz, of the students who danced all morning.

With classics like "Rock Around the Clock," "YMCA," "The Twist" and modern favorites like "The Electric Slide" and "The Macerena," students wiggled, hopped, danced and otherwise boogied all around the gym.

"It was the 50th anniversary committee's idea to do the sock hop," Metz said, her face still red from dancing with the second and third graders. "The kids really seemed to get into the music from the 50s and 60s."

MUSIC TEACHER Steve Kimball, dressed in a leather jacket and Elvis wig, acted as DJ for the sock hop and would later act as emcee for a "Singing Through the Decades" sing-a-long. Kimball changed his wig for each decade, with an Afro wig for the 1970s, a bright, multi-colored punk wig for the 1980s and a silver metallic headpiece for the 1990s.

"I think the kids did really well," said Kimball after the sing-a-long, featuring songs like "Lollipop," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Gonna Make You Sweat."

Students learned songs and choreography in their weekly music classes. Each week was given a specific decade, starting with the 1950s, Kimball said.

"I spent a lot of time behind the scenes getting ready for this but there were some students who stayed after school to learn the dances too," he said.

One group of teachers volunteered to be backup dancers, changing their costumes or accessories as the years progressed. A group of students, dressed in poodle skirts and greaser garb, acted out a scene from "American Bandstand."

Many parent volunteers got into the spirit, wearing scarves around their necks or a class ring on a necklace.

"My brother and sister and I used to go here," said parent Althea Helm, whose daughter, Katie, is a second grader at North Springfield. "I'm not much of a dancer, but I wanted to be here to see this."

Helm said she lives in the home she grew up in and has seen many of her old friends returning to the neighborhood.

"This whole place is very community oriented," she said. "The kids really keep us all in the spirit."

The ethnic makeup of the school may have become more diverse since her days as a student there, but Helm said the heart has stayed the same.

"This is really good for the neighborhood, I think it's being rejuvenated," she said.

Beth Oliver, another volunteer, said she likes helping out at North Springfield because of the close-knit feel of a community school.

"This school really is like a hidden secret," Oliver said.

Her son, Bailey, a third grader, was one of the energetic children pulled on stage during the sock hop, and Beth Oliver said she was not surprised he had his own crew of back up dancers.

"He's a natural in front of people," she said. "I was thinking before about putting him in dance lessons, but I thought he wouldn't like it. Now I'm reconsidering, he had a blast up there."

NORTH SPRINGFIELD principal Alice Alexander, dressed in a poodle skirt and bright pink scarf, said she was impressed and very pleased with the day's events.

"This is far more than we expected," she said, preparing for the sing-a-long. "The kids have dressed up every week and we've had a ball."

The question on the office staff's mind after Friday afternoon, however, was what would they have to look forward to — they'd been dressing up in costume for the past month.