SATURDAY NIGHT IN BELLWOOD
As Bellwood prepares to celebrate its hundred year anniversary, poignant memories of my youth, as my three brothers and I were growing up in this small Nebraska town, come winging back.
Saturday night during the warm summer months, was a very special night in our young lives. The main attraction was the weekly band concert. The musicians, young and old, sat on benches in the screened band stand in the center of the block long city park, with the stores and shops on the street circling the park. The screens on the band stand were a deterrent for the pesty summer insects trying to disrupt the musical program P. W. McDermand, the cashier at the Bellwood Bank, was the dedicated conductor for many years.
The townspeople and the farm families for miles around, gathered to hear the snappy popular tunes, with a rnis-toot now and then by an eager, amateur musician.
The small children in "Sunday" clothes danced their fanciful little steps, in circles around the band stand oblivious to the audience of admiring adults gathered around them.
The more sedate teenagers promenaded on the sidewalks, round and round the park, playing the eternal boy, girl game. I recall times when my mother put final stitches on a new dress at the last minute so I could model it on Saturday night. The promenade always ended in cliques of boys and girls with small talk of school, of who loved whom at the moment, interspersed with giggles and laughter. Many a romance budded on Saturday night.
The farmers squatted against store fronts or sat on park benches, intent on the discussion of crop prospects and farm operations. All were vitally concerned with weather conditions. I can recall my father's routine duty each morning as he made three observations - namely the temperature, the direction of the wind and a check on the sky for clouds. No doubt politics entered into these conversations, but small farm communities seemed far removed from the political world, with only newspapers as a news media.
The women gathered in the three grocery stores to refurbish the family pantries with staples. Most families had big gardens for fresh vegetables, shelves filled with home canned foods, and cured meats hanging in the smoke house. It was a time for catching up on conmunity gossip. No birth, marriage nor romance was overlooked. I have wondered how the house wives with so few conveniences had enough "left over" energy to gather their broods into the Model T or horse drawn carriages for the trip to town on Saturday night.
Usually the Methodist or Catholic ladies would hold an ice cream and cake social in the park to replenish the church coffers. Long tables near the grand stand held an array of home made cakes. The ladies, scoop in hand, were ready to serve your favorite flavor of home made ice cream, all you could eat for ten cents, plus ten cents for a generous slice of cake. Twas many years before the days of calorie counting, fortunately, as rich cream was as common as low fat milk is today.
I recall that gathering at Hayek's Cafe on the west side of the park was also a Saturday night routine. I shall never forget the sodas and sundaes concocted at the soda fountain, nor the glass cases with the tempting array of penny candies. What patience the Hayeks must have had waiting for us to decide on our choice of candies, with the dime we had saved to squander on sweets. Could this small town tradition be labeled "Saturday Night Fever?" Not likely, as it was long before Rock'n Roll had taken over the country. Only semi classical scores, popular sentimental lyrics and snappy marches drew the Saturday night crowd. Yes, in those days we all marched to a different tune.
-Dorothy Bell Becker, June1980
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