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60s Whip Dancing at Garner State Park

Editor's Note: This page is visited on a frequent basis by people who used to dance the Whip at Garner back in the 60s. Chuck Williams sent me the email and the pictures in 2001. Since then he has been contacted by many people who stumbled across this page. He would appreciate hearing from you and swapping stories. 

Email to: Chuck Williams
cww922@cox.net

Letter sent in by Chuck Williams, a Garner "Regular" back in the 60s.
February 9, 2001

Hello Rick:

A friend of mine (native Texan) sent me your web site link the other day, and I have enjoyed reading the history of the Whip from your site. Much of this information is news to me.

My name is Chuck Williams, a "displaced Texan (Corpus Christi) who now lives in Omaha Nebraska. I am one of the true "veterans of Garner State Park" and the Whip (1961 ~ 1966). There are still a few us around, however, my contact with many of them is very limited since I live so far away.

You can imagine my surprise to learn that the Whip is still alive and well, I thought it died with those of us who stopped going to Garner in the mid and late 60's because we went to college or Viet Nam.

Rick, there were several of us who were very serious dancers during those great days, many were from Houston, Baytown, San Antonio, Leaky (I hope I spelled it correctly, been away too long), Uvalde, and Corpus Christi. Garner Park was our central meeting place. Most of us did anything (legal) we could to raise money to go to Garner during the summer. I lost track of how many lawns I mowed. I would make three, to four trips a summer, each lasting a week or longer. For the serious dancers like myself, our biggest objective was to learn as many steps as we could, and perfect our dance. Of course, we managed to find some good looking partners along the way. An added benefit was the great entertainment that would come to Garner. B.J. Thomas was a regular, in fact, he wrote a song called "Garner State Park", which stayed on the jukebox for years. Several others would come up routinely, Gene Thomas, Johnny Winter, Roy Orbison, Jay Frank Wilson, Roy Head, and too many others to mention. Many times, after the dance, we would all go to this one girls camp site, Carol Zimmermann, to listen to the jam sessions that would take place, between many of the singers mentioned above. Carol Zimmermann was an outstanding dancer who "lived to whip". Her mom and dad came to Garner every summer and spend a full month there. They always had the best camp grounds in the main park close to the pavilion. In case you don't know, the pavilion was the place where we danced. Some how, Mr. Zimmermann was able to finagle around the parks policy of only being allowed to keep your camp site for thirty days. Carols parents were the "parents" of so many kids like myself, who would come to Garner without adult supervision.

During the day, we would meet at the pavilion, and practice, practice, practice. The "slick slab" was a section of concrete on the pavilion floor that was dominated by those who would practice spinning. We could perfect our spin there, so that in the evening when the pavilion was crowded with dancers, we had the technique down well enough to spin without the benefit of a slick surface.

I'm not clear what year it was when the style changes to the "push", but it really brought on a lot of controversy. The traditional style looked more like the swing, but the "push" brought on stiff arms, shorter steps, and SPINNING! The "rock step" was in and the swing was out.

Rick, it was amazing! There were so many kids learning the whip, it was incredible! Every night of the week, the pavilion was crowed with kids learning or perfecting this dance. I forgot the year the park rangers started ending the dances at 11:00pm and enforcing a park curfew. But even then, BJ Thomas and the boys would meet at the Zimmermann's to jam... without amplifiers. And believe it or not, after all those hours of virtually non-stop dancing, we would still practice our steps on the dirt camp site ground while the guys were jamming. We were OUT OF CONTROL!

There was a section of the pavilion designated for "learners". Most of the more experienced dancers stayed clear. God! We were horrible....such egos! As with many dancers we develop subtle hand signals, so our partners would know what step we were going to do next. The competition became serious, however, we never had a dance contest, as I recall. The best dancers were just "kind of known".

After one full summers' practice (1962) followed by the countless hours of practice with my partner in Corpus Christi during the preceding school year, she and I returned to Garner (summer of 1963) to finally be "declared" as great dancers. That year, I met a girl from Baytown, Judy Roush who I nicknamed (Popcorn). Her family owned and operated a dance studio in Baytown. Judy was an awesome dancer and could whip like an expert. Some how, [there is a God in Heaven], Judy and I hit it off, and my life changed. She taught me so many steps, spins, techniques, it was incredible! I thought I died and went to "Whip Heaven". For the next three years, she and I went together [long distance] and each summer would return to Garner. She always seemed have learned more new steps than I. (I'm surprised??? ... after all she was a dance instructor at her parents studio). She also introduced me to some really good male dancers who were willing to share their steps with me. My talent was spinning, some how I had great technique. Now days, I get lost in a circle!

Strangely enough, I don't dance these days. My wife (from California) never really learned to dance during her school days. Our adult life together was filled with so many other interests we just never got to dancing. About 5 ~ 6 years ago, we signed up for a line dancing class through the local community college, but we never went dancing after the classes ended; we were always busy doing something else. A few of my Garner friends who I keep in touch with were as surprised as me that I never pursued dancing further. I was drafted right out of high school, and quickly joined the Air Force before reporting to the Army. As I traveled over the years (I was a career man), my devotion to dancing just kind of fell by the wayside. However, in 1995 at my 30th high school reunion, my dance partner from Corpus Christi and I had a blast. We had a great evening dancing without too much embarrassment. I remember several school mates approached us that evening and complemented us on our dancing. A few wanted to try the "whipping skills" again. It was a hoot!

I don't know if this story will "muster" any fond memories from your "more mature" (I'm 54) dancers, but I have certainly enjoyed the memories. Thanks for keeping a great dance alive. It brought me and many others some really great times. Best of luck, "keep Whipping"!

Chuck Williams
1211 Willow Ave.
Bellevue, Nebraska 68005

cww922@cox.net

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Chuck Williams

Chuck Williams seated


Dancing at Garner State Park, 1963



More Whip Dancing at Garner. Pictures contributed by Chuck Williams


October 10, 2002 3:21 PM

Rick, thanks for forwarding this email to me.  I received a short email from John, but did not know the nature of questions.  He only indicated that he wanted to talk to me about Garner.  I also received another email from a Maxine?  [canít remember her last name] who is a writer and wants to write a story about Garner and The Whip for the April 2003 edition of Texas Highways...  Sorry to hear the Whip has taken second to the West Coast Swing.  Let those guys know that the Whip put a lot smiles and happy faces on a lot folks... I would really hate to see that dance fade away.  Keep Whipping!  Thanks again for posting my article on your web site, I have received numerous emails from folks who wanted to respond by telling me their experiences at Garner Park.

Rick, if you happen to get any emails or queries about Garner Park or The Whip, please forward them to me, there seems to be more interest than I imagined.

Thanks,
Chuck Williams


Wed 10/30/2002 12:06 PM

Hello Rick: A friend sent me another post card of "Whippers" at Garner. This picture was taken at the same time as the post card I sent earlier around 1964. Thought you might want to add it to the article I wrote. BTW Rick, I have been getting several emails from people who were whippers during the 60's who spent a lot of time at Garner as I did. The story I wrote, has really brought on some interest, and interesting emails. Thanks again for posting this on your web site.
Regards,
Chuck Williams
cww922@cox.net

Wed 10/30/2002 12:30 PM
Editor's reply to above email.

Chuck, 

Your new picture was just awesome ("more Whip dancing")!!  

It recreated the scene so perfectly. I could just see it for the first time even though I was never there. I will post it immediately at my web site.

I have included your two recent October emails to me as well. I am honored to serve as a catalyst to pull people with Garner dance memories together. 

Rick Archer


From:
Rudolph Gutierrez [mailto:rudolph.gutierrez@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2010 9:47 AM
To: Dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Dance 1957-1971

Hi,

In 1957, a club called "Jimmie Menutis" (named after the owner), opened in a building that had once been a theater. It was locate on Telephone Road near Wayside and featured  Rock & Roll and rythum and Blues, commonly called Black Music.  I think that Bobby Blue Bland played on opening night. The house band was the Art Boatwright Band with Art on the piano, his brother Henry Boatwright on Sax, Hop Hopkins on drums and Johnnie Walker on Guitar.

Most of the big rock and roll and R&B acts were featured there.  Talk about forbidden fruit, it attracted mostly young people ages 16-28.  Some of the performers that I recall playing there were; The Everly Bros, Chuck Berry,  Jimmy Reed, Johnny Rivers, C. L. and The Pictures, Bobby Bland, B. B. King, Bo Diddly, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Sam Cook, Earl Grant, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and later his cousin Mickey Gilley, oh I almost forget Louis Armstrong.

I found your web site and it revived a flood of memories.  In those days there weren't many apartments that rented to single people except in Pasadena, South Houston and southeast off Telephone Road.  Most single people worked rotating shifts at refineries and the docks in Houston and the pipe fitters, welders and Iron workers live in those areas. so, finding a place to relax and drink a beer and dance in the morning after 7:00AM was normal and they became the patrons of the Four Palms that was own.  

There were two clubs in Houston that had honky tonk and blues bands in the mid morning and afternoon.  They catered to the refinery shift workers, salesmen and "Pressure Cooker" ladies; The Four Palms and another, whose name I don't recall, on Airline Dr.  There also was a similar club in Dallas called "It'll Do."  There were always new faces that came to these clubs and a lot of regulars. If a feller wanted to learn to dance, there would always be ladies to teach you after 3:30PM if you provided the beverages. I sure had a lot of lady friends from there. 

The Jimmie Menutis and the Four Palms were closed on Sunday, a lot of their customers expressed a desire for a place to go to on Sunday afternoon.  So, Bill White, Dewey Hungerford (whose brother was Ty Hardin, the TV actor) and several of us started the Whip Club of Houston.  We negotiated with a lady by the name of Cynthia for her club on Galveston Road near Howard Street to be open on Sunday afternoon for our members and their guests to have a place to party and dance.   

Good picture of Bobby, Patsy, and Little Jo.



--
Rudy Gutierrez
"Live With a Purpose"

 

-----Original Message-----
From: melderbw@aol.com
To: rudolph.gutierrez@gmail.com; cww922@cox.net
Sent: Tue, Aug 16, 2011 11:03 pm

Subject: Fwd: Garner State Park and the Whip - please circulate -

Hello Chuck and Rudolph, my name is Webb Melder, age 62. My sister and I were Garner residents for the summers of '64 - thru '67. Your stories about Garner and Jimmy Menutis' club are super. I have passed this on to be circulated among our ATO fraternity from Sam Houston State Univ. in Huntsville, TX. Many of us were regulars at Garner and Jimmy's club. I think the " pressure cooker " on Airline may have been " The Cedar Lounge ". Life was interesting to say the least during this time period of our lives and at these " special locations ". We played touch football twice a day, morning and afternoon, in the open field across the road from the river.....I think the field had roads all around it but was large enough to accommodate all of us doing our thing, " throwin' the football around ". I met guys from all over Texas, good athletes too,...a lot better than me. One night, after a great day of football and a several days of these guys ridin' me pretty hard, a group of my teammates lifted me up on their shoulders and circled the dance pavilion while they sang " for he's a jolly good fellow ". A nice Garner memory I must admit. Yes, like you guys, memories of pretty Texas girls from all over,...especially the cities Chuck mentioned. We lived in Montgomery, TX. at the time, had moved from the Spring Branch area in Houston. You guys keep the memories and stories coming....lots of folks to share them with. Blessings to all. Webb K. Melder Sam Houston '67 - '71.
 

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