The Savoy Ballroom
Exuberant dancing at the Savoy Ballroom.
- [Narrator] The Savoy covered a whole city block
on Lenox Avenue between 140th and 141st Streets,
employed two bands at once so that the music
need never stop and was so popular with dancers
that it's maple and mahogany floor
had to be replaced every three years.
Just 50 cents on weeknights, 75 cents on Sundays,
the Savoy was called The Home of Happy Feet
and offered depression ravished Harlem
a respite from it's troubles.
- The windows was wide open and so the music
can come out, blast right into our living room.
Every night we heard this marvelous music
and in those days in the summer
the fire escape was where you sat to be cool.
There was no air conditioning nowhere.
So by sitting on the fire escape and our fire escape
faced the back windows of the Savoy Ballroom
and you ever see shadows when people dance past the windows?
You could see figures dancing to that music
and my sister and I would respond to what we saw
in the windows of the Savoy and we would get into
the living room and dance to some of
the best bands in the world.
- [Narrator] For years Norma listened to the music
and dreamed of going inside.
In the spring of 1931 she got her chance.
- Precisely it was Easter Sunday, 12 years old
and you know in those days you always had
a little new outfit to go out to church.
Four o'clock there's a matinee gonna be
at the Savoy Ballroom and after church I dashed up
to Lenox Avenue and the people that went into the Savoy
were sharp and we used to just stand outside to watch them
and that's what I was doing.
We started dancing outside the Savoy Ballroom
and I heard somebody say to me, "Hey kid."
And I turned around and he said, "you, you"
and I turned and I recognized immediately who it was.
It was the great Twistmouth George in a white hat,
white suite, white everything asking me
to come to the ballroom to dance with him
and he said, "Would you come and dance?"
I said, "would I?"
He grabbed me, we dashed up the stairs
and I don't know whether I hit each step
cause he had such long legs
and I remember just flying up those stairs with him
and we go through these doors
and I think it was the most beautiful
place I'd ever seen in my life.
The reds and the greens and the blues
and that was the first time
I ever saw a band on a bandstand.
I mean I'd been seeing the shadows and he,
I'm so excited he took me over there in the corner
and sat me down and brought me a Coke and said,
"You sit here and I'll come get ya"
and finally it was his turn for Twistmouth George
to come and he came and got me and he said, "Let's go."
When they hit that music...
All I know is everything he just, he just threw me.
My feet never touched the ground.
People were screaming and he put me on top of his shoulders,
walked me around the ballroom and the people is clapping
and talking about Twistmouth and he took me right around
to the front right outside and put me back outside.
Greatest moment in my life and I'm excited, excited.
I'm gonna go home and tell my mother and my sister
and then I said, no I better not say nothing.