Slippin’ back in time…
A work in progress. Excerpt from Chapter 2 of my new fiction book, Johnny Fallon.
Marsha and John Fallon moved to Forest Hills in the winter of ’41. The couple had owned three dance halls in New Jersey. They had inherited the business from John’s father, Huey Fallon, who had passed away at the young age of 55. John’s mother, Elizabeth, suffered from asthma and died six years later.
The young Fallon couple were professional dancers and performed up and down the Eastern Seaboard, winning their share of contests, focusing on the Foxtrot, the Lindy and the Jitterbug — especially the Jitterbug and the “freestyle” routine, which allowed them to strut their stuff.
They both celebrated their 30th birthdays during the spring of 1941 and decided to make the move out West — sight unseen, to Forest Hills, a quiet, mountain town, three hours away from the closest big city, Phoenix.
They sold all of the New Jersey businesses, which, by then, included the dance halls, two dance studios and two record shops — both shops well known to the young dancers in the area as the place to listen to the latest tunes, grab a chocolate or vanilla malt and even do a little dancing on the dance floors, set up in the back of both record shops.
It was a scary move, especially for Marsha, who was three months pregnant when they began their journey westward.
Times were tough for the Fallon family for the first few years in Forest Hills. Clients didn’t exactly swarm to the Fallon Dance Studio on Third Street and Main. Luckily, Marsha and John kept hold of enough of their savings, until they were able to turn the tables on the ledger and finally show a profit.
Of course, they had to learn and then teach a few more dance steps. There were plenty of cowboys in town and the main floor dance around town, included something called, “the two-step.”
By the mid 1940s, little Johnny was four years old and, in record time, went from crawling, to walking to dancing in that order. By the time he was eight and just about the time he became a shoeshine boy at Slim’s Place, Johnny was winning dance contests in his age group. He had rhythm. It was plain to see. Sure, he was certainly a quick learner, but dancing — ballroom dancing, rock and roll, the Jitterbug, the Lindy, the West Coast Swing…and even the two-step, everything came natural to him. His little feet, his body, his mind always in rhythm to the beat.
Johnny’s dad was so proud of his son. Every time the lad won a ribbon or a trophy, John would display it in the window of the dance studio. Marsha Fallon was just as amazed. It didn’t make a bit of difference what vinyl record she’d insert in the Hi-Fi at the studio. Once the record fell into place and once the needle set the sound in motion, Johnny was at the center of the studio, jumping and a jiving.
Johnny Fallon fit in at Forest Hills about the same way a young Elvis Presley fit in some two-thousand miles away in Memphis. In fact, Elvis kind of blazed the trail for the likes of a Johnny Fallon. The teenage girls took a liking to Elvis and to Johnny in a similar manner. The boys, now that was a different story.