K of C Dances and Curl Free — #AtoZChallenge 2023

K is for K of C Dances and Curl Free. Eleventh of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

Unlike many of my artsy and activist classmates, I retained my love of dancing through high school. In junior high, most dances were held in the school gym, and I rarely missed one.

By high school, though, there were off-campus dances to go to – and one of the best was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Main St. near Union Endicott High School. We called it “The K.”

My classmate Terry remembers a husband-and-wife team organizing the K of C dance parties, which featured lots of local bands. And classmate Jan says she recalls the dances being super fun! So much fun I was inspired to write a poem about The K in one of my journals:

Ultraviolet noise, Skinny girls, hairy boys,
Rock and rollin’ beat, Humid air full of heat,
Sirens in the night, Cigarettes, smoky lights.
May 19, 1967

Youth dance in Houston, Texas (1969). Photo: flashback.com

Partying at The K

I think the dances were on Friday night — and I was a regular, which surprised a few other classmates when the subject came up at a high school reunion.

“Really? I don’t remember you being there,” one of the guys said.

“That’s because I spent most of the night in tears in the ladies room trying to get my curly hair to behave,” I replied.

Fun as they were, dances at The K were also humid — which caused my carefully set hair to rise and expand like a freshly baked cake, banishing any hope of flipping it around on the dance floor after the first two or three songs.

So, while the high school guys were busy figuring out how to pre-drink before the K of C dances (Terry says he was often sent in to buy the booze), I was in search of something that would keep my curly tresses at bay during the steamy Friday parties. That’s when I discovered Curl Free.

High school dance circa 1970. Photo: vintag.es

Curl Free to the rescue

Many curly gals will tell you that they’ve tried lots of methods to straighten their hair. Before large rollers existed, I set my hair on orange juice can curlers to straighten it out – which worked fine in the dry winter months, but not so well when the humidity rose.

I also tried ironing my hair with a clothes iron — before modern straightening flat irons existed — but the risk of singes and burns was too great, and breaking a sweat would curl my hair up again anyway.

Then I saw an ad for Curl Free, a chemical straightener that promised long, swinging locks with a few passes of the comb. I had to try it!

I don’t recall if I mail ordered Curl Free or got it at the store, but I remember the box, gloves, comb, and shower cap were all pink – and the test-tube-like instructions were right out of a chem lab.

I had shoulder length hair when I started using the straightener – and it worked well. For the first time ever my hair moved when I shook my head! No more fear that hot or rainy days would ruin my look – and no more frustrating combing sessions in the K of C bathroom!

Inspired by my success, my younger brother Mark — whose hair was as curly as mine — wanted to try it, too. So, one evening I gave us both a Curl Free treatment and we sat together in pink shower caps waiting for the relaxer to work its magic.

Alas, like many things that seem too good to be true, Curl Free had a downside: it weakened my already relaxed hair when I reapplied it to straighten my curly roots. Soon the ends started breaking, and by senior year I was sporting a curly pixie cut and only relaxing the top so I could have bangs.

Fortunately, I was rescued by the Sixties while I still had some hair! After I headed to college, I embraced my natural curls — along with much else about myself — and happily left Curl Free behind.

Up next, L is for Learning to drive: I get my license. Please stop back!

© 2023 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “K of C Dances and Curl Free — #AtoZChallenge 2023”

  1. Loved the weekly Sunday night dances at our local church group. Many marriages resulted from those gatherings. Not mine, I ended up marrying someone with two left feet!

  2. We didn’t have dances like this, just rather formal inter-school ones once a year. Of course they may have been around and I was unaware. I loved dancing and used to dance at a studio once or twice a week and more during holidays. Remember dressed with zips down the front? I used to put a safety pin across it as some boy would always think he’d get away with pulling it down.

    1. Ha Ha — I do remember those zip dresses. Sounds like you may have had some potentially racy times somewhere, if not at the dances 🙂

  3. I never had to straighten my hair, always curl it. Now I have such thin, fine hair I’m grateful for whatever it does! I went to a few Knights of Columbus dances too. My parents thought it might be a good place for me to meet a nice Italian Catholic guy. LOL- never happened.

    1. How cool that you also went to K of C dances. I can’t remember if our were strictly Catholic, or if the space was leased for a more ecumenical dance. Perhaps my mom ok’d me going with the same idea as yours 🙂

  4. I was probably one of the few that was happy with my hair – a hint of reddish highlight in it, and a tiny bit of natural curl. Nowadays I wear it short and proudly grey (I was prematurely grey, colored it for years, and finally gave up). Now, my complexion….know what? I’m happy my teen years are way behind me.

    1. Glad to know you mostly had good hair days! My curls eventually became my friends, once I stopped trying to copy straight styles and just let them have their way 🙂

  5. I found you via Janet, so “hi!”

    Your photos of your high school days are wonderful. Like you I had, and still have, curly hair. I remember having my hair straightened at the beauty shop and feeling so free and cool. Of course it didn’t last long, maybe a few weeks, and then I was back to being a frizzy melon head.

    1. Hi Ally, thanks for stopping by! I think the straightening phase was just something we had to go through to finally arrive at acceptance. That, and hairdressers who specialize in curly cuts, have been lifesavers!

  6. No-one’s ever satisfied with their hair – too fine, too curly, too thick – and it’s all so important when you’re young. I enjoyed seeing the mini dresses though I remember it being quite difficult to retain my dignity in very short skirts!

    1. Yes, those mini dresses were a challenge! But they did improve our posture because to keep your dignity you had to stand up very straight 🙂

    1. Your straight hair would have been popular at my high school. I never realized that anyone would envy my curls until curly styles became popular years later — and then I saved a fortune not having to get perms!

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