Crest Pier Dances

My friend called me today from her car and asked me if I remembered a certain song she came across when she was turning stations on the radio. I waited in silence and anticipation on the other end for her to turn up the volume. Then I heard it—my favorite slow jam since sixth grade—K-Ci & JoJo’s “Crazy.” The conversation, conducted in the typical modern slang of our day, was as follows:

“Dude, are you serious?” I said. “Such a good jam. I forgot all about it. Brings back so many mems.”
“I know, right?” she said.
“How pumped are you to be cruisin’ around to that song?”
“You don’t even know,” she said. “Now, think hard. What does it remind you of?”

I didn’t have to think hard. In fact, I didn’t really have to think at all. Suddenly I was swallowed up and warped back in time and spat out in the center of a crowded basketball court. Except I wasn’t in the middle of a game, for there wasn’t one being played. The court was covered up with mats. The lights were dimmed, except for the ones gleaming from the hallway, the bleachers folded up and closed and stacked against the walls of the recreation center. I stood at half-court and watched as the crowd on the dance floor slowly began to disperse and part ways, leaving only a few couples out there, dancing slowly. I was in sixth grade. On a Saturday night. At a Crest Pier Dance.

The Wildwood Crest Pier Dances were the talk of the town, or at least the grade schools. We longed for every other Saturday night at seven o’clock, where mostly every kid on the island in the sixth, seventh and eight grades, from every local school, flocked and gathered for the two-hour dance.

My girlfriends and I would spend hours prepping at each other’s houses for the dance. It was always a big event, and we had to look perfect—especially for the boys whom we secretly hoped would be there and, if we were really lucky, ask us to dance. Hair, outfits and makeup were planned out hours, sometimes days, in advance.

And we always showed up at least fifteen minutes late because that was the cool thing to do—nobody went to a Crest Pier Dance at the exact time it started. And when we would finally arrive, we’d spend the first whole hour by the front door, hanging out and eating candy out of the vending machines, as would mostly everyone else, while the chaperones made rounds and tried to sway everyone into entering the dance.

I remember standing up against the wall with my friends and watching people dance, and I remember the look of excitement on every girl’s face when the guy she liked finally asked her. And I remember my own excitement when the guy I liked finally asked me to dance to my first slow song ever—to K-Ci & JoJo’s “Crazy.”

As I got older I no longer waited in anticipation up against the wall. I retreated to the dance floor as soon as I heard “Electric Slide” and “Cotton Eye Joe” bump through the speakers. In seventh and eight grade my friends and I would show up at exactly seven o’clock, sometimes waiting in line a little before just to ensure we didn’t miss anything. We couldn’t miss anything. It wasn’t an option.

Although I did always take a minute to pause from the action when “Crazy” played—and it did every dance. And the funny thing is that I don’t remember exactly which dance it was, or the boy who even asked me to dance, or how long the song played, or anyone else around us on the dance floor. But I do remember how I felt—anxious, excited, happy. It was one of those defining moments of my childhood that I’ll always remember—and there are only a certain few of those moments.

As I listened to the song play on through the phone, I told my friend of exactly what it reminded me:
“Crest Pier Dances obviously.”
“Aw, Natty,” she said. “It was your first slow song.”
“Dude, we used to have so much fun back at those things.”
“I know. They were some of the best memories of my childhood.”
It would be a shame if they didn’t have them anymore,” I said.
“No worries,” my friend assured me. “Drove by last night and saw the sign outside. They definitely still have them.”
“That’s awesome.”

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