By Donna Lee Anderson (McGowan)
Above, a photo from the Spokane Chronicle, featuring the “ALL-CITY BUCKAROOS,” with members of the Teen Twirlers, including Donna Lee Anderson (McGowan), second from the right. The six girls were part of a Chronicle all-city football show at the Fox Theater. The other five young women, left to right: Dolores Baird, Carol McCarty, Patty Reilly, Marilyn Smith, and to the right of Donna, Janet Nelson.
It was the summer of 1950 in Spokane when I first heard about the Teen Twirlers. This was a group sponsored by the Spokane Parks Department and the leaders and teachers were Natalie and Lloyd Warner. The story goes that the Warners wanted their teenaged sons to be involved in the International Folk Dancing world, so they started Teen Twirlers.
The teaching and rehearsals were held at various places. The Warners owned and operated the Warner Dance Studio (ballroom dancing, specializing in Latin American). Teen Twirlers often met there on Saturday afternoons or Wednesday evenings. The dance studio was shared with a ballet teacher so sometimes we folk dancers met at Lewis and Clark High School in the gym.
Kids from all over Spokane were involved. There were representatives from Rogers, North Central, Lewis and Clark, Gonzaga, Holy Names, Marycliff, East Valley, Central Valley, and West Valley High Schools.
Some of my favorite dances were the Bavarian Schuhplattler and the German Der Wolgaster. And I truly enjoyed dancing the French Can-Can, although my teachers weren’t exactly happy with my choice of this dance for the Talent Contest at Gonzaga. Did I mention I went to Holy Names Academy?
When you got to know the dance steps and had a little show-man-ship in you, you got to be in the Exhibition Group. This group traveled to dance conventions and was invited to participate in presentation like the Spokane Opera Association and the Greater Spokane Music Festival. They were also invited to several Dance Federation Festivals.
One time we were invited to dance for a celebration in Stehekin—that’s located far up the lake from Chelan. We slept in sleeping bags on the gym floor, and we loved the bus ride that took us from Spokane, to the boat trip up the lake. Another time we went to Victoria BC for a festival and I remember the wonderful cruise and the breakfast that was included in the trip. We also traveled to Wenatchee, Yakima, Grand Coulee, Enumclaw and Vancouver—and once we even went to San Francisco. Wonderful and exciting adventures in my young life.
The Warners were like a second set of parents to our group. We all called them Ma and Pa Warner and, wanted or not, we got advice on how to act or not act in boy-girl situations (‘don’t giggle or just stand there looking at the floor. Say something.’), and to the boys Natalie could be heard saying, “Shorten you steps and don’t be a clod-hopper. That’s a girl not a sack of feed.” And much more often we would hear, “that was done well.” We all loved the Warners, and we knew they loved us.
I left the Teen Twirler group in 1955 but continued to work for the Warners in the Ballroom Dance Studio until I moved to Seattle in 1959. Wonderful years of friendship with all the members of the Teen Twirler group and especially with the Warners.