The dance was a great success with a pumped-up crowd of 260 people bent on turning the clock back in time to relive YMCA Y-Co dances of the '50s and '60s. From all reports, “Remembering Y-Co” attendees at Waldameer Park’s historic Rainbow Gardens ballroom had a wonderful time and enjoyed reminiscing with old classmates and friends.

If you’re of age and can remember, you were considered “cool” if you attended Erie’s Downtown and/or Glenwood Park YMCA’s Saturday night teen dances from 1958 until 1968 at Senior Y-Co and until 1974 at Junior Y-Co. There were contests galore, along with the latest top-40 hits of TV’s American Bandstand era, and theme nights, even a canned goods night where admission was a canned good for the food bank.

It was easily the most popular and also the longest running social activity for young people in its day.

Crowning a king and queen was an annual ritual of Y-Co years ago and has become a highlight again since its resurrection as a fundraiser in 2010. Jack and Karen Greenberg, Erie, this year’s king and queen, were very involved in Y-Co during their single high school years. As the official keeper of the archives, Karen Greenberg now helps out on committee in decorating the venue.

Besides period memorabilia and photo boards of popular dance and costume contest winners — prizes were awarded throughout the night — the big attraction nowadays is DJ John spinning the discs from yesteryear at its reunion location, Rainbow Gardens, a historic 20,000-square-foot dance-hall-style venue at Waldameer.

The Oct. 8 event, which raised more than $5,000 for the YMCA annual campaign, is organized by a team of Glenwood Y staff and volunteers, including Glenwood Park Y executive director Jim McEldowney; program directors Zack Miller, Tonya Makusi, Michelle Schroeck and Debra Anderson; and volunteers Renee Slabic, Sue Hagle and Chuck Pora.

In one of his three books on Erie, author Pora said the dances were “all about a good time for good kids in a safe, wholesome environment meant to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.” It’s no longer strictly for teens. Although it’s all about our youth, its purpose is somewhat different, according to McEldowney.

“The campaign helps with membership scholarships, program and child-care subsidies, the YMCA summer food program, and the Wellness for Life program at the Glenwood Y," he said.


Erie School District awards

On Friday evening, the Breeze Band will usher guests into the Erie Bayfront Convention Center Grand Ballroom for the Third annual Partnership for Erie Public Schools’ “iBelieve Gala.”

The dinner-dance, which supports the Erie School District and its 12,000 students, begins at 7 p.m. Guests in cocktail attire will have the opportunity to bid on donated gifts during a silent auction. Along the way, Erie School District “Stars” in six important categories will be honored by P.E.P.S. for their accomplishments and dedication to public education in Erie.

This year’s honorees include: Academics — Ina Fisher, a retired Erie School District teacher and administrator; Athletics — Cliff Crosby, an East High School graduate and National Football League standout; Arts — Tom Ferraro, a talented local mural artist; Assistance — Al and Peggy Richardson, scholarship benefactors and longtime advocates for public education; Advocacy — Marcus Atkinson, a Strong Vincent High School graduate, community organizer and popular radio host; and Community Partner — General Electric Transportation Co., a longtime supporter of the Erie School District.

Tickets for the gala are $50 per person, or $400 for a table of eight, and include a full dinner and evening of dancing and camaraderie. For more information, email or phone Janae Butler at or 874-6028.


Homes open to visitors

Erie Philharmonic is fine-tuning its plans for this year’s Holiday Tour of Homes, Nov. 5 and 6. The number of homes has increased, from six to eight homes decorated by local florists and designers. As chairwoman Karen Beardsley noted in a recent email, the tour includes: The Strong Mansion, now known as Gannon University’s Old Main, decorated by Allburn Florist; the Woman’s Club of Erie’s Galbraith Mansion, decorated by several florists for their Christmas in the Mansion House Tour and Boutique; the Watson-Curtze Mansion, decorated by Potratz Floral Shop; and EmKey Energy (formerly the Lay Law offices), decorated by Traditions.

Nearby, the home of Craig and Diane Schneider on 518 W. Ninth St., will be decorated by local florist Gary Maas, who was a former owner of the home.

On West 38th Street near Asbury, the home of Mark and Carolyn Sabolcik will be decorated by Plantscape Greenhouses — new to this year’s event — and WeissEarley Landscape Design & Contracting. This unique Swiss Bauhaus home was designed by Vincent Van Veenschoten, an Erie industrialist in the 1950s.

In Westbury Ridge off Sterrettania Road, the home of Charlie and Ann Rutkowski will be decorated by Allburn Florist, and the home of Dennis and Margaret Unks will be decorated by Larese Floral Design and Manzi Services. The Unks’ home is built around a Wurlitzer theater pipe organ.

For tickets ($15), call 455-1375 or visit the Erie Phil offices at 23 W. 10th St.

POSTSCRIPT: The strongest bulwark of authority is uniformity; the least divergence from it is the greatest crime. -- Emma Goldman (1869-1940), Russian-American anarchist, writer

Meg Loncharic can be reached at