Martin's Must Reads: 'Last Dance on the Starlight Pier'
“I had already been a lot of things in my young life - vaudeville performer, dance instructor, waitress, dishwasher, pants presser, babysitter. And other things I won’t mention. Mostly, I was always what Mamie, my mother, needed me to be to earn money. Today was the first day of the life that I chose. By some miracle, I had won a scholarship to study at St. Mary’s Hospital of Nursing located in Galveston.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and those are lines from Chapter One of Sarah Bird’s novel Last Dance On the Starlight Pier. It’s 1929 and seventeen year old Evie boards a bus to Galveston and the start of a better life. The Nursing director takes a dislike to her and Evie is denied her nursing pin on graduation night. It looks like her dream has ended until she’s offered a job as the nurse for Pop Wyatt’s Houston Dance Spectacular, the Poor Man’s Night Club.
It’s the Depression and people desperate to work will do just about anything including participate in a dance marathon. Pop has his regular dancing pairs, or horses, who he pays to participate and entertain. His shows last upwards of two thousand six hundred hours before only one couple is standing. The horses get a fifteen minute break every hour to sleep, wash and eat.
As the hours progress they sleep on their swaying feet, one partner holding up the other. Evie falls for the golden hair beauty of the horses, Zave, but their relationship gets complicated. This novel is a brutal look at life in America during the Depression and Dust Bowl years...people doing whatever they can to survive.
If you’ve ever been curious about the dance marathons of the 1930’s then you must read Last Dance on the Starlight Pier by Sarah Bird.