Seniors enjoy afternoon of polka and waltz
Jennifer Lee Preyss
June 26, 2011 at 1:26 a.m.
The onset of Alzheimer's disease has stolen pieces of Oliver Koenig's memory. Names and faces aren't as clear as they once were, his wife, Helen Koenig, said.
But there's one thing 84-year-old Oliver hasn't forgotten - how to dance the polka.
"Oh yeah, he's a good dancer. He's not a dud, let's just put it that way," Helen, 78, snickered at the Polka and Waltz Club dance at DaCosta Lodge on Sunday. "He still remembers some things. He knows me, who I am, but he didn't know who my daughter was this week, for example."
The Victoria couple has been dancing the polka for 63 years, since Helen was 15, and Oliver was 21.
Throughout their near 62-year-marriage, Helen said, she and her husband have been regulars at polka dances throughout South Texas, and members of the Polka and Waltz Club since its inception in Placedo in 1959.
"We danced every Saturday night. That was our thing," she said. "Now that we're older and don't like to drive at night, we like coming to the Sunday afternoon dances."
Five times a year, about 100 senior-aged polka enthusiasts, many of them members of the Polka and Waltz Club, turn out from all over the region for an afternoon of dancing and socializing.
In its heyday however, polka dances were the place to be on Saturday nights, attracting hundreds of eager polka enthusiasts.
"This dance hall used to be so packed," Helen's friend and fellow Polka Club member Elrose Harding, 75, said. Yelling over the Czechaholics band playing in the background, Elrose described the polka dance scene 30 years ago as one of the hottest tickets in town because everyone knew how to polka and waltz.
"We were born and raised on the dance floor. That's how it was for us," she said.
"We'd have three tables of friends at these dances back then," Helen added. "But they've all passed away, or their spouses have died and they don't want to come alone."
While sitting at a table with Elrose and other friends, Helen recalled one of the first polka dances when she realized Oliver genuinely cared for her.
"It was right after he got out of the service. I was at a dance and Oliver saw me dancing with another man," Helen laughed. "He was a real good-looking guy ... so I started dancing with Oliver and I dumped that other guy."
Looking across the table, Helen asked Oliver, "Do you remember that, honey?"
Staring at her, attempting to remember, Oliver said he did not.
But Helen didn't seem to mind. They have shared a lot of good memories through the years, and plan to dance the polka until they're no longer able.
"It's dying out. The younger generations aren't doing it anymore," she said. "I don't know how much longer (polka dances) will be around."
As the band shifted from waltz to polka, Oliver asked his wife to dance. Holding Helen's back, and placing her right hand in his left, the couple merrily twirled around the floor.
"We're going to do this until we can't anymore," Helen said. "He's still got the moves," after all these years.