Dancing on Tour Overseas pt 2

Continuing Saga

by Lynda Southworth

The Flight from the USA to Germany 2

A short while later, one of the young pilots walked down the aisle to check the passengers. When he returned, he struck up a conversation with me and sat in the empty seat next to me. 5 minutes later he returned to the cockpit. There were three pilots.

A couple hours passed, and people were trying to get comfortable enough to sleep on the long, overnight flight. I was resigned to a sleepless night and being exhausted by morning.

Then the cockpit door opened. One of the pilots came out to speak to me. He informed me that they had a couple bunks, but rarely if ever used both. I was invited to use the one they rarely used, “because a young lady entertaining the troops should be well rested.” I was assured I’d be perfectly safe. How long do you think it took me to say, “Yes”? I very quietly stepped in front of him, so he blocked the view and stepped through the door.

I didn’t wake until morning when I heard through the curtain someone knock on the cockpit door. It was George in a panic because one of his troops was missing. The pilot whispered where I was. George asked how long before we landed and was told in about two hours. I went back to sleep.

Just before we were supposed to land, the pilot came to notify me through the curtain that we would be landing in half an hour. I went quietly back to my seat refreshed and ready for the day. Only George knew that I had slept in a bunk. All the rest were stiff, bleary-eyed, and exhausted. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so to speak. As I deplaned, all three pilots wished me well on the tour and to “knock them dead.” 

My Angel had been with me all the time. If I hadn’t been late, I would have been sitting back with the rest and exhausted. What I thought was a disaster, turned into a wonderful adventure. I’m always amazed at the kindness of strangers.

We landed, were driven to our lodgings, and had time for a nap before supper and our first performance. After every performance, the troop remained on stage to meet and greet the soldiers. I decided my M.O. (Method operandi) that evening. I noticed a young man still sitting in his seat when others came on stage. He seemed hesitant, so I went to him. We talked until it was time for us to depart for our lodgings. He was a shy, homesick young man. He wanted to know the latest songs in America, etc. At times I tried to make him laugh, but mainly, I just listened to him tell me about his hometown, his family, and his girlfriend along with his wish for a juicy American hamburger instead of sausages. He was so grateful that I listened to him. He expressed what he was experiencing and feeling. He couldn’t tell that to his buddies because they all are tough MEN at least on the outside. 

That is when I decided I would look for the young and shy and mainly just listen to them along with answering questions about what was happening socially in the USA. Remember, many of these young men were fresh out of high school, this was the first time they had left home, they were dealing with a new culture, and they had to be unemotional, tough MEN ALL the time. Many times, I heard that they just wanted to talk with an American girl.

This tour was so satisfying to me because it was like listening to and comforting one of my brothers when he needed to let it all out.

Dancing on Tour Overseas

By Lynda Southworth

How I got chosen

On a summer day in 1959, I was walking down a street in the heart of Chicago when I saw a coach unit for testing for TB parked on the street. As I was walking by, the man standing at the doorway to the bus asked me if I needed a shot. I explained to him I always tested positive because at one time I had been exposed to someone who had TB and therefore only had chest x-rays every couple years. He then suddenly asked me if I knew how to dance. I looked at him skeptically, but answered, Yes, I had danced professionally. He then went on to explain that he was putting together a troop of entertainers to entertain American personnel in Europe and would I like to join the troop. Of course, I said yes emphatically. He took down my telephone number and personal information, then told me he would get in touch when he had something ready. I worked the rest of the summer in Chicago, but heard nothing from him. I decided, he was just a flim-flam man of no importance. I went back to Mankato State College and started first quarter of my Sophomore year. I dismissed the offer and forgot about it. Then in late November, I received a telegram asking if I still wanted to go. I replied, “Yes, Yes, and Yes! Send details.” In December I received a letter with details. It said, We’re all set – remember, Capital Airlines Flight # 336, Saturday, January 16th, 7:15 p.m. Be there an hour early if you can. The per diem per day is $9.00. They assured me, however, that our daily expenses would never exceed $4.00.I wrote back, “I’ll be there and on time!” 

What is wild is that he didn’t even know if I really could dance, had never seen me dance. He was just taking my word! Crazy!

The Flight from the USA to Germany.

Our entertainment troop flew from Chicago to Dover Air Force Base on the East Coast where MATS (Military Air Transport Service) flew to Europe. There we had to be vaccinated before leaving the United States. I called it “The Gauntlet of Pain.” We walked down a line of medics on either side of us who each had a needle.

Plunge left, plunge right, walk forward,

Next medics,

Plunge left, plunge right, walk forward.

Repeat and repeat and repeat…

Those were BIG needles then and HURT!!! I hate needles! It seemed we were vaccinated for every disease ever on earth and some make believe ones thrown in for good measure. 

Afterwards, George, our manager, informed us that we had an hour before departure, so we all went to the duty-free shop. I looked over everything, finally made a purchase, and was ready to leave. I looked around and everyone was gone. At that moment, George came running in, grabbed my arm shouting, “They are ready to leave! We’re going to miss the flight.”

We ran out the gate, onto the tarmac and saw a young man rolling the stairs away from the plane. George hollered, “Hold the plane! We’re coming!” The young man took one look at us and rolled the stairs back into place. He smiled largely saying, “At your service, Miss,” as I passed and thanked him. The door above opened as we climb the stairs.

George went to the seat saved for him by the other manager. I looked for a seat, but the plane was nearly full. Only two seats facing the bulkhead were available. I sat down with my knees inches from the bulkhead thinking, “This is going to be the flight from _ _ _ _”, since in addition to the bulkhead, the seats only went back a few inches. I was resigned. 

Thirty seconds later, we were in the air. I wondered where my angel on my shoulder was? 

The five week tour included Germany, France, Austria, and Italy. It was sponsored under the auspice of the Department of the Army Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Branch, Washington DC and was not a USO unit.

To be continued–


The play SHOUT! was inspired by Inner Voices, a story written by Army veteran Theresa Duke for the Museum of the American Military Family’s anthology, SHOUT! Sharing Our Truth: An Anthology of Writing by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services. Lora Beldon, the 2017-2019 museum Artist-in-Residence and museum Director Circe Olson Woessner co-edited the anthology.

Inner Voices had exceptionally compelling dialogue and Beldon and Woessner agreed the story would translate well on stage. Playwright Melissa Rayford seamlessly wove together multiple stories contributed by service members, military spouses, brats and allies into a strong, thought-provoking and poignant piece. 

Beldon says, “Shared stories help build and define our identity…help communities learn from each other. People who haven’t experienced what LGBTQ veterans or their families have, can better understand and learn about the subculture through the play.”

In 2018, SHOUT! and the museum’s companion exhibit Still Shouting – Memories from Inside the Closet  received the American Association for State and Local History’s prestigious Albert B. Corey Award, gaining national recognition for the museum. 

SHOUT! debuted in Richmond, VA, on September 22, 2019 and received positive reviews. 

Rayford, who also directed the Richmond performance said, “It is our hope…that we create a production to be used by any theatre group wishing to produce this subject matter.”

While the 2020-2021 Covid pandemic sidelined further stage performances, it did not stop Beldon and Woessner from collaborating with Dr Deborah Cohler (San Francisco State University) and Dr. Erica Chu (Truman College) to create educational materials based on LGBTQ and military history and stories in the script to help enhance the audience experience and to provide further education by facilitating post-play discussion.

In December 2020, Los Angeles based director, Herb Hall led nine actors in a virtual reading of SHOUT!.

Navy veteran Kayt Peck reviewed the online reading saying, 

“I applaud the Museum of the American Military Family in their efforts to acknowledge LGBTQ service members, especially those who spent years, even decades serving in silence, protecting a country that did not recognize them as worthy citizens. This remains a dedicated mission for the Museum even as Covid makes live theatre an impossibility.

“SHOUT! accomplishes a critical need by making discussion of gays in the military not simply a discussion of a concept but also showing the impacts on real people and acknowledging the talents and dedication of LGBTQ service members. Those talents help make the military the efficient and effective component of society that it can and must be.”

Hall will be directing a virtual one-day matinee performance of SHOUT! on June 27, 2021 at 2 PM PDT.  The museum board and cast are raising funds to cover expenses through a dedicated fundraising platform. 

Air Force Spouse Aimee Hanebeck, one of the many volunteers working tirelessly to ensure the play moves forward, says, 

“This is an important work of theater and a source of great pride for the museum to have curated the stories for the play. In this innovative time of a post-Covid exposed world, artists have found ways to bring their craft to their audience, and as such, SHOUT! will be available in an online performance.

We would like to invite you to be a part of this project. As a nonprofit, the museum is sustained entirely by donations from patrons.  In order to uphold the dignity of this script, we have set a goal to fairly compensate the actors and staff, record the performance, and make it available for greater circulation and for use in academic and corporate settings.”

Volunteers have set up a dedicated Fundly account, and anyone who contributes to it will receive a  link to the June 27th performance.

The museum is a 501c3 all-volunteer non-profit located in Tijeras, New Mexico, seven miles east of Albuquerque. Visit the museum’s webpage to learn more about SHOUT!