Most of Elaine's early dance steps took place in the same house where she was born at 344 South 14th Street in St. Helens, Oregon. Some of us may remember taking lessons there too, sidestepping puddles on the way to the corner basement studio with the chewing gum garden outside the only window that opened, or perhaps later in her downtown studio that she and Ron converted from an old bowling alley in 1959. However, the focus of this story is Elaine's personal memories as she related them to us in an interview with her and her husband Ron Lease in March 2013.
I started teaching when I was 12. Well what happened was there were a couple of dancing teachers that came in before me. Then this teacher started teaching in our basement, - that was during The Depression - and they would even sleep at our house because they didn't have any money to get a hotel. Thank goodness things started to pick up, so when they moved to Vancouver there was no one here at all. I was still taking all these lessons in Vancouver from Phyllis Charles and working on my own dancing. Every summer she took me to Hollywood to take lessons from various dance directors. They weren't just solely tied up with the movies, so you could go in and take a lesson from them. I had a couple of people come to me and say there's nobody here to teach the kids. Would you be willing to take my daughter, you know, and teach her some dancing? I thought, well, yeah, because there was no way they were going to get lessons any other way. The funny part was I started up and by the time I got through the 8th Grade, I had about 20 pupils. My mom said to me, 'now you know this isn't going to last. You've got to realize that this is just a temporary thing and it will never amount to a hill of beans.'"
So Ernest Carlos says, so you saw Johnny Coy walk by. It was nothing to him, see, and I said, oh, he's my favorite dancer. He said, I'm going to go out and you practice what I showed you and then I'll come back in and we'll finish up your lessons- so I said OK. I was practicing Mr. Carlos' lesson when Johnny Coy came in and asked, 'Are you the little girl from Oregon?' I said yes. 'Would you mind if I practiced with you for awhile?' OOOOOH BOY! I know that Mr. Carlos set that up.
The year 1948 was a good one. I was Miss Flame and named Miss Columbia County at the Columbia Theatre.
Listen to Elaine Describe her Melodrama written and performed for the 1959 Oregon Centennial in the Courthouse Plaza.
Studios, Recitals & Performances
Packy the Elephant
Oh, and something that we did that I had forgotten about is that we did the dance number up at the Zoo for Packy's first birthday. Lou wrote the song, "Packy the Baby Elephant." I remember that Cheryl DeLashment was Belle and Randy Hall was Papa Thonglaw and baby Packy was, . . .oh criminy, I should have written this all down (Lonnie Hawkins-ed.). That was a lot of fun too and the kids got a big kick out of doing that. Heck Harper recorded Packy the Baby Elephant song.
Elmer the Horse
I've got to tell you about the other one. I had this beautiful tall blonde girl, Shelby Hulit. I have real long legs and the only time I felt like I had short legs was when I danced next to her. She was about 5' 8" and she had legs that came from her shoulder, I swear. She was a marvelous dancer and we went to a dance convention at the Nugget in Sparks, Nevada to perform. All of the teachers brought their best dancers. They didn't let the teachers judge. They had the dancers from the Hello Hollywood Hello show judge. By golly, Shelby won. The next day the fellow that was in charge of the whole convention came over to Shelby and asked her age. She said sixteen and he told her that he wanted her to come down after she graduated high school and he would get her an audition with the Hello Hollywood Hello show. That wasn't our cup of tea because they all danced topless. Oh, she was beautiful, just beautiful. I taught her little girl to dance too. That was a pleasure.
Keep your costumes on
It was a really big job to do the choreography - oh the things I used to do. I did some recitals all in rhyme. I wrote all the rhyme for the whole thing. We did recitals that had all the holidays, oh, and we did one recital with commercials for every business in town. That was funny and really cute. I had Dr. Curnutt's daughter as a student and we made some glasses for her with the things that hung out, green things that jogged up and and down. She would go out and do the commercial and say "If you go see my daddy, you can look just like me."
Dancing for the Cows
Many wonderful memories