Dave and Pat Potter met seven years ago at the weekly ballroom dance session at the Associated Polish Home.
“We’ve been dancing ever since,” Dave said.
The Far Northeast couple were married four years ago, and their best man was Albert Mariani, the elder statesman of the Wednesday night dancers until he moved to Florida last year at age 100.
The Potters dance each week in Warminster, Bristol Township and the South Jersey towns of Bellmawr and Burlington, but they really look forward to the gathering at the Polish Home, at 9150 Academy Road.
“This is our favorite dance,” Pat said. “We know everybody here.”
According to participants, the dances have been taking place off and on for 20 years.
The guys and gals dance from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., with entertainment provided by a rotating group of musicians such as Richie Moore, Peter Thomas, Bobby Block and Good Times. The good times roll 12 months out of the year.
One of the main attractions is the professional hardwood dance floor.
“It’s a helluva nice place to have a dance. It’s somewhere we can go to feel comfortable. And the floor is dynamite,” said Frank Cappuccino, a famous boxing referee who dances with his wife, Florence, and also sings the standards of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Vic Damone.
The cost is $8 for members and $10 for non-members. There’s coffee, cake and pastries, a cash bar and a 50-50 drawing. Everyone’s birthday is celebrated.
“I come here for the lively crowd and superb music every week,” said Holmesburg’s Peg Rybas, 76. “It’s a happy place to meet people. There are always professional musicians, and the ladies can wear their beautiful clothes. You get a lot for your money.”
Rybas, a Polish Home director, is one of several people in leadership at the venue who also dance.
Her husband, Edward Balajewski, is vice president of the Polish Home. He enjoys the camaraderie. He and the dozens of other regulars welcome new members to the “family.”
The current crop of dancers is 60 and older, but there are no age limits.
“It’s for everyone to come in and enjoy themselves,” said Balajewski, 85. “It’s a friendly atmosphere. I can’t wait to come. We want the youngsters to feel comfortable.”
Membership chairwoman Debbie Majka described the scene as “social dancing.” Most of the music is from the 1940s and ’50s, and dances range from the jitterbug to the waltz to ballroom.
The crowd comes from the Northeast, Bucks and Montgomery counties and South and Central Jersey. It’s a close mix of men and women.
Some come as singles, others as couples. There’s line dancing and mixers.
When a night of dancing is canceled because of snow or the floor being refinished, there’s great disappointment.
“The people are wonderful,” Majka said. “They’re warm, friendly and funny. A number of people take lessons, and this is an opportunity for them to practice. And the music is great. We always have a live band.”
Majka said the dances benefit the non-profit Polish Home and, by extension, the community.
“The success of something like this allows our organization to afford to do cultural things that are part of our charter and our mission,” she said.
The dance crowd has its share of characters.
Stanley Wojnarowicz hands out Tootsie Rolls.
“I get two of them, sometimes three,” Rybas said.
“I get a peppermint after dancing with him,” Majka said.
Wojnarowicz, of Torresdale, is among several World War II veterans who strut their stuff.
“I love to dance. I’m ninety years old, and I dance twice a week. It’s what keeps me young and happy,” he said, referring to a weekly dance in Warminster. “Every Wednesday, I’m here. I look forward to it. There are a lot of good dancers here. I have my own speed.”
Frank Fricke, 84, recently had a heart attack, but that hasn’t kept him off the dance floor. He’s been dancing for 11 years.
“This is what keeps us going and in good health,” he said.
His steady partner is Pauline Biedka, 87.
“I love it here,” she said. “It’s a nice place to come dancing.”
Rose Greco is 91 but looks 60. The Delaire Landing resident dances with 93-year-old Andy Potts.
“I love this place. It’s the friendliest people I’ve ever met,” she said.
John Santangelo is grateful that the ladies ask him to dance.
“They’re very kind. I can’t dance like I used to. I’m going to be ninety-four on March 30,” he said. “I’ve been coming here for years. I like the crowd. It’s very sociable.”
Balajewski likes to say, “When you rest, you rust.” He promises a good time and an uplifting experience for all who come.
“You’re old, but you don’t feel old,” he said. ••
The Associated Polish Home, at 9150 Academy Road, offers ballroom dancing every Wednesday from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The cost is $8 for members or $10 for non-members. There is plenty of parking in the rear lot or on the street.
The public is welcome. Call 215-624-9954.EndFragment