Tonight I’m taking a break from the UK trip to report on my recent travel back to the 1940s, to a time I have visited once before. A corner of the month of June which comes around only once per year. Where men tip their fedoras to women in polka dot dresses, fighter planes rumble across the sky, and the dulcet tones of Glen Miller and the Andrews Sisters fill the night.
Each year the 1940sBall comes to the Boulder Airport and 8,000+ people arrive, most of which in costume; either vintage clothes or the 1930s/40s aesthetic. The smell of old canvas assaults you once you step into the event, emanating from Army surplus tents, military vehicles, and people showing off their tanks and halftracks and trucks in full character. Wacs and Wavs, nurses, soldiers, sailors, and Marines.
And with it some of the creature comforts of the 21st century, such as food trucks, cocktail stands, and a sense of nostalgia for an era with few remaining inhabitants. When I have told people about the 1940s Ball, they sometimes give me a puzzled look and I just say, “It’s like Renaissance Festival for people who like the World War Two era.” Instead of turkey legs, you can get poutine, fish and chips, tapas, pizza, and hot dogs.
You can dance, you can eat, drink, listen to live bands such as the Satin Dollz, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Spicy Pickles, and many others. Two dance floors invite you to try your legs out to the Lindy, the Jitterbug, and even just winging it.
But my favorite passtime has to be the people watching. You would not believe the outfits people wear. It’s a great chance for the ladies to get dolled up and the men to look dapper. It’s enough to make you question if you were born in the wrong era. I recommend it highly.
Survival guide for time travellers.
2018 was my first experience here. To be honest, I had fun, but I didn’t have the greatest time. Mostly I just walked around feeling insecure. That tends to happen to people going out alone anyway. I remember having a drink or two and taking some pictures. Offering pretty ladies candy cigarettes, and watching the airplanes buzz overhead. Once the sun went down, I hit the dance floor, and getting a lot of dancing in. It really made all the difference.
This year, I had an entirely different attitude. I don’t know if it was my England trip or just the difference a year makes, or a familiarity with the place that helped me relax, but my attitude was entirely different. This year, I snapped off a lot of pictures. I walked up to people with great outfits, and asked if I could take their picture. Sometimes they would offer to take mine back (a neat trick I have learned in my solo travels).
This year, I stood in lines and rather than looking stunned and uncomfortable like the other solo time travelers, I got out of my comfort zone and talked to people. Going to these things alone can be rough, gosh, that look on their faces is almost obvious. It screams, “I’m alone, this sucks, don’t talk to me!” That was me last year. Sometimes you pretend like you are looking for your friends, other times, you just stand in silence, not looking happy, but trying to fake it.
Me this year? I got into the lines for the photographs in front of planes and cars and I talked to people. I made jokes, observations, told stories. From the front gate to the last call of the night, this year I didn’t meet a stranger. That is how you solo travel.
- Be friendly. If someone asks you where you got your french fries, share that info with them. Point the place out. Talk with people. Smile. Laugh. Have fun! You aren’t really about to ship off to Normandy or the Pacific. Don’t be so dour!
- Be Complimentary. If someone has a cool outfit, cute shoes, or really took the time to do their hair, say something! Be specific! (Don’t be creepy–saying things like, “I really like that line on the back of your stocking would have gotten you slapped in 1940, it still should today.) With one couple I talked to, I was complimenting her shoes and looked over and his were actually much cooler!
- Be open and also listen! Another couple I made conversation with, Mike and Heather, were happy to join in with any banter or conversation I was making. The couple behind us, not so much–they just looked irritated that the line was so long. But I learned a lot about Mike and Heather. Talking with them even got me interested in maybe doing jump school one day. Heather talked about how her first two jumps were tandems, strapped onto the front of a guy in a harness, but the next 70(!) she did were on her own. WOW! You can’t learn anything about people unless you ask.
- Be persistent. For whatever reason, people have been conditioned to stick with their circles of friends, cliques, clubs, etc. I didn’t have any of those. Most of the time, we think, “Why is this person talking to me?” Probably because you are at a social event. The key word here is “social.” If someone doesn’t want to visit, someone else might. Don’t give up.
- Let go. I was supposed to meet with a singles group from Facebook, and after a while I realized the cellular signal wasn’t working that well, so I stopped trying. The crutch of meeting an established group of people was keeping me from making new friends. Or just chatting with strangers. So, I kept talking to new, interesting people. Like Luke Skywalker with that targeting computer, I just turned it off and trusted my instincts.
- Remember things. Even if you are on your second cocktail of the evening, you should remember things about the people you encounter. Their names, details they have shared with you, otherwise you are missing out on really connecting with people.
- Have a Ball!
Leave your expectations at home
I thought this year, being single this go around, I would have my dance card full. I didn’t dance at all this year because I wound up spending the last three hours of the night talking and laughing with two interesting and enchanting women. It was well worth not getting to dance this year.
Then later we were all nearly the recipients of splash damage from a cadre of drunk couples. One of the men got really insecure about letting his wife dance with other men, and kept asking me if he should worry. (Yeah dude, ask me to help you start a riot with your friend. No. And don’t worry. It’s just dancing.)
At the end, I think they all hugged it out in some elaborate cuddle puddle. I don’t want to know what happened after that. (Let’s just say they all had a lot to drink.)
Midnight struck and the Ball started to break up. My new time traveling cohorts and I said goodnight and stepped back into our 21st Century cars, driving off into the night.
A little bit of the magic still in our pockets.