Students act out 1940s timeline

  • Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 11:56 p.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, March 7, 2013 12:45 a.m.
AIG students from Southeast Middle School perform the ‘jitterbug’ dance that was popular in the 1940s during their part of a ‘Living Timeline’ at North Rowan High School.
AIG students from Southeast Middle School perform the ‘jitterbug’ dance that was popular in the 1940s during their part of a ‘Living Timeline’ at North Rowan High School.

SPENCER — Local middle school students took a trip back in time last week.

Boys with slicked hair and girls in polka-dot dresses created a “living timeline” of the 1940s on Friday, complete with costumes, props and sometimes set pieces.


Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) students from middle schools throughout the Rowan-Salisbury School System participated in the project at North Rowan High School.

AIG Lead Teacher Renee Stepp said this year was the first time for the event, and she hopes it isn’t the last.

“I really, really felt that those students had worked so hard getting into all of the history and the dress and everything that happened,” Stepp said. “It just made everything they had read and studied and researched — it made it come to life.”

Erwin Middle School started off the timeline with a series of skits to illustrate life from January 1940 through May 1941.

To portray June 1941 through October 1942, China Grove Middle School students sat onstage in rows of desks while a “teacher” called on them to present their history reports.

As each student began a presentation, others would act out skit on a different topic — fashion, music, sports, culture, the Holocaust and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“I thought Dec. 7, 1941, was just another day,” said one female student while standing in a diner.

Another suggested that they get their minds off the war with “the new movie with that dreamy Spencer Tracy.”

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Corriher-Lipe Middle School also performed a series of skits to portray November 1942 through March 1944.

A modern student, played by Ethan Todd, asked his “grandparents” at the dinner table to tell him about the 1940s for a school project. The family members froze while other students walked onstage to act out memories of the time period’s historical events, fashion, entertainment and everyday life.

“Our whole class came up with the idea,” Ethan said. “Everybody helped out equally, and we all did really great with our parts.”

He and classmate Brooke Royal both said they were surprised to learn that Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones, is old enough to have been born in 1943.

Two students dressed up as soldiers to talk about the events of World War II, including the actions of the Nazis and rationing of food, gasoline and clothing in the United States.

“I think it was a great experience, because we all got to work together as a class and learn about a different time,” Brooke said.

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Knox Middle School used a museum concept to show different aspects of life in April 1944 through August 1945.

Most of the students stood frozen like statues, wearing period outfits, as a curator and maintenance worker walked around them onstage. As the two talked about different aspects of the 1940s, the “exhibits” would come to life to speak, dance or play music.

Alexandra Lussman, who played the curator, said she liked learning about the 1940s in a fun way.

“Economically, things were cheaper, but a lot of the same stuff happens today. We dance and we have fun, just like they did,” she said. “Their ‘jitterbug’ is our ‘Gangnam Style.’”

A cane-bearing character called “Old Man Willikers” introduced his flashbacks from September 1945 through January 1947 for North Rowan Middle School.

“When the war was over, rationing stopped, and people were excited about it,” said student Moya Errant after the performance. “They started wearing more stuff, and even if they didn’t have a lot, there were ways to make it look like they had more.”

Moya, who has taken classes in jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical and modern dance, said she choreographed another jitterbug dance for her classmates.

“I thought it was really fun and cool to do something different,” she said.

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Southeast Middle School gave a keynote presentation about major people and events from February 1947 through June 1948, including President Harry S. Truman, the “Roswell incident,” the 1947 World Series and Jackie Robinson, who was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.

Then, the students all joined in an energetic jitterbug dance onstage.

Thomas Perrell said he created the visual presentation for the project, which was his favorite part. His mother, Jennifer Perrell, co-owner of Steppin’ Out Dance Company, choreographed the dance for the Southeast Middle students.

“I thought it turned out pretty well,” he said. “It was fun.”

Finally, West Rowan Middle School students told the story of July 1948 through November 1949.

After their performances, the students enjoyed a 1940s-themed lunch, including deep dish pizza, corn dogs and Rice Krispie treats.

They also enjoyed performances by the North Rowan High School chorus and jazz band, the Steppin’ Out Dance Company (including some of their teachers) and North Rowan Middle School Principal Alexis Cowan.

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