by Helen Holt
Timaru’s history of “twisting” has been put on the record in an archival book.
The book, Twisting, was put together by Temuka-born musician Lyall Smillie.
A teenager in the craze’s heyday, Mr Smillie was too young for the era of dance which dominated the 1960s.
However, he remembered the craze and the musicians who played at dance events.
There were three “twist marathons” held in Temuka and Timaru.
A world record for the longest time twisting was set at the Temuka Citizens Hall on October 12, 1963, when Mr Smillie was 15.
“It just took off. People just flocked to the events,” he said.
One event had 15,000 people twisting, he said.
“Not many people from Timaru remember the third event, because by that point the craze had died out, but then there were thousands of visitors to Timaru who went.”
Dorothy Caird, of Makikihi, was 18 and Peter Dawkins, of Timaru, was 17 when they twisted for 108hr 55min to set the world record.
The book includes photos and articles about the era, and some of Mr Smillie’s experiences.
It also recognises some of the local musicians from the time.
“I was putting the collection together about the band Falcons, who played at the events.
“Since then, about six months later, two of them have passed away,” Mr Smillie said.
He had wanted to produce the book while those interested were still alive, Mr Smillie said.
“I started collecting the photos and articles 20 years ago, hoping to put a book together about the music scene from the 1960s.
“Through this I discovered a lot about the twisting era.
“A lot of families .. would be interested in this.
“[There are] quite a few young people who’d look through the photos and say ‘that’s my mother’ or ‘that’s my father in that photo’.”
Collecting photos had been hard before he started using Facebook to contact people.
A prominent contributor of photos was the late John Rooney. The book would not have been put together without him, Mr Smillie said.
“John died a month after he gifted me the photos.
“Just imagine the amount of material and memories that would’ve been lost if we hadn’t got in touch.”
South Canterbury Museum director Philip Howe said the book highlighted a forgotten era of Timaru’s history.
“Twisting is the kind of thing that often doesn’t make the history books, but it is part of our local history.”
Twisting was published with funding from the Museum Development Trust and profits from sales will go to the trust.