Hootchie Coochie in Chatham County

By N.A. Booko

Pittsboro, NC – When I was a child in the mid 1940s, just about everything was forbidden and labeled ‘sinful.’ We were not allowed to have dice in the house for games. Any ‘Devil’s Brew’ was tucked away in a cupboard and was for ‘medicinal’ purposes only. You had to watch what you said and cover your ears if you suspected something naughty was just about to be spoken. But even tho curse words were not allowed, they seem to keep the ‘glass more than half full’.

Naughty without being naughty was not easy. One thing that always presented a problem with parents in our small town was the annual “Carnival’ that drew folks from far and wide. “Them Gypsies will steal your chickens!” “Don’t leave any laundry out to dry, them Gypsies will seal ‘um!”  I never saw any evidence that any of that was true.

One thing parents didn’t want was for their children to get too close to the tents that were featuring exotic female dancers. No matter how sophisticated the production was, it was forever deemed “Them Hootchie-Coochie” shows.”  A little local saying had somehow evolved over the years; “Hello Joe, watta you know?” You were supposed to answer “Just back from a Hootchie- Coochie show!” It was a real knee slapper of a ‘joke’.

I was in a Pittsboro grocery store (like we have so many to choose from) the other day and someone snuck up behind me and said, “Hello Joe- watta you know?” Without thinking, I quickly replied, “I just got back from a Hootchie-Coochie  show!”  Nearby folks were seemingly taken back and one lady said “What’s a Hootchie-Coochie?”  Another prim and proper lady chimed in “I don’t know, but it sure sounds dirty!”

Just to set the record straight; I never did make it inside one of those tents. The closest I guess was that I personally knew “Pauline,” daughter of a minister, who in her thirties, divorced and most likely lonely, popped up as a Hootchie-Coochie dancer at the Raleigh State Fare.  Our town folks scorned her and had lots unkind words. But long story short, Pauline somehow regained respect in the town and ended up owning a beauty shop and was renowned for her ‘French Twist’ hair styling.

Timely advice: Dance like no one is watching . . . it’ll keep your hips aligned.