CENTRALIA — Mundane activities such as push-ups, walking, aerobics and sit-ups are so yesterday. For retiree Fred West, the best way to get some exercise and have a little fun is to go line dancing. Judging by his weekly dance schedule, he’s having a whole lot of fun and doing his best to stay young.
Each Tuesday afternoon, a group of women get together at the Centralia Senior Citizen Center to line dance for two and a half hours to “have fun and exercise.”
To the untrained eye, well-practiced line dancers can make different jigs like the “Drunken Sailor Step,” “Slappin’ Leather” and “Cowboy Boogie” look effortless and mesmerizing, and these ladies certainly do. Knowledge that many of them have been dancing together for as long as 14 years goes a long way in solving that riddle. Heck, they even have a name: W.O.W., or Wild Older Women. The thing is though, that name can’t quite accurately sum up the whole of the group’s parts — there’s an intruder in their midst.
Fred’s the only guy in all five of the groups he dances with. He’s got a clever acronym for a name too: W.O.W., or With Older Women.
Retired in 1996 from Caterpillar in Joliet, Ill., West and Rosemary, his wife of 46 years, returned to central Missouri to enjoy the good years of leisurely retirement. Soon after, Fred got involved in line dancing at various locales around mid-Missouri after having given up the activity a few years prior. One thing led to another and now Fred’s a-hoppin’ and a-steppin’ all over mid-Missouri five days a week as the lone male in the local world of senior line dancing.
“I’ll be 68 in May and feel like 18," West said. "The ladies keep me that way. Ha!”
Rosemary used to dance, but a couple of knee surgeries caused her to put away her dancing shoes some years back. Now, she does Aquacise while Fred is still shakin’ it with their friends at senior centers in Mexico, Centralia, Martinsburg and Laddonia. On Saturdays, the whole group heads to KC Country in Kingdom City to put all the moves they’ve practiced during the week to good use.
“(Line Dancing) is just a lotta fun and great exercise," West said. "I’m the only guy in the five groups I dance with … them other guys are eating their hearts out!”