Thrust to Stardom
Jim Vickers-Willis was thrust into the centre of the square dance boom in Australia in the early 1950’s. The magazine PEOPLE captured the moment in a feature article which is reproduced below. The date? July 29, 1953:
Square Dancing As A Sport
"A young man found a goldmine by giving a new twist to an age-old pastime. His name is Jim Vickers-Willis.
If ever an Australian film producer decides to turn out a colossal, scintillating, Technicolor, musical extravaganza of the struggling bright boy soars to fame variety, he has an ideal subject on tap, guaranteed to produce a tear in the eye, a pang of joy in the heart and rhythm in the feet – ace Melbourne square-dance caller Jim Vickers-Willis.
A year ago he was a worried young man with a very sick bank balance, Today, he wears a happy smile that isn’t false anymore, drives a shiny luxury car, and collects a hefty weekly roll…..Largely because of his imagination, initiative and drive, the craze for square-dancing has swept through southern States at a whirlwind pace since the end of 1952. Now, there are tens of thousands of registered square dancers in Victoria alone and rapidly snowballing thousands of devotees in neighbouring South Australia. ….Ten thousand flock to the bayside dance hall [Earls Court] every week crowding happily on to the four floors. …. ..Before Vickers-Willis.. a few hundred enthusiasts danced one night a week…..
In the final scene of this motion picture…the camera would undoubtedly pan down on the smiling Jimmy, and then move back and fade on the family scene of the man who has made the grade, his wife and his children, leaving the audience to utter mentally that old blessing, ‘And they lived happily ever after’ ”
Within just 10 months of that article, Jim was laying paralysed in an iron lung – a life saving respirator that enabled Jim to breathe (see picture - top right of page). Jim faced the prospect of never getting out of the irong lung, and he was given a life expectancy of just a few years. However, contracting polio seems only to have spurred him on to bigger and better things. Jim pushed the limits of his capabilities and used this to forge a wonderfully productive life, and a very influential role in the Australian community for over 50 years.
Read Jim's brief newspaper article that he wrote in 1954 "From the Iron Lung".
story about the great Australian 1950's square dancing BOOM! (Pdf)
Return to JIM'S STORY
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