“Hi. Give me just a minute, the game will be over in 24 seconds,” Jack McGlothlin said. He was standing a foot from his television screen with his eyes locked on the four-point football game between the Falcons and the Saints.
When the Saints pulled through to victory 24 seconds later, Jack clicked off the TV and walked over to the kitchen table. His glasses sat upon his nose, right above his rosy red cheeks; his white button-up shirt and black dress pants evidence of his Sunday morning church attendance.
“Are you a big football fan?”
Not particularly, he responded – he just likes close-scoring games.
Jack McGlothlin (’51) has other interests.
Jack began tap dancing four years ago at age 78. He walked through the glass doors of Dance Discovery Studio every Thursday evening at 5:30 for his adult tapping class.
In the waiting room sat two groups of dance students – the eight elderly tappers and the 20 three and four-year-olds. The little kids sat perched atop benches while their parents secured shoes on their feet. Meanwhile, Jack and the elderly struggled to get their tap shoes on unaided.
The elderly and toddlers split into their separate room when the clock showed 5:30. Jack smiled at the instructor, Jackie Beth Shilcutt, as he walked in the door. He knew her a bit better than the rest of the class – Jackie Beth is Jack’s granddaughter.
“I grew up in a Church of Christ, ‘got-you-God, can’t-go-to-the-movies-on-Sunday, can’t-dance world,’” Jack said. He did, however, go to the movies on Saturday here in Abilene at the Paramount, the Queens or the Majestic Theater. All of the movies were either westerns or musicals.
Jack watched Gene Kelley, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in awe as they tap danced on the big screen. “It sure would be nice to learn how to tap dance,” he thought.
About five years ago, Jackie Beth called her grandfather to relay the news that Dance Discovery had made arrangements for an adult tap class. After the comments to his granddaughter throughout the years about his desire to tap, he only had one choice.
“I couldn’t not go, I had to go,” Jack said.
“I was the only male in the group. There were about six or seven older ladies and me,” he said. “I was a widower in that class with all the women and I didn’t get hit up by any of them. I don’t know if I’m disappointed or glad about it.”
“I’ve got to admit, though, that the women were better dancers than I was – each one of them, even the 82-year-old woman,” Jack said.
Though he wasn’t able to do all of the steps, he mastered the shuffle and slap, flap, buffalo, maxi-four, camp role, military camp role and ball change – just to name a few.
Though he hasn’t tapped in a class for a year, he hasn’t put away his taps just yet.
“I do a few tap steps at work. I work every day in the back of a building and I tap when nobody is around.”
Jack works for his son’s company, Orison Marketing.
And just like that, Jack is on his feet in his kitchen exhibiting his skill.
“You just go like this,” he says as he stands tall and swipes the ball of his left foot forward across the tile floor, ending with a tap of his white tennis-shoed heel. “See?”
Jack’s still got it.
Jackie Beth, who graduated with a missions degree from ACU in ’04, loved every moment of sharing tap with her grandfather.
“He did a great job. It was fun.”
But it was about more than just fun for Jackie Beth.
“I have learned many-a-great-thing from Daddy Jack,” Jackie Beth said. “It was fun to get to share [tap] with him. It was an honor to get to do that.”
Jackie Beth respects her grandfather’s character in many ways.
“One of the things I like about Daddy Jack is that he is willing to try new things or look at things in a new way or to figure out a way to make things happen.”
Jackie Beth began dancing at age three and ditched gymnastics early because she hated waiting in a line for the trampoline. In dance everyone participated. She liked that.
In high school, Jackie Beth often substituted for absent instructors until she was offered a position to teach her own classes. She continued to teach classes in college. After ACU, she studied dance at the University of North Texas and now teaches dance classes at ACU and at Dance Discovery.
Last summer, she taught dance at a deaf orphanage in Kenya, combining her love of dance and missions.
Jack swears by his granddaughter’s teaching. “She’s one of the best dance teachers ever because she recognizes where the problem is and can work on the problem,” he said. “She can more than likely tell you which piece of it can be tweaked. That makes a great teacher.”
Sitting in his kitchen with his granddaughter, Jack reminisces on his tapping class and laughs a bright staccato laugh. He remembers another motivation for learning to tap.
Jack tapped to keep from walking like an elderly man. “I don’t like the way the old men walk – I don’t want to waddle,” Jack said. “Tap dancing will keep you from doing that. See, there was a method to my madness!”
He had one last piece of advice before the interview ended. “Oh yeah, and learn to laugh at yourself. Everything turns out OK.”
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