Buffalo in the ’60s: Area Catholics banned from dancing the ‘Twist’

By Steve Cichon


Bishop Joseph A. Burke issued an edict to all of Buffalo’s parochial schools banning the “Twist” from all school functions.

The ban came in the form of a memorandum from Msgr. Leo Hammerl, superintendent of diocesan schools, that read, in part:

Bishop Joseph A, Burke

His Excellency, the Most Rev. Joseph A. Burke, bishop of Buffalo, has directed the Department of Education of the Diocese of Buffalo, to communicate with all schools, elementary and secondary, the following regulation.

For a number of reasons, not the least of which is the development of pupils in a proper sense of decorum and good taste, the current popular dance, commonly referred to as “the twist” is not to be permitted at any school or parish dance.

The story was picked up by the Associated Press and carried in newspapers across the country. It was mentioned in the TV & Radio Mirror magazine.

The directive prohibited Catholics, “both young and old,” from performing the dance, which was the biggest craze hitting the nation when the ban went into place. That weekend, no fewer than six clubs were advertising the “Twist” in The News.

Buffalo Twist joints, 1962

It’s not clear when or if the ban on the “Twist” was ever lifted for Buffalo Catholics.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.