You should have seen the Hamel sisters - Bernadette, Emily, Marie and Louise - at the Casino Ballroom on Catalina Island last week.
They were acting just like teenagers, looking for boys, gossiping, laughing out loud and, as, Ethel's daughter, Terese Parkin said, "dancing up a storm."
Except they're not exactly teenagers anymore.
In fact, the Hamel sisters - that's their maiden name, by the way - are all in their 90s: Bernadette Graves, 97; Marie Graves, 94; Louise Kautsky, 92, and the baby, Ethel Schneeweis, who joined the exclusive sisterly club when she celebrated her 90th birthday last week at an unforgettable party on Catalina Island.
Dubbed "the 90-year-old teenagers," the Hamel sisters danced to the music of the Big Little Band, which played favorites like "In the Mood," "String of Pearls," and, of course, "Avalon."
"The party was extraordinary and simply unmatchable," Ethel said. "My dance card was filled all day. I am indeed a lucky woman."
And so are all the Hamel sisters, who told me there are two secrets to their longevity: healthy genes from good parents and dancing.
They could have added fertile genes, too.
Together, the sisters have 27 children, 74 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren (with two on the way). Ethel has eight children, Louise, nine, Marie, seven, and Bernadette, three.
The sisters are in good health and live relatively close to each other - Ethel in Seal Beach, Louise in Lakewood, Marie on Long Beach's Eastside and Bernadette in Long Beach's Bixby Knolls.
"We do lots of things together," said Ethel. "We especially like going to casinos and playing the slots."
"And don't forget playing cards," said Louise. "Any excuse for a party. Don't forget, we're French Canadians."
The Hamel sisters were born in Alberta, Canada, where their parents, Eugene and Rose, lived on a 1,000-acre wheat farm. For vacations, the Hamels visited Long Beach because they liked the sunshine and water. Eventually, the father bought a small house in Long Beach and the family spent more time here.
Tragedy struck in June 1931. In a freak accident, Mr. Hamel was killed when the horse-drawn wagon he was driving flipped over.
The family was devastated. Bernadette was 15, Marie 11, Louise 10 and Ethel 8. Their mother decided to make their new home in Long Beach.
The sisters attended St. Matthews School at Seventh Street and Temple Avenue and graduated from St. Anthony High School.
"There was always room in their home for their friends, music and dancing," said Terese, whose husband is Long Beach Assistant City Attorney Charlie Parkin. "Most days found them playing the piano and dancing with the rug rolled up."
As they got older, the sisters loved going to Catalina and dancing to the music of the Big Bands of the 1930s and 1940s.
The sisters all married and stayed in the Long Beach area.
Bernadette married Manuel Graves and worked as an administrator at Pacific Hospital. Marie married Manuel's brother, Chris. Louise married Lester Kautsky.
Ethel married William Schneeweis and raised eight children just a block away from Louise. Bill Schneeweis taught music in Long Beach schools for more than 40 years (at Lowell Elementary, Rogers Middle School and Lindbergh Middle School) and played trumpet professionally with Nat King Cole and Dave Brubeck.
All the sisters lost their husbands, except Louise whose husband Lester was a machinist with Aerojet General before he retired. They have been married for 64 years.
Louise said the secret to her long marriage is "arguing a lot, plus I don't have time to train another one."
Asked if he liked to dance, Lester gave Louise a hug and said, "You bet. I like being up close like this."
Last weekend the sisters went to Catalina to relive their earlier Big Band Catalina days and blow out the candles on Ethel's cake.
"It was a memorable, emotional weekend," Terese said. "The sisters have survived life's hardships sprinkled with humor and joy. They have inspired multiple generations of our family with their wisdom, humor, grace and zest for life."
On the way to Catalina, the sisters and their relatives weathered a heavy rain in the tourist boat, but, on the return trip, "We were treated fittingly to beautiful rainbows," said Terese.
The sisters relaxed and began thinking about their next dance.