Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Dance Hall

There were levels of fun in the old west and the fading west.  The Dance Hall was often one of the milder levels of entertainment and was open to people of both sexes in a community.  Social dance halls would be places where local people would go similar to a nightclub today. There would be dancing, contests, and fun. If the area was dry there were frequents stops outside to take a 'breather',  It was a place to court a local girl and to parade the new dudes showing how successful you were at your work.
1889 - Hovey's Dance Hall Clifton, AZ

In the 1850-1870's Dance Halls emerged as a place where men could pay a woman to dance with them, she would encourage the selling of the house liquor and if she was pleasant she would get a tip. Local housewives and daughters down on their luck often worked in these places. There was a strong line drawn at providing anything beyond the dance. Occasionally, a more adventurous young woman would see the financial possibilities and might stray out of the hall to someplace else but it was, mostly, frowned upon.  Only shady dance hall owners seemed to approve of this sideline.

The 'saloon' was often a male only establishment serving drinks, offering a meal, and maybe having a barber.  There were drinking and gaming tables, and since some people (especially some of the new immigrants from Ireland) preferred to stand there was the bar.

Depending on the time and the place there might be a hotel over the saloon and these often become the source of other services run by the house or sub-let by enterprising women. In wilder areas the two began to merge and the women entered the saloon acting as dance hall girls pushing the drinks and her own extra work.

The saloon and bar were often very diverse and could range from poor hovels to elegant houses with fine china and crystal decor.

In Oklahoma City, from the summer after the 1889 run there were family friendly dance clubs that emerged along with the first band and theater clubs,  The diverse ethnic groups and populations from other locales with different customs meant there was a wide range of understanding about what a saloon, a dance hall, and a disorderly house were.

Chances are, however, that any 'dance hall' found in the regions of Hell's Half Acre, its eastern Grand, West Second, South Broadway, and the Stockyards was a little on the shady side of things.

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