|Remembering Those Dance Hall Days|
|The following article was written by Bill Collins and was published in the Times-Gazette in 1999 as part of our community's bicentennial celebration. Thanks for sending it along Bill!|
those pre-TV years of the 1930s and 1940s, Greenfield was not only a
terrific sports community, but also a social leader — a mover
and a shaker, so to speak, of the
entertainment that could be found in our small village. Music and
dance were as popular as any of the
sports that could be found, and here's
a glimpse at some of the people and
places that made it all hap-pen.
Restaurant, known as Simmy's, was located in the Pythian Castle
building that is now occupied by
Castle Hallmark. With a side door opening on Midway, you could look
inside to see who was 'dancing to the jukebox music
located in the back
part of the restaurant run by
Virgil and Byrl Simmons. A meeting
place for high school students from McClain, it was also a hang out
for young people from Hillsboro,
Washington Court House and
Chillicothe. While Hillsboro had Heistens, Washington Court House,
The Chatter Box and Chillicothe,
The Chicken Inn, we had Simmy's. Simmons Restaurant was also
known for having a great fountain
for sodas, sundaes and fountain Cokes;
it had a beer license, too.
the street and around the corner, Glenn Penn opened Penny's
Inn in 1937. Located just north of he Rand Theater, the first Penny's
doubled its size to provide a dance floor and then added a moonlight
garden in the rear of the inn. Here, Glenn Penn featured live music, and
some of us can recall Dane Ise
man playing the drums with a band to
provide music in the garden on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
1946, Penn built a new hang-out, located at 414 Jefferson St., where
McClain students met to eat and dance. Although the restaurant and teen
hangout eventually closed in 1966, the memories of Penny's were recalled
by students of McClain High School during their all-class reunion this
the mid 1930s the Elks Lodge hosted its annual Charity Ball
in December. Held in the Armory, the affair featured live bands from
Columbus and Cincinnati. The ladies would wear their formal gowns and
husbands or boyfriends would provide them with beautiful corsages. Pat
Shrock, the editor of the Greenfield Daily Times, would always write a
big story of the yearly ball, describing the great dresses the
gals had worn. He would also write about the latest dance steps he had
watched at the dance.
Eagles Lodge also had its annual banquet and dance, and this was in
March of each year. Generally, the banquet was held in the cafeteria at
McClain, with a dance in the lodge hall afterward. I recall both of
these affairs because my mom and dad, Ada and Ab Collins, never missed
one, and I looked forward to when I
could attend the yearly events.
course, dancing wasn't just for the adults. In 1938, a lady from
Chillicothe gave ballroom dancing lessons in the Armory, and my dad
insisted I take the lessons. As I recall, the class had about five boys
including Wayne Cook, Bill Coffey, Gene Keiter, Clyde Nicely and me,
plus 15 beautiful young ladies. We got to dance with them all! I was never
a good athlete, but boy could I dance.
precedent had been set, and the tradition of dancing continued into the
1940s. During World War II, those young men who hadn't already learned
to dance did so at the USO clubs provided for the servicemen throughout
the country. When we came marching home, we all were ready to dance.
the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Elks Lodge brought some great Big Bands to Greenfield for dances in the Armory. There was Charley
Spevack, Tony Pastor, Louie Prima and the Glenn Miller Band with Tex
Benekie. These bands were traveling around the country in buses playing
at big cities on the weekends, and they would
play during the week for a
good price. The Elks club made some money on the dances, but most
of all it provided great entertainment
for our community. I recall the Bainbridge contingent would make
reservations for 40 people at each dance. And these events were also
attended by groups from Hillsboro and Washington Court House. Both the
Eagles and Elks lodges continued to provide many dances with live music
for their members well into the 1960s; these were always well attended.
the years, the Greenfield schools have also provided a great music
program. Ralph Price would amaze all with his pipe organ recitals each
summer; band concerts were held at the town square; and who can forget
the McClain High School band with the legendary Barney Beaver? In recent
years, the McClain Show Choir has provided wonderful musical
entertainment to our community as well.
has always been a great party town, but more than that,
it has been a great social leader. Its history of dance and
entertainment are one of the many fine reasons that make it a great
community to live in.
So without hesitation, we should all get ready to attend the grand ball of our bicentennial celebration. We should gather together on the last day of the year before the last year of the century to see the year 2000 arrive with a bang. Certainly, remembering the past 200 years in 1999 has been wonderful, but looking forward to the next 200 should be our goal.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org