Dance halls used to be present in most mid-sized towns all over the county as well as in cities. People danced regularly - either on Friday or Saturday night. Live bands provided the music, and dancers often had their favorite band, which they never missed.
You never wanted to miss a dance - because it was the highlight of the week. If you didn't go to the dance on Friday night, you must have had a broken leg.
Couples would gather at the dance hall to converse - but especially to dance with each other as well as their partners. There were waltzes, two-step, and polkas. Then there were the one-dances where the dancers formed a long line and at certain points the men would move forward to dance with the woman ahead of him - and continued to move forward from woman to woman. There were also lines dances where the couples stayed with their partners, but all couples remained in the line. Two couples could join together in this line also. I remember when we and another couple (our close friends) would run ahead in order to fall in line behind the Hanson sisters who had this dance down to a "T." The dance was to skip forward three steps - kick the left foot out - dance three more steps - kick the right foot out - plus some more complicated maneuvers. But by copying the sister's moves we could successfully perform this dance.
Then there were the "wild dancers" who would run onto the floor and grab a woman from her partner and dance away with her all over the floor. That always provided giggles from the woman and hearty laughs from the other dancers as they watched them parade all over the floor.
Dances that were popular during the dancing years were the Twist, the Stroll, Do-Si-Do, the Jitterbug, Rumba, the Swing and finally, Jazz.
The most popular dance hall in Marshall was the Blue Moon Ballroom that was built in 1929 on the Lyon County Fairgrounds. It burned to the ground in the early hours of Sunday, May 4, 1981. Because the ballroom was not heated, dances only took place from Memorial Day until the first part of October. Many people who attended the dances cried their hearts out when the ballroom burned. My daughter who had traveled with her college class to England that weekend called me that Sunday morning to tell me that she had arrived safely. To this day she tells about that all I could talk about was the Blue Moon burning - and not asking anything about her trip.
Another popular dance hall in the 1940s was at Loren - a village built along the railroad tracks between Granite Falls and Hanley Falls. These dances were held at Hays Store, which during the day offered dry goods and a livery stable. My parents would tell about going to the dances at Loren, bringing my two brothers with them (there were no babysitters in those days). The boys would play with the other children who had also accompanied their parents and finally fell asleep on the benches or on the floor.
Barn dances were also popular. The barn dance originated in Scotland in the 1860s and referred to the "poor people's ballroom." These parties were usually thrown after the raising of a barn or would be given as a birthday party, homecoming or wedding. Barn dances were very popular up until about 1899 as farmers and common folk would usually not be invited to the fancier balls of the upper class. These dances merged with square dancing.
Many of us miss those dancing years. Society has changed - there are no more ballrooms like we used to have - or dancers. What do we do now? We sit at home at our computers or watch television. Dancing was good exercise and a way for friends to connect and converse. Now we e-mail or text. Those bygone days are gone forever.