Dances

THE BARN DANCE

The only difference between a barn dance and a regular dance held elsewhere was that the participants dressed casually instead of getting all gussied up in their best bib and tucker. Undoubtedly, the pigeon population who like hay lofts all agreed that barn dances were for the birds. Sparrows are gregarious and 'tis not likely they were disturbed.

Barn dances weren't for prissy people who screamed when they saw a spider; hay lofts, as you all know, are decked with webs, unless the bats who frequent these places made lunch out of these morsels.

Barn dances were always jam packed for everyone loved them. The earthy pungent smell of fresh horse manure and new mown hay would waft its way up the stairs to the loft. During the intermissions one might hear a horse nicker below, yes, really nicker, no horse laugh! Barn dances were held at the Lester Smith barn at Spring Park for two years while it was in the process of being finished and utilized for a barn. The Tiger barn west of Elk Point was another place where dances were held. It's a shame that these events are past history; few barns are built now and the ones that are around are full of hay for most of the year. There is no longer the need to build a loft, for hay bales are stored in a shed, or stack, or it becomes a sophisticated pellet that dispenses easily.

THE COUNTRY DANCE

Country dances were favorite entertainment until urban centres stole much of the interest from rural communities, due largely to arenas and curling rinks. Orchestras were of the home spun kind, usually a violin, guitar and drums; and if the hall or schoolhouse had a piano, a player could always be found. The halls were cold in winter, and were heated by huge wood heaters. Some beneficent soul in the community would light the fire the morning prior to a dance and tend the fire that day; even then the stove would be stoked continuously to keep the place reasonably warm.

Baby sitters were unheard of in the early days. The kids were bundled up and taken along, even the babies. Rocks were heated and footwarmers along with good warm robes kept families comfortable while travelling. The stage, which was the warmest and safest spot in the hall, was where mothers chose to bed down their sleeping offspring. Sometimes the babies would be lined up like cordwood. There were no amplifiers blaring away so kids could sleep and people could visit.

The preparation for the dance was something else! The necessary ablutions were performed in the big round laundry tub beside the stove; hot water was added after each bath; there was no dawdling as most houses were draughty. The womenfolk curled their hair with curling tongs that were heated by being lowered over a flame in a coal oil lamp. The heat was tested by first spitting on your finger and then barely touching the tongs to see if they would sizzle. They sizzled and frizzled alright. One was lucky to come out of the ordeal with only a burned finger, a blister on your neck, or a tress or two of hair scorched to oblivion. All in the name of vanity!

The dance always began with a waltz. Every district had a floor manager who determined the kind and length of each dance. The spirit of this individual set the tempo. They were usually very affable, happy go lucky characters. The orchestra responded by playing the floor manager's request, whether it be a waltz, fox trot, one step, two step, schottische, the waltz quadrille, the French minuet, or a square dance. There would be much scurrying to get your favorite partner, and between rounds much clapping and laughter and appeals to the orchestra for more. The dance would begin about 9 p.m. and accelerate until midnight, when there was a break for the orchestra and lunch would be served. A huge copper boiler full of steaming hot coffee, and boxes of blue enamel cups and enormous enamelled blue coffeepots are recalled. Sandwiches and cake brought by the ladies were much appreciated by the hungry crowd.

Admission fee for gents was 35 cents and ladies free if they brought lunch. The dance floor was swept during the midnight break, and waxed or dusted with corn meal. The gas lamps were pumped up or refuelled for the next session which might last until 3 or 4 a.m. During the summer, it was dawn when the dance would break up. When the floor manager announced "Home Sweet Home" the dancers suddenly realized that they were tired. Farewells were bade,-the end of a happy evening