Bop ‘Til You Drop: BobLo Ballroom 1920s

Dancing for 5 Cents

The new music and dances were fast paced and energetic, like the optimistic 1920s themselves. They were an escape from the horror of war, and an opportunity to release pent up emotions created by the restricted lifestyles forced on the public by the war effort.

Freed from the restrictions of tight corsets and the large puffed sleeves and long skirts that characterized dress during the late Victorian era, the young were hopping, hugging and grinding to the new rhythms of Jazz and the Blues.

No sooner were the dance crazes from Paris demonstrated in America then they were embraced by the public. “Ragtime”, which had been popular during and after the war, was suited to the new music tempos and also flourished and even old favorites like the “Waltz” and “Foxtrot” remained popular due to people like Arthur Murray who ran dance schools and published “How to” books on all the popular dances.

When movies stars like Rudolph Valentino and Joan Crawford were seen dancing the “Tango” and the “Charleston” at the cinema, people went wild over these latest dance fads.

Naturally, the older, more conservative generation was quite scandalized by this behaviour, especially because of all the physical contact.

In the Detroit/Windsor area, thousands flocked to an island in the middle of the Detroit River to dance to their heart’s content in a giant dance hall.

BobLo Island Amusement Park, opposite Amherstburg, Ontario, and just down the river from Detroit and Windsor, was open to the public from 1898 until 1993. Through the years it was home to a number of roller coasters, rides, shows and restaurants as well as the amazing dance hall pictured above.

Financed by Henry Ford and designed and built by the famed architect Albert Kahn, this hall was the second largest in North America and held 5,000 dancers when it was at full capacity. Construction began near the end of the 1912 season and was completed by the park’s opening day of 1913.

The massive 3300 square-metre hall was constructed of steel and stone. One side of the building featured a spectacular, cathedral-like glass wall. It was bordered by two rectangular stone-faced pillars with windows and flag poles. Overlooking the large floor was a viewing gallery to which there was no admission. The dancers below were charged 5 cents a couple.

After BobLo Island closed the rides were dismantled and sold and the BobLo boats stopped coming. But surprisingly, the dance pavilion survived.

From time to time, concerts are performed there and the great hall comes alive once again. And who knows? When dancers take to the floor, they could be joined by the ghosts of flirtatious young men and women doing the Charleston.

Some of the info in this article came from Closed Canadian Parks:

About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a series of peculiar events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, Walkerville Publishing Inc., (partner is Chris Edwards) launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999 and we produced 61 issues - the last in 2016. In 2004, we began producing local history books; that year we released "Best of The Times Magazine". Our current titles include 5000 Ways You Know You're From Detroit, 500 Ways You Know You're From Windsor, Walkerville - Whisky Town Extraordinaire, and Windsor Then - A Pictorial Essay of Windsor's Glorious Past. I also wrote a novel, Time Trespasser, that blends time travel with local history. I am working on a sequel. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, glass is nearly full person.
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1 Response to Bop ‘Til You Drop: BobLo Ballroom 1920s

  1. I would like to use this photo on my website. Please forward info on credits. Thank you.

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