There aren’t a lot of places to go ballroom dancing in Spokane, but if you’re a member of the Brotherhood of Friends you can dance the night away every Friday and Saturday.
BOF members and their guests dance in an unlikely location - on the third floor of the building at the corner of Third and Monroe. Their neighbors are mostly gas stations.
The BOF was formed Jan. 10, 1935, as a fraternal organization at a time when similar groups were being founded on a regular basis, said member Norm McClellan.
“I guess it was just the thing to do in those days,” he said.
The building began as a bank, but during World War II, it became a USO club for area servicemen. BOF members bought it after the war, and in 1948, moved in. These days the club occupies only the top floor and rents out the first two floors to various businesses.
The club’s purpose is to provide dancing facilities, live music and good food to its 640 members, said Ed Caraway, president. Of the membership, 120 joined 35 or more years ago.
The club’s goal is provide a friendly atmosphere for people to meet and socialize, Caraway said.
That combination works for McClellan, who joined during BOF’s first year. Then, it was a good place to dance, the floor shows in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s were Las Vegas-style - and, entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr. performed there.
It’s still a good place to dance and go out for dinner. And it still offers good music, even though the floor shows are no longer so extravagant.
Expo Four, with its “big band sound” has been playing at the BOF for the past 13 years.
The club’s beginning financial boost came the same way as many other groups a few decades ago: money from slot machines.
“All the private clubs in town had slot machines,” McClellan said.
The BOF made so much money before slot machines were banned in the late 1950s, that members donated $105,000 to help build Albi Stadium, McClellan said.
Now the club supports itself from its rental spaces and the member’s annual $55 dues.
Like other similar clubs, the BOF has an aging membership. The average age is 70 - but it’s a young 70, Caraway said.
And, young people are beginning to find ballroom dancing and the club, McClellan said, adding, “When they discover it, they are quite surprised.
“They didn’t know there was a place like that around.
“I think it’s a wonderful place,” he said.