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Saturday, February 22, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: ‘Dance mad’ youth flock to ‘gramophone grapples’

The dances in most public halls were run on a cash basis, in that “a fellow must first engage a girl and then pay for the dance,” usually a nickel, plus a “war tax.” (SR archives)
The dances in most public halls were run on a cash basis, in that “a fellow must first engage a girl and then pay for the dance,” usually a nickel, plus a “war tax.” (SR archives)

Spokane’s young people had gone completely “dance mad,” a Spokesman-Review correspondent wrote.

On one typical Saturday night, there were seven public dances being held and “no telling how many gramophone grapples were being staged in living rooms and basement ballrooms.” Perhaps it was a reaction to the previous year’s dance ban, because of the flu epidemic.

The dances in most public halls were run on a cash basis, in that “a fellow must first engage a girl and then pay for the dance,” usually a nickel, plus a “war tax.”

“The government is doing nicely through a share in the skips, leaps, flops and wriggles of its citizens,” said the correspondent.

The writer noted one “pretty little brunette in the blue silk sweater,” who is “simply having the time of her life, with a dozen young blades teasing for every dance.”

A number of young men who did not bring girls with them stood about “in morose groups,” hoping against hope that they might lure away the girl of some other fellow.

The most popular dance appeared to be the waltz, and the most popular of all was the “prize waltz.” About 100 couples crowd the floor and a judge picks out the best 20 couples, who dance again. Then he narrows the field to five couples and three couples.

They “perform fancy stunts and their friends cheer, whistle, clap their hands and yell.” After the dance, the judge holds his hand above each couple, gauges the amount of cheering and chooses a winner.

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