The dancehall was built in 1923 and was simply an open-air pavilion where dances, meetings and movies could be held. Locals, including members of the newly formed Edgewater Volunteer Hose Company, built it as a central meeting place and activity center for the community residents. Some big-name entertainers such as Morton Downey, Joe Darcey and Frank Munn performed there and big crowds came from the surrounding communities. Around 1929 a roof was put on it and soon walls were added to make it a year-round facility for the various shows, meetings, basketball games and gymnastics.
Among the most popular uses of the facility was as a bingo hall. One of my best friends was Johnny Cahill and his mother, Mary, was an avid bingo player. His father, Matt, was among the volunteers who worked the bingo games which left the Cahill home free one evening a week. It was there that we held our regular weekly rock ‘n roll parties inviting our friends to dance to the latest doo-op sounds. The era was the 1950’s and the sounds came from those little 45 rpm records which are probably collector’s items today. Johnny’s parents were kind-hearted and didn’t mind us having parties there as long as we didn’t wreck the place and we never did.
Music could also be heard at the dancehall during the occasional dances organized by the Edgewater Athletic Association (EAA) or the Volunteer Hose Company. During World War II, even the Air Raid Wardens ran events there and John Robben recalls his dad running dances for the wardens. Among the most popular dances held in the pavilion were the Costume Ball and the ever popular Dance of Champions. It was this latter event held on Labor Day evening that drew the entire community together. After three days of competitions, a grand celebration ensued whereat trophies, medals and awards were presented to the winners. Various bands, such as JM and the Rhythm Kings, played the latest songs and rare is the individual who would miss such an event. While the center of the pavilion was reserved for dancing, the circumference of the building was sometimes lined with booths for games of chance with the proceeds going for the awards, etc. Eventually the building began to show its age and had to be demolished. That was in 1967 and it was a sad day for Edgewater Park. The annual Labor Day festivities did, however, continue but now in the open air.
©2008 Community News Group