If you’re a Lindy hopper or a lover of the 1930’s/1940’s, you know the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. You know that it is the hallowed ground of swing dancers everywhere and the ‘Home of the Happy Feet’. All the greats played here AND danced here and anyone who was anyone passed thru it’s doors. It truly was a magical place, where your skin colour did not matter, only the music and the dance did.
The Savoy turned 91 years old this past March 12th and for today’s post I wanted to bring to life this legendary ballroom. Whether you know it’s story already or just discovering it for the first time, reading and watching videos about the Savoy never gets old.
Please grab your dance shoes friends because we are off to 596 Lenox Avenue, between 140th and 141st Streets to visit the famous Savoy Ballroom.
Brief History & Facts about the Savoy:
Owned by Moe Gale, a Jewish man, and managed by Charles Buchanan, an African-American business man, the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors on March 12, 1926 right in the middle of Harlem
It was the first racially integrated public place in the country
10,000 square feet in size, was on the second floor and a block long. It could hold up to 4,000 people
The interior was painted pink and the walls were mirrored.Colored lights danced on the sprung layered wood floor and it had 2 bandstands (which allowed continuous music all night long)
The spacious basement checkrooms could serve up to 5,000 patrons with swift and efficient ease
Approximately 700,000 patrons visited the ballroom annually; and, consequently, the floor had to be completely replaced every three years
Nicknames included: “Home of the Happy Feet”, and “The Track” because of the elongated dance floor
Over 250 name and semi-name bands were featured at the Savoy. Bands like: Chick Webb, Fess Williams, Erskin Hawkins and Al Cooper’s Savoy Sultans (who were just some of the house bands), Benny Goodman Orchestra, Count Basie and Duke Ellington (were some of the guest bands)
Lindy Hop made its appearance in the ballroom and became its staple dance until it closed it’s doors. Purportedly named after Charles Lindbergh’s solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927 it signifies the entire historical period known as the Swing Era
Herbert White, a.k.a. Whitey, an ex-boxer and bouncer at the Savoy, organized and cultivated a group of the best young Lindy Hoppers (and had them appear in theaters around the world as well as in films. They were called ‘Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers‘.
Lindy hop legend Frankie Manning noted that patrons were only judged on their dancing skills and not on the color of their skin
Part of the floor where the professional Lindy dancers ruled was on the 141st street side of the room and was then referred to as “the corner”. Only Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers could dance and work routines there. Dancers today know it as the “Cat’s Corner”.
It is estimated that the ballroom generated $250,000 in annual profit in its peak years from the late 1920’s to the 1940’s
“Stompin’ at the Savoy”, a 1934 Big Band classic song and jazz standard recorded by Chick Webb, was named after the ballroom
The Savoy closed permanently October, 1958 and was turned into a housing complex now called the “Savoy Park”.
These photos were not taken at the Savoy but here is the famous Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers dancing somewhere in NYC in their jackets.
Battle of the Big Bands (this was a regular feature at the Savoy)
Two of the most famous battles involved Chick Webb & The Benny Goodman Orchestra (May 11th, 1937) and Chick Webb vs Count Basie w/ Billie Holiday & Ella Fitzgerald (January 16th, 1938). Chick Webb won both times in the battles making him the ‘King of Swing’!
Truck on Down for a Battle of the Bands with not 2 but 4 Bands! Who will you pick?
Super Cool Tidbit:
Did you know that in Ian Fleming’s James Bond book ‘Live and Let Die’, Bond visits Harlem and the Savoy?
By the time they left the restaurant it was ten-thirty and the Avenue was almost deserted. They took a cab to the Savoy Ballroom, had a Scotch-and-soda, and watched the dancers. Most modern dances were invented here,’ said Leiter. ‘That’s how good it is. The Lindy Hop, Truckin’, the Susie Q, the Shag. All started on that floor. Every big American band you’ve ever heard of is proud that it once played here – Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Galloway, Noble Sissle, Fletcher Henderson. It’s the Mecca of jazz and jive.’ They had a table near the rail round the huge floor. Bond was spellbound. He found many of the girls very beautiful. The music hammered its way into his pulse until he almost forgot what he was there for (Source).
Before I close I will leave you with one more amazing short video about the Savoy (great interviews and images) and a photo of my husband and I recreating a famous Lindy Hop move in front of the plaque (this is tradition for all dancers).
This Weekend in NYC I am attending a celebration of life for one of the most amazing woman I have ever met, Dawn Hampton (she passed away Sept 25th, 2016). She was an awe-inspiring woman who achieved so much in her life and what she gave to the Lindy Hop world alone will never ever be forgotten.
It is also Black History month, so I think it’s important that the planet (or at least my readers) learn a bit more about the unforgettable Dawn and her accomplishments.
Before we begin, please note that today’s post is a Repost from Toronto Lindy Hop which originally posted Aug 12, 2015 (over a year before Dawn passed away) and written by yours truly.
1. Dawn was born in 1928, in Middletown Ohio and was one of 12 children in her family.
2. Her father Clark Deacon Hampton, Sr., had a family band and vaudeville act, which was part of a traveling carnival. Dawn grew up listening to the music of the family band, ‘Deacon Hampton’s Pickaninnys’.
3. Dawn began performing at the age of 3 and two years later sang “He Takes Me to Paradise” (Source).
4. When she was very young, she wanted to be a ballet dancer then she found out that ballet does not swing (source).
5. In the mid 1950s Dawn and her sisters became the ‘Hampton Sisters’ after several of their brothers went off to study music. They had a very long career together.
6. 1958 Dawn joined the cast of the Off-Broadway hit show, “Greenwich Village, U.S.A.”. The show ran for a year at New York’s legendary ‘The Bon Soir’. An original cast album of the show features several solo tracks by Dawn.
7. During the early 60’s, Dawn worked as the house singer at the ‘Lion’s Den’. The Lion’s Den was also the scene of a singer’s talent competition. Barbara Streisand relates in a Vanity Fair interview that one of her first times singing on stage was at one of these competitions. She tells how she was a little unnerved, because she came on stage after Dawn, “and the lusty applause for Dawn Hampton [was] ringing in my ears.”
8. Surgery in 1964 to her vocal cords saw Dawn lose most of her vocal range BUT she never lost her eagerness or ability to perform and her optimistic spirit.
9. Dawn spent much of the next 20 years performing as a cabaret singer in clubs around New York City. Reviewers called her a “singer’s singer” and dubbed her the “Queen of Cabaret”.
10. Dawn is talented in writing music and lyrics: In 1989 Dawn collaborated with pianist/performer Mark Nadler, writing music and lyrics for the honky-tonk mini-opera ‘Red Light’ which was given the Manhattan Association of Cabarets (MAC) Award in 1990. Dawn and Mark also collaborated on ‘An Evening with Dawn Hampton’, which enjoyed an extended run at ‘Don’t Tell Mama’.
Dawn also wrote the music and lyrics for the play “Madame C. J. Walker” (Madame (1867-1919) was an African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. Eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America).
Lastly, she would find time to write a book with her niece, entitled ‘Two Penny Soap Opera’.
12. In the late 90s and into the early 00s, Hampton took advantage of the craze for swing dance by bringing to the scene her smooth style and theatrical presence that has brought her international acclaim. She has never stopped since those early days.
13. Dawn lives in NYC and can be found in New York City dancing and listening to some of the best swing bands around.
A while back, I received a lovely email from Tam Francis of the website ‘The Girl in the Jitterbug dress’, introducing herself and her new book. After several emails back and forth we started to realize that we were clearly kindred spirits, with many of the same hobbies and likes (Lindy Hop, 1940s, Vintage Fashion, Husbands who Lindy Hop, Love of Scottie Dogs and the list goes on and on.). I have really enjoyed getting to know Tam these last few weeks and I know you will too.
So without further adieu lets begin my Behind the Scenes interview with Tam of the ‘The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress’.
(Liz Note about the Book: I really enjoyed reading this book and found it quite delightful, interesting and a fun read and recommend you pick up the book).
My husband was deployed, and I was home with two children and no family. I had been blogging my dance adventures, and a friend suggested I write a book. Sure, why not. I wanted to write about all the things I loved: swing dancing, vintage fashion, classic cocktails, retro music and lifestyle. It took about a year to write my first draft, but I didn’t really start re-writes until we moved to Texas and I joined a local writer’s group.
If you only have one sentence to describe why someone should read the book (and they really should), what would that sentence be?
If you love anything vintage, (specifically fashion and swing dance) this book is for you, and I haven’t found another that highlights all those things we love about vintage lifestyle—plus it’s an emotional roller-coaster with enough depth to carry you through, but not too heavy that you can’t read it in a weekend.
Beyond writing really cool books you are also a poet. Does your poetry carry a vintage theme to it as well, or do you write about other topics?
I’ve written a half-dozen poems about dancing and music which will appear in my upcoming short story collection in 2017, “Swing Shorts,” but my poetry chick phase was in my college days when I wrote about everything and anything—social issues to existential contemplation.
How long have you been blogging and what made you start (my reason was to share my love of vintage with like-minded readers)? Could you supply one piece of advice for newbie bloggers?
I started my blog years ago on MySpace. I would be so wound up from dancing, I couldn’t sleep, and I had all these wonderful feelings and ideas about the people and places—I had to write them down. It eventually morphed in a swing dance magazine, Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine.
My advice to bloggers or any writers is to read books on the craft of writing or follow other writing advice bloggers. My early blogs are embarrassing. There’s a difference between good story-telling and good writing. Those of us who gravitate to writing, whether it be novels, short story, blogs or poems, are natural story-tellers. It’s the learning the craft of writing that is hard. I am always on a quest to learn how to be a better writer.
And learn about SEO. Unless you want your blog to be an online diary that few read, you’ve got to understand some basic SEO stuff and basic marketing.
What was your journey into the vintage world like?
As a young girl, I had always had a fascination with the past, and was drawn to the fashions of the 1920s-1950s. I watched old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies and my heart filled with the beauty and glamour of the era. I started seriously buying vintage in the 9th grade from thrift shops and yard sales. I loved the hunt as much as the find. In my early days, I mostly gravitated toward either 1950s or 1920s. I hadn’t yet developed an eye for the other eras.
I see that the 1940s is represented pretty well on your blog, is this your favorite vintage era? And why (and if not, then tell us about your fav era)?
If I had to pick only one, I would say, yes, the 1940s is my favorite. I NEVER get tired of listening to the music, and set against the backdrop of the war, there is always this heightened sense of tension and immediacy to life. But there are specific things I love about the 1920s, 30s and 50s. It’s wonderful to have the choice to dress any vintage era we like, isn’t it?
I’m a mood dresser. Fashion reflects my state of mind or daily intention. Some days I feel sassy and want to show the world I’m in charge, I don a fitted two-tone 40’s suit—like when I’m going to a Town Hall meeting or advocating for something to the school board.
Some days I feel romantic and languid and wear a flowery 1920s dress. Other days, I want the world to know I’m a capable, cute 50s-style housewife and or pert teacher. And of course, there’s the nights when I use all the tricks of late 1930s glam to imbue myself with unique style and confidence.
Does anyone else make your fashion choices this way?
You’re a Lindy Hopper like me, how did you fall in love with the dance that would become one of the main “characters” in your new book?
I had ALWAYS wanted to learn how to dance. Just like in the book, I was at a show when I was knocked out by this couple decked out in vintage, swinging around the floor. I’d only ever seen dancing like that in movies. I found out where they took lessons, started going, and never stopped. At first, it’s like a drug. You can’t get enough dance. I read about it, found old movies with Lindy, collected big band music and created scrapbooks of “vintage inspiration.” It become and integral part of my identity.
Favorite Lindy Hopper past or present?
I know it’s cliché, but I adore Frankie Manning. I was lucky to meet him and interview him for my magazine. He was always so generous and filled with love and love of dance. He was truly an inspiration.
As far as style goes, I try to emulate the 40s style of Jean Veloz and Jewel McGowan. They’re both old-timers you can see in many of the bobby soxer movies. Jean is still alive and dancing, and that is an inspiration, too.
I’m a romantic at heart, tell everyone how you met your husband?
We both worked retail in the shoe department—he in men’s, me in women’s. In the stock room, I would glimpse this cool looking guy who was dressed in vintage suits, black and white shoes, and even a fedora when he left for the night.
After watching (okay sort of spying on him) for weeks, I got the nerve to talk to him. I asked him, “Where’d you learn to dress so cool?”
“Old movies,” he’d replied.
We went on to talk about 1930s and 40s movies, big band music, and vintage fashion. I told him I was taking swing dance lessons and did he want to check it out. He did! He was a natural. We became dancing fools in love. Our courtship consisted of vintage fashion quests, old-movie watching, and lots and lots of dance.
When he joined the Navy and went to boot camp, I thought that was it. We’d drift apart, but our feelings for each other grew. When I went to see him graduate in Chicago, he asked me to marry him. That’s a whole long story for another time! But I will say it was delightfully spontaneous, romantic, and vintage-esque!
Teaching Lindy Hop with your husband, must have been a blast (and a lesson in working together and patience I’m sure). What did you love about the teaching process?
When we first moved to San Diego—Navy stationed us there—we were some of the first Lindy Hoppers in town and one of the few couples who stressed the “vintage” aspect of the dance.
We are a good match and a bit comedic. I like to think we’re a little like Gracie Allen and George Burns in our repartee. My hubby gets very focused on small details and often would stop the class to help someone who was struggling. I would keep track of how antsy the other students were getting and keep us rolling forward.
We both have our way of expressing the rhythm. My hubby is a numbers kind of man. I like to use sounds and positions to teach. It makes for a perfect match since everyone’s learning style is different, too. We cover all the bases and make sure to keep it really fun.
I love sharing the love of dance and the history of it. Plus, some days I’d be tired or crabby and think “Ah, hell, I don’t want to teach tonight.” But by the end of the night I was refreshed and the negativity drained away.
Favorite vintage item in your home and why?
Non-clothing? It might have to be my vintage kitchen table. When we first moved to Texas, I was looking for a bed for my daughter at an antique store and I saw this table and totally geeked out on it. I seriously started sweating. My husband was in San Diego, getting our house ready to go on the market, and I bought it without him seeing it. But he loved it.
I love to cook and am in the kitchen a lot. Every time I look at it, I get a thrill. It is so damn vintage and in my mind, represents all the good things about the past that I love.
Coolest vintage event you have attended to date?
Camp Hollywood, which is still ongoing and in its 19th year. Holy Smokes! I was at the first one. (yikes I feel old). Then there was also this event called Swing Camp Catalina that brought instructors from all over the world to beautiful Catalina Island (which makes an appearance in the sequel: The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress Hops the Atlantic). The island itself is magical, but the historic ballroom made you really feel like you’d time-travelled. It was enchanting to dance there.
You live in Texas, tell everyone why Texas would be a cool vintage destination to visit?
I can’t speak for all of Texas, but my little town of Lockhart is adorable with a vintage square and the BBQ Capital of Texas. Plus, we have the oldest, continually working library in the state, as well as the most photographed courthouse.
But that’s all sight-seeing stuff. If you want to do dancing and vintage, you’d have to go to Austin a mere 30 miles up the road from me. They have an amazing swing scene and Austin is the live music capital of the world!
There are two very old (Western) dance halls, one is the Broken Spoke. We go there when they have Western Swing bands like Big Sandy or Billy Mata. It’s pretty rough and a little seedy, but has a nostalgic vintage cowboy feel. The same goes for Gruene Hall (pronounced green). It’s one of the oldest continuing operational dance halls in Texas, located in Gruene, TX.
In downtown Austin, we also like to patronize the old Driskill Hotel and have heard some great band there as well. The joint oozes vintage ambience and is supposed to haunted.
And did I mention the shopping? SoCo (South Congress), as the local’s call it, it ripe with vintage, thrift, and unique stores for a day or two of eclectic shopping.
You collect vintage patterns, do you also sew like many other vintage enthusiasts out there?
Absolutely. I’m trying to drop a little weight—Texas beer and BBQ snuck up on me—but will get back to sewing as soon as I do. I found that I couldn’t afford all the beautiful vintage I wanted, so, I started sewing it. Plus in comes in handy when you rip seams dancing.
Your bio at the very beginning says “Tam Francis is the girl in the jitterbug dress, writing vintage romantic short stories and novels with a cocktail in one hand and a pen in the other”. Name that cocktail in your hand.
Lavender Lemon Drop! Want the recipe? I just made my own lavender bitters from my home-grown lavender, too! It’s my latest fave.
Okay here is a tough question (and last one).Cary Grant or Gene Kelly?
Oh My! Are you kidding? I LOVE Gene Kelly (got to interview his brother Fred for the magazine years ago), and Gene is one hell of a dancer and that cute butt. Seriously, best butt EVER! (Is that rude of me to say?) But Cary Grant is my kind of handsome with a nice balance of humor. The way he jumped around in Indiscreet (1958) makes me think he’d be an excellent Lindy Hopper and my man has got to hop.
Thank you Tam for such a wonderful Interview, it was a pleasure getting to know more about you and I look forward to visiting Texas some day soon. And don’t forget to check out my Interview that Tam did on me, HERE.
I had a totally different blog post planned for this week and then this appeared on Google….
Frankie Manning the founding father of Lindy Hop would have celebrated his 102nd birthday today (he lived to be 94) and after years of emailing Google they finally made all Lindy Hoppers over the world happy…Frankie Gets/Got to be Google Doodlefied (not even sure that is a word lol). Isn’t it awesome??!!
Now you may think..”who cares, it’s just a Google Doodle”. Well one of Frankie’s Missions was to spread the love of Lindy Hop around the world and he worked very hard in the later years of his life to do this. Today marks the day that Frankie’s dream became a reality in the digital world, Frankie’s dream just went viral 🙂
Another reason this is such a milestone is because of events like the one I’m part of this weekend. Toronto Lindy Hop is running a big swing weekend with 2 big bands and lots of fun activities called ‘Toronto Celebrates World Lindy Hop Day‘ and none of this would be possible if it were not for this man and the other Savoy/Whitey Lindy Hoppers that just went out on that Savoy Ballroom floor and danced the danced they loved…the Lindy Hop.
Check them out in action in the video below (featuring Frankie Manning).
Here are I am years ago at my first swing event, with the man himself..Frankie.
Happy Birthday Frankie, I sure do hope your Swingin’out somewhere in the great beyond on your special day!
I don’t blog that much about my favorite dance “The Lindy Hop“, but for today’s post I want to share with you an event that is close to my heart-ULHS…The Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown in New Orleans. And why today? Well this weekend marks the very last time this event will run, as the organizer is hanging up her hat (after 14 years) and letting it become a slightly different event called the New Orleans Swing Dance Festival.
What was ULHS? Well simply, it was a weekend in New Orleans (birthplace of Jazz) that featured Lindy Hop Dance competitions, Live New Orleans music, jazz club dance crawls, Second Line Parades, cool vintage buildings for dance venues and so much dancing! It was pure magic and one of the best events I have every attended.
Check out this AMAZING Video created for its 10th Anniversary that features outstanding Lindy Hop and takes you from its original start in Minneapolis to its final stop in New Orleans (seriously..watch this video).
Now for today’s blog I wanted to fill it up with pictures and some videos of the weekends I attended (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) to create one big I LOVE ULHS post.
We ate at so many yummy restaurants, like our favorite Coop’s.
And another favorite of ours “Yo Mama’s” even at one point had a very interestingly placed pole in their dining room (it sadly is behind a wall now).
The Music and Second Line Parades
The Competitions & the Dancing
In 2009 at my first ULHS I was able to dance in the WW2 museum in the city. Simply..Amazing.
The Fun-Ohhh the fun! I was lucky that every time I went to this event, many of my Swing Dancing friends were attending as well so it always turned into a good party. Here a collection of some of those images.
New Orleans is always a party and you just never know who might grab you to dance.
We even were able to dance on a historic Paddlewheeler-The Creole Queen one year.
My husband always manages to get in all the photos with the pretty ladies haha 🙂
My turn with all the handsome men…man…and ummm…..
Love this photo. Taking a break at a super outdoor market on Frenchmen street with a dear friend.
I’m going to end my post with a video from one of the late night dances on Bourbon Street in 2009. The band is the fantastic Loose Marbles at the bar Fritzels.
Thanks for the fun Amy Johnson and Team!
Question Time: Have you been to New Orleans? Or maybe you attended ULHS yourself and if so how was your experience?
Kenwick on the lake is in a fantastic location, directly across from Lake Huron and its beautiful beaches. The venue was the brain child of talented musician, band leader and promoter from Sarnia, Ontario – Jack Kennedy and his wife/business partner Genevieve. BUT it was not the first popular dance hall that the Sarnia area had in the early 1940s from the very busy Jack and Gen; Kenwick Terrace was to come first (seen below).
The opening night at Kenwick Terrace in January 1943 featured Louis Armstrong. I will say it again…LOUIS ARMSTRONG!!! Gosh I would have done anything to have seen that show in my little home town.
Kenwick Terrace went on to hold regular dancers with Jack Kennedy’s Orchestra and other Big Bands and singers. The wooden dance floor was known for being nice and flexible..perfect for dancers to never get tired feet. It stayed open till 1978.
After the success of Kenwick, Jack and Gen decided to open a dance hall on the shores of Lake Huron in 1946. They purchased the current pavilion that was standing there and extensively rebuilt it over the next few months. It opened as Kenwick on the Lake in June 1946 (source).
The name Kenwick comes from the first part of Jack Kennedy’s last name and the last part of his wife Genevieve’s maiden name Warwick.
Here is a great post from Billboard magazine about the opening of the “New Spot”.
The new venue attracted really big name bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, and Glen Miller to play to crowds of up to 3,000 on weekends. Many of the shows were also broadcast by radio across Canada. The Governor-General of Canada visited Kenwick on the Lake on the opening night in June 1946 (Source).
Dancing at Kenwick would then become a summer tradition that lasted into the 1950s.
One of the cool details about Kenwick on the lake was that made it popular with dancers was that it had an outdoor Terrazzo dance floor as well as an indoor hardwood floor. And if you have ever danced outside to the sounds of your favorite band, you know why this was a draw. There is nothing better than fresh air, good music and the stars over head…sigh….so romantic.
Due to its close proximity to the water, the venue became a “summer resort” with 2 dining halls, hairdressing salon, outdoor bowling alley (seen below), bathhouse and a stand to rent swimsuits and even small rides for the kids. The venue even served as a Saturday night destination for passengers of the SS Noronic that stopped at Sarnia on its trip around the Great Lakes (source).
Kenwick was not just beloved by the attendees but also by the performers who played there. The famous American baritone and bandleader Vaughn Monroe said it “was one of the most beautiful places he had ever played” and band leader “Norm Harris” played for one summer with his band and loved it so much that he came back the next year by himself to sing with the band (source).
Lastly, while doing my research on Kenwick on the Lake I stumbled upon this fantastic story about a particular night at the venue in July of 1946.
July 29, 1946 was a Monday. It was the height of the summer along the shores of Lake Huron. Kenwick-on-the-Lake had opened just one month earlier and was already popular with the dance crowds. This evening would feature music as always, but with a difference. Backed by the Jack Kennedy Orchestra, the show would celebrate the first radio broadcast by Sarnia’s own radio station with the call sign of CHOK.
Promptly at 7:00 P.M., a fanfare resounded throughout the county as the prelude to a program that lasted for 6 hours. Canada’s newest radio station was on the air.
“The show headliners that night were Dorothy Deane and Russ Titus, stars of the Cashmere Bouquet House Party of the 1940’s, who appeared in person during the inaugural show for CHOK. There were also special greetings for Canada’s newest radio station from entertainment greats Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Vaughan Monroe and Guy Lombardo.
“CHOK, then owned by H.M. Hueston, A.D. Mackenzie and Claude R. Irvine, was officially welcomed by W.C. Nelson, Mayor of the City of Sarnia and Bryan Cathcart, M.P.P.” (Source).
All good things must come to an end.
When the popularity of the big bands declined in the late 1950’s, Jack and Gen of Kenwick on the Lake tried Sunday night concerts (such as Alice Cooper), wrestling, square dancing and summer theatre. But the combination of damage caused by the 1954 tornado, a later fire and declining attendance led to its closing in 1962.
All that remains today is the terrazzo pavilion floor which now serves as a basketball court in Kenwick Park in Bright’s Grove (Historical notes from the author Bob McCarthy).
This post was a pleasure to write about AND do research on due to this venue being from my home town and from having so many memories of Jack Kennedy and his family as a child. He was truly a staple in the history of Sarnia, from his music store that his son ended up running (and we bought a piano from) to Jack himself playing his organ in the mall during Christmas time. The Kennedy name and the Kenwick name will never be forgotten.
I’m a Lindy Hopper (the original swing dance of the 1930s/40s and beyond) and I have been for a long time, I’m also a lover of 1940s fashion (if you read my blog this is a no brainer), so it was with a squeal and glee that I saw that the Frankie Manning Foundation was running a fun challenge on the day of Frankie Manning’s Birthday (one of the original creators of Lindy Hop) and I hope you can all join along.
On May 26th they are encouraging everyone to wear something from the 1930s thru to the 1950s to peak a conversation at work or at the coffee shop about the dance we love, The Lindy Hop. Then take that picture and post it on social media with the hashtag #THELINDYLOOK.
WAIT! You don’t have to be a dancer to participate….
Now I got to thinking that maybe you don’t have to be a dancer to get involved (because I know some of my lovely readers have mentioned that you have 2 left feet). You could join along by doing the following:
Put on your best vintage like you were going to a dance
Post your picture on Social Media with the Hashtag #THELINDYLOOK
Or you can share it with me (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter, my FB invite) and I will collect everyones images and post collectively on my blog.
I know for many of you all you need is an excuse to dress up and this is a pretty good excuse (at least I think so). And if asked why are you dressed up so nice? “Because Frankie Manning said I should”.
Speaking of Frankie Manning…..
These were the depression years (which didn’t make that much difference to my family since we were poor anyway) and dancing was an outlet for people because there wasn’t much else they could do. We all stayed in Harlem, but you could find someplace to step out every night of the week. Going to a ballroom became our social life.
Even though we were poor, we always dressed up. People in Harlem felt that they’d get more respect if they dressed well. Guys felt that the better they looked, the more likely a young lady would be to dance with them. I only owned two suits, but I always wore them with a shirt and tie and nice shoes, not two-tones, just black or brown ones. This was the fashion, and everybody dressed that way.”
Inspiration for #THELINDYLOOK
Over my time as Blogger I have written many posts on 40s Style, Swing Style etc. So here is a roundup of many of those posts that you can use for your own inspiration on May 26th.
The CNE stands for “Canadian National Exhibition“. It is an annual event at the end of summer held in Toronto and with approximately 1.3 million visitors each year, the CNE is Canada’s largest annual fair and the seventh largest in North America.
The CNE Tent was only open during the couple of weeks while the fair was on for everyone’s dancing pleasure. It measured 80 feet by 260 feet and was created in Chicago just for this particular event. It was located south of the coliseum and just west of the electrical building (the big tent in them middle of the picture).
During my research I actually discovered that the CNE Tent was not the first dance floor to have stood on the grounds of the fair. In the 1930s, when swing music was at the height of its popularity, the Automotive Building for two years (1934-5) contained the Ballroom, where the dance bands of Duke Ellington, Rudy Vallee, Guy Lombardo, and others played to overflow crowds. Later in the 1930s a large marquee (tent) with a dance floor was erected to house the bands and their audiences. The CNE tent was born (Source).
Great 1937 advertising mentioning Guy Lombardo and dancing on Canada’s largest dance floor amongst many other exciting activities to do at the CNE.
The Tents official opening was in 1938 and its first year featured Benny Goodman, Buddy Rogers, Guy Lombardo and Tommy Dorsey on the dance floor. Could you imagine dancing to all of these bands in one year??!! The Lindy Hopper in me is kind of losing it just thinking about it.
In 1940 a great advertisement appeared in the CNE official program stating:
“Dancing! Dancing – in the great, airy pavilion on a satin-smooth floor. Dancing – to the world’s finest dance bands. Dancing – toe-tickling tunes by music-making masters of rhythm ‘sweet’ and ‘swing.’ Dancing – to the bands you’ve dreamed of, now a reality in the Dance Pavilion.”
1938 was not the only time the CNE Tent brought in top-notch performers, Torontonians made special trips just to see their favorite acts like:
Duke Ellington, Abe Lyman, Guy Lombardo, Rudy Vallee, Horace Heidt, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Buddy Rogers, Glen Gray, Tony Martin, Artie Shaw, Eddie Duchin, Sammy Kaye, Al and Bob Harvey, Ina Ray Hutton, Benny Goodman, Tony Pastor, Vaughan Monroe, The Modernaires, Gene Krupa, Trump Davidson and Spike Jones all thru the 1940s.
A famous Canadian Judge – Hon. John Arnup shared a story of his visit in August of 1940.
“The Canadian National Exhibition in the late 1930s and early 1940s had a huge tent covering a dance floor, with tables around its perimeter. In late August, 1940, I took ‘my girl’ to hear and dance to Duke Ellington. At 1am outside her apartment I proposed to her and accepted. We were married a year later and have been happily married for 53 years (in 1994)” (Source).
Other Exciting information about the CNE Tent…
Tommy Dorsey makes history before playing at the CNE-September 8th, 1939
Toronto has a city airport now called “Billy Bishop Airport” but back in 1939 it was originally named Port George VI Island Airport in honour of an upcoming royal visit The first commercial passenger flight to the airport was a charter flight carrying Tommy Dorsey and his swing band for a two-day engagement at the Canadian National Exhibition on September 8, 1939. It was also the first airliner from the United States to arrive in Toronto. To mark the historical moment Tommy and his band played a few tunes right at the airport (Source).
Beauty Contest held at the CNE Tent
Beyond dancing the CNE Dance Pavillion/CNE Tent also hosted a beauty contest on September 4th, 1940 with the famous dance band leader “Tommy Dorsey” awarding the winner. Then later Dorsey, Al and Bob Harvey and their Canadian Coster Band, with Patricia Bailey played from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Cost $1.00 per person (Source).
Here are some of the contestants from the contest that year. All beauties!
Note: I previously did a post on Miss Toronto contest which was held at the CNE as well but I cannot find information that this was that same contest.
Big act comes to the tent to perform
In 1948 Frank Sinatra performed under the big tent.
I found this GREAT post on a Sinatra family forum page about his visit thru the eyes of an attendee, which I will share with you now. (source).
I was able to retrieve a couple of memories from my Mom about the 1948 Concert held under the big tent at the CNE in Toronto.They are wonderful memories of a time totally lost. I asked her to try and write everything down when she feels up to it.The tent was jammed to the limit with fans, and not one speck of trouble occurred. My mom remembers the wood floor that was layed out for the dancing. Can you imagine trying to pull that off nowadays? If we could only have times like that today!She remembers his famous bow tie, and how all the girls were just swooning at the front of the stage.She had the best time. My parents’ seats (they were newly engaged at the time), along with my Uncle and Aunt were quite a distance from the stage, but the minute Frankie came on my Mom and Aunt were off like a shot, my Dad and Uncle following. As I mentioned before, she was right up to the stage, and loving every minute.You can imagine her excitement, as she’d been a bobby soxer through and through, buying every magazine, and record. And here she was FRONT AND CENTRE STARING UP AT HER IDOL! Hopefully she’ll be able to write her memories of this great time down.
Take Care,from the Second Generation of Sinatra Fans-Ann
I had a bit of a laugh last night, as my Mom recalled another interesting fact about the concert in Toronto.There was a dance floor put up in front of the stage, and the guys were wanting to dance. The girls on the otherhand were just standing there staring at their beloved Frankie!!!! But then again what else would one expect! He was sooooo cute!!! -Ann-
What an amazing memory about Frank Sinatra..wow! I”m kind of envious of that story. I mean I have some memories of a boy band or two in the 90’s but it’s just not the same, not even close.
And there you have it friends an overview of a historic dance hall in Toronto that sadly no longer stands. I hope you enjoyed the post as much as I did researching information about it. And if you get a chance you really should read Peter’s book, it is truly a good read.
The Event is a marvelous evening of dinner and dance with the superb Toronto All-Star Big Band performing nostalgic tunes from the 1930s and 40s. There is also Swing Dance Lessons, Prizes, Giveaways and even a Best Vintage Dressed Contest (more about that later).
What I love about this event is the atmosphere. I am pretty lucky to be able to dance to a big band on a fairly regular basis if I wanted to so this not the draw for me. The draw is the fact that the Big Band is playing IN an airplane hanger with lots and lots of vintage planes all around it AND the famous Avro Lancaster (last in Canada) is the main focus of the event. Everyone also dresses up in their finest 1940s clothes (and uniforms) to dance the night away and this thrills this vintage loving gal to the bone and just adds that extra something to the evening.
Did you know that the Lancaster pictured above actually took a trip to the UK recently and once there, it embarked on a six-week tour of the United Kingdom with the only other airworthy bomber of its kind, a Lancaster belonging to Britain’s Royal Air Force.
I also had a fellow blogger FROM the UK post pictures of the 2 Lancasters flying over her head. It was so amazing to see the picture and know that one of those planes were from a town close to mine (and that I have seen in person). It made the world feel a bit smaller that day.
After the Lancaster came back to Canada, a gramophone from the UK made the trip back as well and was played to open the event on Saturday (seen below). I absolutely adored this part and thought that it was such a fantastic surprise.
Now let the dancing begin!
This year I was excited to have some of the ladies from the Toronto Vintage Society along for this adventure. Some of them have even started taking Lindy Hop lessons which has just made me so happy to be able to pass on my love of the dance with more friends. Of course the ladies dressed to the Nine’s (I actually should say 10’s) for the event as you can see below.
TVS member Joy with a veteran that was at the dance.
TVS members Irene and Erin with fellow swing dancer (and Rock n Roll dancer) David. LOVE the outfit David!
Everyone likes a well dressed Soldier.
Note: Please check out the lovely “Shermy’s blog” (the gorgeous blonde second from left) as she discusses her first visit to Swing Out and lets you know all about her Vintage 1940s outfit.
As per last year I was excited to be asked to help with the Best Dressed Contest again with 2 fantastically dressed friends, Amanda and Erika.
Here we are with our friend Dean who is normally the MC of the evening and a big part of the organizing team but this year he was called away to a wedding so we took this photo-a traditional “Dean Sandwich”.
Everyone was dressed so GOOD! and I really had a hard time choosing who I wanted to send to the finals, but I think the team did well in the end (sorry for the poor picture there are no really clear photos posted yet of the finalists).
What was exciting was that one of the members of TVS made the finals-Irene of Petite Plus, Meow! and she ended up with second place! YAY Congrats Irene!
My choice (Churchill look alike) came in first place and as you can see below I am very very VERY excited about this. hahaha!
After all the prizes and performances were done I was able to get some good quality Lindy Hop time in.
Outfit Note: My 1940s vintage swing dress was purchased at the Pop Up Store-Jack Lux for only $20. It was such a find and it looked great on the dance floor as well.
I also got to have a few minutes with my very handsome husband to snap this photo.
And another photo with friends to end a wonderful evening.
Well that is it friends another Swing Out To Victory in the books. Hope you enjoyed this little post and if you are ever in Toronto and want to go to a dance please check out Toronto Lindy Hop as we have a calendar with all the events (and we have lots of dancing) for your dancing pleasure.
I’m BACK from Frankie 100 in NYC! It was one of the best Lindy Hop weekends I have ever experienced and I think I will be basking in the glow of the weekend for quite a long time 🙂
While at Frankie 100 I had the honour of being able to help Stage-Manage AND be in the Vintage Fashion Show.
It was a really well done show with fashions from the 1920s-1940s and also included were some wonderful reproduction designer outfits. Please enjoy and I’m near the end in the “Savoy” section wearing my 1940s fuchsia vintage gown (see below-Photo Courtesy of Colibri).
Please click link below to be taken directly to the Fashion Show