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Terrace Gardens dance hall was built in the 1930s by Ian Barrie and Bill Schaan. Lively dances here were the highlight of many vacations and there has been more than one romance sparked on this dance floor.
The professional bands that played had names like the Knights of Rhythm, Jeff and his Boys, the Waskesiu Terriers, Terrace Garden's Gentlemen, and the Singing Rascals. Ian himself also played in some of the bands. Many of the musicians had "day" jobs in the community as well.
“The dance hall had a meaning all of its own. It was fun, especially if you had a date with your high school dreamboat. The windows would open out, and there would be as many watchers on the outside as dancers inside. Kenny Peaker’s Band would put on a great performance of lively waltzes, foxtrots, schottisches, polkas, and the famous grasshopper (butterfly) dance. Young and old would dance the night away and, for fifty cents, a great time was had by all. The home waltz played just before midnight, then you worried all the way back to your cabin about running into a bear. Those were the great times of long ago at beautiful Waskesiu.”
Shirley Lambert in Waskesiu Memories, Volume II, edited by Dorell Taylor
In the 1940s it cost a dollar a couple to dance on the weekends. Dances had to end at midnight on Saturday and not start until after midnight on Sunday. During the week, jitney dances were held where it cost 10 cents per dance.
In this quote from Waskesiu Memories Volume I, Ian recounts some of his early memories of Terrace Gardens and one special dancer.
“I find it hard to believe that we were able to exist on such small profits. We had quite a schedule. Saturday, our big day, was $1.00 a couple. Sunday, we could not open until after midnight and on Saturday we had to close at midnight. The other nights of the week were Jitney dances….. 10 cents a dance. You’d choose your partner and pay when you got on the floor. One of the most popular girls at Terrace Gardens was a lass called Pony. A very pretty lively Indian Girl who was Grey Owl’s wife. She was a wonderful dancer. She’d dance every dance, sometimes to Grey Owl’s annoyance.”
When Charles Goddard owned the building in the 1950s, Brayford Boats owners used the building for winter storage of their wooden Peterborough rental boats. They later owned and operated it for several years. Vic and Pearl Davidson ran the Gardens until 1961. Next, the hall was used for public meetings and events as the Assembly Hall under Park ownership. The Waskesiu Chamber of Commerce handles bookings now and the name has gone back to Terrace Gardens. Terrace Gardens is the oldest remaining example of a dance hall in the National Park system and the only one now owned by the federal government.
Long time neighbours and seasonal residents Herb Pinder and Mona Findlayson reminiscing about dances at Terrace Gardens in this short audio clip.
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