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The Blue Moon Ballroom

July 15, 2013
Marshall Independent

Part II

Wiola Henshall, the daughter of Pete and Hilda Brantman, who helped her mother run the Blue Moon after her father's death, recalls that she and her mother always booked only the best bands and these were very expensive.

"They didn't want to come out here for nothing," she said. "But the good bands drew the big crowds, and those crowds were always made up of good people and we enjoyed working with all of them. People used to come from a 100-mile radius to dance to the name bands on the hardwood dance floor that was considered by many to be one of the finest anywhere."

According to Henshall, promotion was a necessary part of having successful dances. She recalls that her mother, during the heyday of the big bands, used to spend three and a half days a week delivering posters to towns in a 75-mile radius.

As the popularity of the big bands began to fade away, smaller groups took over at the Blue Moon. Old time music provided by polka bands from New Ulm like the Jolly Lumberjacks and the Six Fat Dutchmen, and country western bands such as the Kings Men started making their appearances on Friday and Saturday nights. Still later came the early rock groups of regional and national popularity. The Fabulous Flippers, the Unbelievable Uglies, and a local band, the Marauders, started making their appearances. Darrel Hoogheem played in two local bands, the Night Beats and the Reflections, from 1964 to 1980, which played rock and roll music from the 1950s and 1960s with a bit of country music thrown in. Both of these bands made frequent appearances at the Blue Moon. These local bands often played warm up appearances for acts such as Bobby Vee and once for a member of the Monkees who put together a band of locals for a performance.

Along with the regular Friday night feature there were wedding and benefit dances. The Blue Moon was also a popular place for couples to celebrate their marriage in the company of friends. Pictures of the wedding couples used to cover the walls of the entrance. A photographer would come out to the Blue Moon for a wedding dance to photograph the couple and gave one copy of the picture to them as a keepsake and one copy to the dance hall.

The end of World War II and the return of servicemen brought happiness to area residents and consequently a lot of celebrating at the Blue Moon. Hoogheem remembers that post war era as a time when people enjoyed dancing with each other as participants of the dance instead of viewers of a band performance as is the trend today. In the 1930s and 1940s couples danced close together while doing the waltz and two-step; in the 1950s the jitterbug was a yo - yo close/apart step without letting go of the partner. In the 1960s and 1970s dancing apart was the trend. Slowly dancers began to stop dancing and focus on watching the band and finally during the 1980s the hard metal bands produced performances featuring outrageous acts on a stage with lights, smoke and overpowering amplifiers. These early years of the 1990s are seeing the return of line dancing (a throwback to the stroll) with the country/rock club craze coming up from the southern U.S.

Along with the dances the hall was used for other functions. For several years the building became haven for commercial exhibits during Lyon County Fair time. Irv Peterson recalls that prior to the fair the valuable hardwood floor was completely covered with a heavy, pinkish colored paper to protect it from the items brought in like the pianos that Peterson brought in from his music store.

Alice Beernaert of Marshall started dancing at the Blue Moon in 1934 when she was 15 years old. She and George Beernaert celebrated their wedding with a dance there and continued to dance every Friday night for 46 years. Her favorite bands were Al Pearson (of big band fame), Clem Brau, Eddie Skeets and Sammy Jensen. When asked why she did not include Glen Miller she said, "Miller played beautiful music but the band was just too big for the size of the pavilion." When asked how she felt when the Blue Moon burned, she replied, "I cried my eyes out."

Viola Henshall cannot remember how the Blue Moon got its name. Although she said it seems that the famed song "Blue Moon" was popular about the time the dance hall was built. She adds that the structure of the building gave it a blue moon atmosphere. During warm summer nights large shutters running the full length of both sides of the building were opened giving the ballroom an open veranda effect. Also on those warm summer nights, neighbors to the dance hall in Westwood Acres often fell asleep to the strains of 'Blue Moon you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own' "



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