Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Earl Hood Orchestra and Indianola Park

Earl Hood had an orchestra beginning in 1918 and he said that the band would take the interurban car to Indianola Park and entertain at the Pavilion. The second floor was the location of the

park's dance floor and it was accessed from a separate entrance on the north side of the building. The hardwood floored dancing area was very large; 20,000 square feet.

The first floor, accessible from the pool area, held lockers, showers, and changing rooms for swimmers. Two levels of balconies and promenades on the west side of the building overlooked the pool and offered space for dining or getting a breath of fresh air.

Dancing at Indianola and parks like it was on a per dance basis. Tickets cost about five cents each. Couples would buy tickets at the beginning of the evening. On presentation of a ticket, the couple would be admitted onto the floor.

Earl’s band, the Oriental Knights Orchestra, would strike up a song and the couples would dance. At the song's end, approximately three to five minutes later, they'd clear the floor and start again. A battery of ceiling fans kept the dancers cool and snacks and refreshments were available.

Dancers were strictly policed to ensure that nothing coarse or improper occurred. Certain dances were forbidden, there was a strict dress and conduct code. Dancers who violated the rules were ejected.

There was a reason for this; dance halls in the early twentieth century had a bad reputation. They were commonly fronts for prostitution and associated vices. They were frequented by bad men and loose women. Robberies, assaults, fights, and murders often occurred there.

Indianola Park took great pains to stress that their dance halls were nothing at all like those other dance halls. Vernon and Irene Castle were a husband-and-wife team of ballroom dancers of the early 20th century. They are credited with invigorating the popularity of modern dancing.

D.A. Kellough

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