Every Saturday night the small town of Centerville, South Dakota, was invaded by hordes of high-energy teens in penny loafers, blue jeans and plaid shirts who came to kick up their heels to bands thumping out rock and roll hits.
Ted and Nora Foy met a dance hall near Yankton in the ‘40s, and owned the Broadway Ballroom in Centerville from 1958 until 1970. The massive, white-clapboard structure occupied half a city block on the corner of Broadway and Lincoln. It was built in the 1800s as an opera house. But the dance craze of the early 1900s called for a larger pavilion – one with a high, pressed-tin ceiling, knotty pine booths and benches and an expansive oak-planked floor waxed for dancing.
Ted and Nora loved hosting these dance parties. Ted booked the bands and did the advertising, and Nora took tickets. The Foy children swept floors, stocked the concession stand and put antifreeze in the toilets. Alcohol was not allowed in the venue, and offenders were banned for the rest of the night. Soda was served in glass bottles.
The music started at 8 p.m. and never lasted beyond midnight. Bands featured were Patch of Blue, Smoke Ring, The Apostles, The Seven Sons, Natural Colors, and more. One summer night in 1968, Bob Ellison and Shattoes (Chateaux) set the record of nearly 700 attendees.
The townsfolk had a love-hate relationship with the ballroom. They wanted Centerville to prosper but didn’t appreciate raucous, outlaw imports from nearby towns. Sometimes Sioux Falls kids and USD students would make the journey. Drag races were staged west of town on the old beach road. Beer cans thrown in the alley, unwanted watering of the shrubs, and fatal automobile accidents kept law officers vigilant. Highway Patrol troopers armed with tape measures ticketed those who jacked up their car’s rear end beyond the legal limit.
The Battle of the Bands, go-go girls, radio ads on KELO and KISD, Tommy Bolin’s high school band, drum solos, howling Vox organs, Fender guitars, and harmonic vocals all brought teens into Ted and Nora’s Centerville dance hall. Great balls of fire brought down this ancient jewel and tinderbox one Sunday morning in June 1970, ending years of music on Centerville’s main street.
2016Ballrooms/Dance Halls/Night Clubs