What eventually became a popular dance hall served many functions throughout its history: cattle sale barn, roller skating rink, National Guard armory, restaurant, gas station, pizza place, and electrical warehouse. It was built in the early 1920s, and in the early days, farmers bought and sold livestock there. Several Clark business owners bought the structure in 1945 to hold public dances. They sold it to James McGillivary, who in turn sold it to Francis Hess.
In 1952, the city tried to buy the building, and a public vote was held. Residents were afraid dances would be discontinued and voted the purchase down. Dances continued until 1970 when the National Guard began meeting there. In 1985, Beth Hollatz and Elaine Mack opened the Family Playhouse Restaurant at the site. Customers may have recalled all of the excitement of attending a Playhouse performance. Mike McGillivary recalls, “The dances started at nine, and the fights started at ten.”
Teens and older patrons traveled from the surrounding area to listen to bands including South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association inductees Myron Lee and the Caddies, Marlys Roe and the Talismen, Ma’s Boys, The Fabulouse Trippers, Sad Lad and the Mourners, The Tensions, Gemini 6, Military Pickle, Trees, The Fabulous Jadesmen, Trashmen, Handy Brothers Chessman Show, Scotty Lee and the Stingrays, Cavaliers, Continental Co-ets, Sherwin Linton and the Rocketeers, and The Pulsating Pilgrims. Future evangelist Lowell Lundstrom and the Rhythmaires also entertained at the Clark Playhouse Ballroom.
The ads in the Clark Courier newspaper usually advised, “No shorts please—boys and girls.” The Talismen advertised “appearances with Jimmy Soul (from The MOB) and Dale and Grace.” Another ad said, “The Lancers—performing in person.” Also the Jadesmen bragged as being “That Swingin’ Band With the Big Sound.” The Playhouse originally featured more big band sound (Leo Fortin, Al Hess and his orchestra) and later became “Rock and Roll in the Potato Capitol of South Dakota.”
What a great time to be a teen! Thanks for the memories, Clark Playhouse Ballroom.
2020/2021Ballrooms/Dance Halls/Night Clubs