South Dakota teens used to travel to the small Minnesota town of Hatfield, which featured the Hollyhock Ballroom, a remodeled horse barn that became a dance haven in 1936.
Alvin and Florence Kirby bought the business in 1945 after World War II. The dance floor was built on a platform placed on top of tire treads, which gave the floor some “give.”
Many big bands were featured at the Hollyhock, including Duke Ellington and Count Basie. The Kirbys’ daughter and son-in-law, Avis and Jack Hamlin, took over in 1968. Avis had spent her childhood helping at the Hollyhock.
The Beach Boys played in Hatfield after releasing “Surfin’,” their first record. The venue was nearly full when the band took its first break. The Wilson boys and cousins saw miles of cars with people waiting to hear them, and Avis overheard them say, “Wow! We must be pretty good to draw a crowd like this.” The event was mentioned in the biography of the band, which played the Hollyhock two more times.
Many other top national acts performed in Hatfield: Jerry Lee Lewis (twice), Bobby Vinton, Everly Brothers, Chubby Checker, Sam the Sham, Conway Twitty, Del Shannon, Lou Christie, Neil Sedaka, Chuck Berry, Myron Lee, and Bobby Vee. Top regional bands included Steve Ellis, Pilgrims, and the KOMA bands: Red Dogs, Blue Things, Rising Suns, Spider & the Crabs, Jerms, and the Flippers.
The Hollyhock operated year around, with old-time music on Thursdays and rock and roll on Saturdays. There were three security people to control the usually large crowds. The men used to gather near the popcorn machine. One night a 17-year-old took out his anger on the machine. He and his dad spent the next week fixing the damage.
Many people passed through the doors to dance, drink, or just listen to great music. One rainy night a large pig barged past the ticket seller. He proved to be difficult to remove, snorting “One more song!”
When Jack Hamlin suffered a stroke in 1982, Avis closed the Hollyhock to care for her husband. Though the building no longer stands, the memories remain in the minds of the teenagers at heart.
2015Ballrooms/Dance Halls/Night Clubs