From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
"Partners for the Grand March."
How many are there living in Leavenworth today who recall having heard that announcement by Prof. Thomas W. Scard, Sr., to the scores of dancers standing on the floor of the Odd Fellows, Laing's or Turner hall waiting for those five words from early day Leavenworth's most famous master of ceremonies? There followed a flurry among the folks; beaux sought their belles; escorts sought their fair companions; husbands their wives, and the line was formed, usually headed by a gent of some prominence in the community, and the march wound about the hall, doubtless for the dancers to see who else was present.
In those old dancing days Leavenworth was noted for its art. As early as 1868 and organization gave a ball each Thanksgiving Eve., that one being known as the Iron and Stove Moulders, and through the many years the dances by this aggregation were largely attended. In those times there were stove moulders of the Great Western Stove Company; iron moulders of the Great Western Machine Works; moulders of the Union Stove foundry, and iron moulders of the Phoenix foundry. Hundreds of these fellows banded together one night in the year for a good time for themselves as well as their guests. Usually a drawing was held for a Great Western stove or range and tickets sold like hot dogs at a carnival chow stand, a further incentive for being there.
A reminder of those old-time Thanksgiving dances came to light during the past week when Albert W. Bauer, president of the Leavenworth Building & Loan Association was cleaning out a corner of the basement of his home, No. 307 Osage street. He found two pasteboard boxes, 4x6 inches in dimension, that curiosity prompted him to open before consigning them to a trash burner, but after an examination of the contents he concluded there was an early day story too good to be lost to posterity. In the boxes were found, perfectly preserved, two souvenir tinted wax figures, one an angel with widespread wings, the other what the writer concluded was a hula-hula dancer, providing that Hawaiian dance was known of in those days. The "lady" wore and abbreviated costume, somewhat like a grass skirt and upon the right shoulder rested a vari-colored parrot. The lids of the boxes bore the message: "Compliments of the Iron Moulders of Leavenworth, Kansas, to their lady friends, seventeenth annual ball at Turner Hall, Thanksgiving Eve., November 28, 1883." There were also several other programs of these dances given by the moulders, starting with one back in 1868 in Turner Hall.
The Dance or "ball" usually began at 9 o'clock sharp and ended with the coming of sunrise the next day when the weary revelers on their way homeward met the milkmen and morning Times delivery boys on their routes.
And they had some real orchestras in those days, starting back in the 1860's with Valentine Bloss, musical director of the old school who, during the day, had a barber shop at the southeast corner of Fifth and Miami Sts. Then followed orchestras by Prof. Mutter, Charley Taschetta, George Speers and George Linck, all musicians who knew what the dancers wanted and were free with their encores. They all had that "oompah" lilt to their music, produced by the "bull fiddle."
A reading of one of those early day ballroom programs gave the popular dances of that day, most of them calling for what a certain poet called "grace personified." No rhumbas, dancing on a dime, strangle-holds, half-nelsons, rug cutting gyrations, or torso contortions.
The 1882 program of the Moulders ball contained a variety of dances popular then. It listed thirty-two dances. following the Grand March until the final strains of "Home, Sweet Home," were three quadrilles, five waltzes, three polkas, three lancers, three schottisches, one Virginia reel, and others titled Bon-Ton, Caledonian, Sicilian, Newport, Waltz-Lancers, Varsouvienne and Portland Fancy. What old time dancer living in this modern age can describe the gyrations of all of these?
The 1882 program listed the moulders' organization officers as John H. Caddell, president; Joseph Howard, vice-president; John J. M'Gurn, secretary; Geo. Swable, treasurer. The committee on arrangements was made up of C. H. Simcox, J. H. Tarbet, C. J. Cusick, Alex T. Daley, Phillip Patnou, and the reception committee consisted of Albert Patnou, Phillip Emblo, Ralph Harrington, Will Biddle, Thomas Egan and A. Hoesch.
The 1890 program gave as officer: John Werley, George Yancey, William Peters, Karl Kempf, Chris Wyrick. Committee on arrangements: Charles Wyrick, Henry Thomas, Henry Rammelt, Chris Cusick, Jim McFarland; prompter, Prof. T. W. Scard; master of ceremonies, Leonard Smith; floor managers: Charles Luttgens, John Hoffman, Jim Olson, Otto Thomas, Cameron Day, William Vetter, Jim Rosendal, Lewis Wencil, William Hoagland; reception committee: John Cosgrove, Jim Biggam, Herman Vetter; Taschetta's orchestra. Concluding the printed program was the announcement: "No hats or overcoats allowed in the hall."