The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Dancing in the Streets

    C. E. Gates, "the Overland man," announces a grand opening of his new sales and showroom in the Sparta Building Thursday evening. An orchestra will play during the evening, and the public is cordially invited to inspect the finest auto headquarters in Oregon, outside of Portland.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 10, 1913, page 2

Gates 1913-9-11MMT
Medford Mail Tribune, September 11, 1913

    The new quarters of the Overland automobile in the Sparta Building, Manager C. E. Gates acting as host to the public. The Hazelrigg orchestra furnished music and dancing was followed until eleven o'clock. [omission] largest crowd that ever attended a business house opening in this city filled the store from 7:30 till 1 o'clock. The room was tastefully decorated.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 12, 1913, page 2

Preachers of Medford File Formal Protest with Council Against Turkey Trot
and Grizzly Bear As Immodest and Indecent.
Not the Feet, but the Body Action that Is Pronounced Vulgar--
Want Dances Prohibited.
    The Ministers' Association has submitted the following protest against street dancing to the city council:
"To the City Council:
    "We, the members of the Ministerial Association of Medford, do hereby protest to you, the city council, and to the public against the immoral dances held on the public streets and in the Sparta Building last week. This is a city of 10,000 people, and the demands of the people are for morality and decency. The public officials are the servants of the people to promote the moral welfare as well as the financial welfare of our city.
    "The dances were pronounced by those who witnessed them as the extreme of vulgarity, and the influence of them demoralizing. The International Association of Masters of Dancing, which met at Bridgeport, Conn., on September 4, had this to say: 'The Turkey Trot, the Horse Trot, the Grizzly Bear and ragging are vulgar. It is not so much what the turkey trotters do with their feet. That does not count. It is the position which leads to vulgarity.' They said further: 'The Tango, the Hesitation Waltz, the Hitchy-Koo and the Peacock Glide are right only when danced with decorum.'
    "Jane Addams says: 'The dance hall is the procurer's harvest field. In the dance proprieties are always easily transgressed, and in many public dances improprieties are deliberately fostered. The couples leaning heavily on each other, or in each other's embrace, the efforts to obtain pleasure or feed the imagination are thus converged upon the senses, which it is already difficult for the young people to understand and to control.'
    "We find these indecent and vulgar dances barred in the great cities of our land. In many places not only is the dancer liable to arrest, but the proprietor of the hall on whose floor the ragging takes place is also subject to punishment. In some cities the juvenile court has ruled that no girl or boy under 18 can frequent a dance hall. The demand is that the dance be moral, or it must be prohibited. The physical and moral welfare of our young people far outweigh dollars and cents by far. All our amusements should be clean and moral. Because the dancing in our city in the past week under the sanction of the city authorities was vulgar and indecent, we believe that it is our duty to God and to the people to speak in no uncompromising way our united condemnation of it.
D. D. BOYLE, Pres.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 16, 1913, page 1

    "It's all right for us old stags to act that way," said Councilman Mitchell at the council meeting Tuesday night anent the ministers' protest against the street rag dancers, "but it isn't just the thing for the young folks. The other fellows' girl can get out and 'rag' and be talked about, as I heard them talked about last Friday night, but it would be different if it was our own girl. We ought to do something to stop any future rag outbreaks."
    In these opinions councilmen Porter and Campbell assented. Then the protest was placed on file.
    No one assumed the responsibility for the jamboree. Summerville said W. H. Gore and J. T. Sullivan of the fair association asked permission for the use of the street and invited him to help manage the details. No one presumed the festivities would raise a teapot tempest. Millar objected to the pastors' charge the city sanctioned the dance.
Excerpt, Medford Mail Tribune, September 17, 1913, page 2

    After an extended session with the "flu" the editor is glad to be able to wish his readers a happy new year. He returns to his desk with a real dread of the disease and its ravages, which in many respects resembles the plagues that decimated Europe in medieval times, and urges extreme caution in removing restrictions--particularly those affecting assemblages.
    It is far better to put up with a few weeks of personal inconvenience in attending amusements and public gatherings, far better for children to lose a few days' more of schooling, than to risk a recrudescence of the malady with its toll of agony and death.
    Upon one class of assemblage the ban should not be lifted, however, as a matter of public morality as well as public health. Reference is made to the uncontrolled and unregulated public dances, which are active agents in spreading moral degeneracy, frequently haunts for bootleggers and usually pitfalls for foolish girls and addle-headed women whose parents lack sense of responsibility and duty.
    Any lodge or fraternal order which lends its name for a little tainted money to throw a curtain of camouflaged respectability over the professional promoters of this form of progressive depravity ought to be ashamed of itself and lose its charter, for human welfare, friendship and fraternity, the objects for which secret orders are organized, can have nothing in common with the decadent purposes of these dances.
    We are not at all puritanical. We recognize the healthy desire of the young for amusement and recreation, and the almost universal esteem in which the dance is held. There is nothing evil or wrong in dancing itself. But public dances, like private dances, should be under strict supervision or suppressed entirely. If parents will not safeguard their daughters, the community in its own interest must, and a good way to begin the new year is to keep the lid clamped down upon this vicious form of "amusement" or place it under strict regulation.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 3, 1919, page 4

    The death knell of the generally condemned unregulated public dance in Medford as conducted for the past year or so was sounded in the city council chamber last night when a petition was presented to the council by a delegation representing the churches and every woman's organization asking that such dances be better regulated and embodying suggestions for the council to follow in drawing up the regulating ordinance. Rev. L. Myron Boozer acted as spokesman of the delegation, which included Rev. W. T. S. Springs, Mrs. E. V. Maddox, Mrs. H. G. Wortman, Miss Anna Keliehor and Rev. J. E. Walbeck.
    While the petition used the words "public dances," it was well understood that the only public dance aimed at was that given in a large hall on Front Street near Main, and which has long been regarded as a nuisance. This dance has not been allowed since the flu epidemic. The petition found the councilmen in a receptive mood as the members had long heard complaints and had practically decided upon strict regulations. City Attorney Mears will draw up an ordinance embodying the suggestions of the petition, and it will be introduced and passed at the next meeting.
Supervised and Licensed
    The main feature of the petition was the request that hereafter all public dances be licensed and be attended by a matron, clothed with police powers, whose compensation shall be paid by the management of the dance; all persons under 18 years of age to be barred from the dance hall, and dances to close at midnight.
    It is probable that the council will not name midnight as the closing hour, as several of the councilmen feel that with private dances often running hours later it would be fair to public dances to run an hour after midnight, excepting possibly Saturday night. However, it may be said that the public dance aimed at in the petition will no longer be permitted to run until 3 or 4 o'clock Sunday morning as so often has happened in the past.
    The petitions of the churches and other organizations, which [contained] suggestions to the council, reads as follows:
Petition Presented
    "The following suggestions are hereby offered for your consideration in the matter of a better regulation and conduct of the public dances within the city limits of Medford. These suggestions are offered with the earnest request that they be referred to the proper city official to be incorporated in an ordinance covering the whole matter, providing proper penalties and all needed legislation to make effective the desires of the various organizations represented.
    "1--All public dances to be conducted only after the management has secured a license from the council, the fee to be nominal, the terms of the license to be determined by this body.
Matron as Chaperone
    "2--The management of the public dance shall apply to the police department for and secure the present and service of a matron, approved by the police department, clothed with police powers, the compensation of said matron to be borne by the management of the dance.
    "3--No person under 18 years of age shall be allowed on the floor or within the hall where the dance is held.
    "4--All public dances must close at midnight.
    "5--Evidence of liquor or disorderly conduct on the premises will be ground for revoking the license.
    "The following organizations have considered the above requests and recommendations and approved of them as representing their mature judgment of necessary action to protect the youth of the city:
Greater Medford Club,
Royal Neighbors,
Pythian Sisters,
Presbyterian Missionary Society,
Wednesday Study Club,
Parent-Teachers Council,
Women's Relief Corps,
College Women's Club,
M.E. Ladies' Aid Society,
Christian Church,
Presbyterian Church,
Baptist Church,
Free Methodist Church,
First M.E. Church,
M.E. Church South,
Women's Christian Temperance Union,
Medford Ministerial Association."
Medford Mail Tribune, February 5, 1919, page 3

    Dancers had a choice of several places to do the popular steps of the day, one of them being the "Oriental Gardens" (located in the old Natatorium, since removed to make room for the Chalet Motel on Riverside). Jacksonville and Eagle Point were considered great places to go dancing on Saturday night, even if it meant sometimes limping home on Sunday.
J.W.S., "Dancing," Medford Mail Tribune, April 14, 1963, page 4

Last revised March 12, 2020