In the town of Gruene, Texas, there is an old dance hall.
At this point, I’d like all of you who have been to the tiny establishment of Leo and Leona’s in Newberg’s Corners, WI, to take a closer look. See anything familiar?
This Texas dance hall was built for the local cotton farmers in 1878. It says so right here.
Now, those were German cotton farmers, and Mr. Gruene was certainly a German. So were the dairy farmers working the land around Newberg Corner’s, Wisconsin, where I grew up- which explains the strong similarity of the world famous Gruene Hall to the ramshackle beat up one I drove past almost every day growing up. Of course, there were no cactus plants outside the Wisconsin Dance Hall. No country music stars either, and the Gruene Hall has been full of those for almost a hundred years. Let’s step inside and take a look.
Lots of windows and a church bench or two let in the early evening light.
In the winter, there is a wood stove. Right now though, it’s a hundred and five in the shade, and the ceiling fans are moving lazily but steadily.
Those pictures on the walls are almost all of famous people who have played here over the years.
Well, country music stars and of course the Texas flag.
There is a working cigarette machine in the corner. I have to admit that every time I see one of these in operating order I feel a sense of delight. This is a piece of history, right here.
Let’s step on up to the bar now, shall we?
I wonder now and then was ordered at this bar when my brother Robert stopped here on his weeklong Texas bachelor party.
Now that you’ve gotten a chance to grab a cold beer, lets head back into the dance hall.
It is the long hour of light before dusk, and shafts of light fall across the long plank tables.
These tables would fit right in at anthropologie.
So would the warped and well worn dance floor.
They might even like this old faded sign, which is interesting to ponder in the context of farming history and in light of current interest rates.
These scars tell a hundred stories on each table.
There have been a whole lot of dates here in the past 130 years or so.
A lot of music played here, too.
The big stage was still empty at dusk.
The speakers were there though, ready for a big show.
Off to the side of the stage were the dressing rooms.
Let’s head out past the pool tables towards the courtyard.
There is a basketball hoop out there in the dust, and a horseshoe pit as well. It’s like it was made for my siblings. Maybe we should have ended up in Texas, instead of the green driftless ridges of Western Wisconsin?
Well, half of the family is being educated in Texas at the University of Dallas, and of course my in-laws are there. That may be enough of a connection to impart some much needed Southern grace and gentility into the Slattery Clan. As for me. I guess my nine years in North Carolina at least taught me how to wear a pair of cowboy boots.
The sun set while I was out there in that courtyard, with the baby playing in the dust.
I’m grateful to have had such a beautiful time in Texas. Now I just need one of my sisters to do a pictoral essay on Newberg’s Corners, so you can see Wisconsin’s answer to Gruene. I’ve got a few more Texas pictures and stories for you, so make sure you stop back soon.