Barn Dance

A few years ago someone gave me a copy of the barn dance notice Emil Borreson had posted in the Whitehall Times and Blair Banner (a combined paper). It had been run as one hundred year old news in The Whitehall Times in 2004.

The barn, you may remember, was built in 1901 by Emil’s parents, Elias and Kari. In 1903 they sold the farm to their son Emil and his wife Gina. Apparently a year later, the new owners decide a party is in order on July 4. I checked out the microfilm of the old papers in the La Crosse Public Library and learned that the barn dance notice was on the last page of the June 2 paper, but then on the front page June 9, 16, 23, and 30. Good coverage, I’d say, and perhaps it was as big a dance as Emil promised!

And what a deal: dance, lunch and supper for $1 per couple! As a side note, did you see that we are provided with the dimensions of Emil’s barn too? Nice information.

I wish I knew more about barn dances generally, and I wonder if anybody still remembers hearing about the Fredrickson Brothers who provided the music. About the same time and later, there was a band organized and directed by Theodore Thorsen that was hauled to performances in the “Band Wagon.” In the first two decades of the century another was Iver Johnstad’s Idlewild Dance Band. (This info is from the Trempealeau County rural school history, Many and Memorable.) Gina had Thorson relatives, and Johnstads were related to my mother. All in all, it makes me wonder how many groups the area had going!

Those same June 1904 newspapers included the following:

Joke. Tailor – Do you want padded shoulders, young man?  Willie – Naw; pad de pants! Dat’s where I need it most.      – Chicago News

Ad – by the Whitehall and Pigeon Trading Association for McSherry Seeders and Drills, De Laval Cream Separators, Deering Ideal Binder, etc.

Quote. “Smoke,” says the Scientific American, “means simply wasted fuel,” but the man enjoying the luxury of a good cigar knows better.

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One Response to Barn Dance

  1. Glenn Borreson says:

    Irene writes that Sid was told by his mother Gina of a barn dance that was a benefit toward building the Whitehall Community Hospital – or a later addition. (We’re trying to determine just when this was.) He said they hauled barrels of beer from town. The food was donated, made, and served by community volunteers. Gina was milking the cows who were very jumpy due to the music and dancing above in the haymow. (I can imagine!) At the time, older brother Gilbert was attending seminary to become a minister, so he spent his time upstairs in his room.

    Irene herself recalls three bands: Bud Thursten’s, Jerry Gilbertson’s, and Iver Johnstad’s Idle Wild Band. Barn dances were common after a new barn went up, but she doesn’t recall many after 1950. She remembers dance halls in York, Whitehall, West Lincoln, Beaches Corner, Etrrick, and Blair.

    Iver Johnstad’s band played for their wedding in 1950, but that wasn’t without a wrinkle. “When Rev. O. G. Birkeland heard that we were planning a wedding dance at the Blair Hall, he contacted my (Irene’s) mother and refused to marry us if we had a dance. Well, we were living and working in La Crosse at the time, so we hired cousin Kenneth Johnson to take down the [dance] posters. Johnstad agreed to hold a dance without our name. So, we just showed up. But very few of our relatives and friends attended. We broke even financially.”

    Thanks for letting me share this, Irene. Some of us remember that very pious and strict church culture. I think if I had tried the same as a pastor, people would have quit my church in huff and taken their families with them.

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