Ballroom’s in MIlwaukee

(A fictional adventure)

Let’s take a trip back in time. Imagine it’s 1939. It’s the end of the Great Depression, and before World War II. “Gone with the Wind” is playing at the local cinema, and it is the end of Prohibition. The economy is bouncing back, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt is our President. The disposition of the Country is hopeful and big-band music is all the rage. Orchestras like Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Milwaukee’s own Woody Herman are playing all of the popular ballrooms throughout the country.

Women are beginning to increase in the workplace and are earning their own money. However, the first and foremost priority for women is finding a man.

These days, birth control is nonexistent, and an education is considered wasted on a woman. A woman’s goal is to find a man, marry, and have babies soon after high school. Most parents do not permit their daughters go to cocktail lounges or bars. The girls who do are considered “bad girls.” Other than church, there is no place to meet a mate except for the ballrooms.

There are a number of ballrooms in the Milwaukee area. Two of them are in my vicinity on the lower east side. One is at the top of the Shorecrest Hotel and the other, the Swan Ballroom in the Antlers Hotel.

It’s Saturday night. My girlfriends and I want to go dancing, and meet some men. A good way girls can socialize with a group of men is at the ballrooms. There, one can dance the night away, while husband hunting.

We arrive at the ballroom, the band is playing, people are dancing, and everyone is having a good time. I am secretly seeing the bandleader. He is really cute and he has a great big, shiny tenor saxophone. My parents would not approve if they knew. The only reason they let me go dancing is so I can meet some “nice boys.” Certainly not a musician who carries “hooch” in a flask. I love his music, and I think I am in love with him. He always comes and sits with me on his breaks. He told me earlier he had some big news for me, so I am anxiously awaiting his next break. Maybe he is going to ask me to marry him, or at least go steady. I know he does not like it when I dance with other men, but I love to dance, and dance I will.

Finally, it’s a break time. Or should I say his big break. He tells me the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra has asked him to go on the road with them. He will be leaving in a day or two, and he does not know when or if he is coming back. It’s Great news for him; but bad news for me. I am 21 years old and unmarried; I do not want to be a spinster, but I am not one to let the grass grow.

Oh well, there will always be ballrooms in Milwaukee, I guess I will just keep on dancing.

Note: Before the Charleston: pre WWI dances are the Texas Tommy, Foxtrot, Animal Dances, Waltz, Tango, Maxixe. May I refer to a superb dance history site Kurt Lichtmann.