During the 1920’s Waterton saw a lot of building and town growth; it was in 1926 that the Dance Pavilion in Waterton was built and opened. It was the place all the folks came to on the weekends. Grandma Bessie (pictured center above) and Earl Hacking talked all the time about how fun these dances were, they attracted people from all over southern Alberta. The dances back then were called “Jitneys” and the boys would pay to be on a dance card.
From the 20’s through the 50’s Waterton was known far and wide for its “dandy dances” at the dancehall downtown. People would come from miles around to hear bands like Mart Kenney and his Western Gentlemen and The Lovin’ Spoonful. Old timers remember when men would pay a dime a dance “and they always paid for the dance for the ladies.” When the dance was over they would rope everyone out and start the process of paying for the next dance again. “It was great fun,” they all say with a smile and fond memories.
The Dance Pavilion burned down in 1938 and was rebuilt. In later years it was used as a roller skating rink for a period and later as a pub and dance floor. Today it is the Thirsty Bear Kitchen and Bar.
Mart Kenney and his big band played in Waterton for many years. In the 1990’s the Waterton Natural History Association would have a ball with dinner and an auction hosted at the Prince of Wales Hotel. This event always took place on the last evening of the season that the Prince of Wales was open. The furniture of the lobby was moved out of the way and a temporary floor was laid down, the band would play in front of the windows of the lobby. I remember it was amazing to listen to the band and look out the large windows down the valley of Waterton Lake. The view was so romantic with the lights from the townsite twinkling in the backdrop against the lake. We would also go up to the second floor off the lobby and look down at all of the people dancing on the dance floor. This ball was a wonderful way to end each season of work in Waterton, everyone had time to visit and just enjoy themselves. All of us here at the Northland Lodge truly miss this magical event with the big bands inside the Park’s iconic Prince of Wales Hotel.