Town hall social draws a crowd

It was a full house at a recent evening of fun and fellowship at the town hall in George Town harkening back to the days of old-time Cayman.

A social hosted by Caymanians Against Economic Injustice held on Saturday, Jan. 16, drew more than 100 attendees, many of them seniors, keen to relive some memories, and to enjoy spicy corned beef sandwiches and peppermint candy, too.

Featuring music from Dennom Bodden and his brother, Gary Scott, the evening was emceed by Quincy Brown.

Back in the day, district town halls were the cultural center for most major social community events, but none were as anticipated as a town hall dance night.

Quadrille, circle dance, sand yard, kitchen dance and waltzes played by local live bands such as Radley and the Happy Boys, Kitchner Solomon, James Thomas and many others was the old-fashioned way to have fun and meet people from the other districts.

Chairs were placed around the dance floor and in the middle folks danced to songs such as “Dog War In Matches Lane,” “Beef In Cane Piece,” “Sharpen The Butcher’s Knife,” and “Munsey Boat In The Sound.”

When a dance was going to be held, the women, and the men too, would spend the day primping and prepping for the function.

“There were no hairdressers, so the ladies used hot combs and cut up brown paper to curl their hair. They dressed in can-can dresses with an elastic neck, puff sleeve blouses and wide skirts,” recalled 81-year-old Olga General.

“Those days, a man was not consider dressed unless he had on a felt hat,” she added.
Back then, the dances began at 8 p.m. and ended at midnight.

“Those were the good old days,” Ms. General said. “We don’t have dances like that no more.”

Ms. General recalled going to the dances with her mother and peeking through the window slats.

For a pre-teenager, catching a glimpse of the moves of the older folks was like a “coming of age” pass to the dances.

Ms. General recalled a lady by the name of Sadie kicking up a storm on the dance floor and Allan “BamBam” Seymour winning the prize for the best dressed man although he was wearing no socks.

“Oh, how times have changed,” said Ms. General. “There were no lights in the town square – except for the one shining out the town hall, which would be turned on just before people started arriving.”

Neals Godfrey, 78, also remembers peeking through the windows to watch dances as a youngster, and recalled some people would carry a little bottle of rum to sip on, but they could not take it inside the dance.

“The most important thing about those town hall dances was, we shared love those days,” said Ms. General. “Most older folks did not know how to spell the word love, but they knew how to show it, despite the differences.”

After the dance, it was a combined effort to stack the chairs and leave the hall in good order for the next event that would be staged there. The boys would accompany the girls home and shine the way with a flashlight.

Highlights of the recent dance included Nolly Brown performing “The Impossible Dream” and “My Way,” and Richard Bernard, who performed a number of musical numbers themed around the Caymanian seaman. Hardie Welcome performed gospel songs, and Crosby Walton recited “The Crippled Boy” from memory, a poem with more than 20 verses which he learned in school over 60 years ago.

Attorney and historian Steve McField gave humorous accounts of the dances held at the town hall in George Town back in the 50’s, while Alvernie Watson (known as Awa-wa), 91, shared funny stories and impressed with her dancing prowess.

Also at the social, Mrs. Watson and Mr. McField, along with Janilee Clifford, Elrita Seymour, Georgette Ebanks, Sadie Chollette, Dorline Welcome, Jane Ramoon, Arthur General, Clifton Bodden, Allan (HA Ha) Moore, Capt. Paul Hurlston, Dale Ramoon, JC Connor, Neals Godfrey, Dr. Steve Tomlinson and Louis Ebanks all received awards of recognition.